In the not-so-long-ago days before photography became a culture where any unskilled person could take as many pictures as they liked on a photography-only device, this culture was an art.
A decent camera was an expensive investment and that was only the first part of the hardware. The second purchase was an unreliable canister that took only 24 or 36 pictures, all of which could not be previewed or reviewed.
Then that canister was sent to a third party developer and finally, the developed film would arrive in the post a couple of weeks later. Ah, those were the days; slow, thoughtful photography.
Then came digital cameras, then camera-phones and the next depressing stage in the demolition of this art was the disrespect of copyrighted images. Regulation was minimal and, before you could click a shutter or check the aperture, the business was destroyed.
Now, and not for the first time, blockchain is trying to resurrect photography-as-a-business (PaaB perhaps) by giving due credit to the professionals who create such wondrous images. It’s unlikely to bring back photography as cultural expertise for the trained, but it might just help such photographers make a living again.
Dan Taylor, founder of Heisenberg Media, is a professional photographer whose work has previously been used for Forbes and he is adamant that blockchain is great news for photographers and publishers alike.
Integrating blockchain Technology with photography is a highly valuable resource. As a professional photographer, I’ve had my works used time and time again in numerous publications, many of which I discover a long time after publication.”
The latest company that is trying to address this imbalance is Tel Aviv-based Wemark, a company that says it has created a blockchain-based distribution and exchange system for digital content and has announced exclusive content partnerships with Caia Image and Cavan Images.
Through this exclusive partnership, the company says it will be the only blockchain-based marketplace that has Caia and Cavan’s 130,000 photos available for licensing, including many of its ‘best-selling’ photos that are currently licensed through some of the largest stock photo sites.
With the launch of the platform, Wemark will have access to more than one million images on its marketplace. Wemark is backed by VCs and advisors such as Lars Perkins, CEO and founder of Picasa, which was acquired by Google, and Keren Sachs, the former content director at Shutterstock.
With this partnership, Wemark wants to challenge one of the most centralized markets that exist, where photographers are overcharged and underpaid for the content they create.
As a blockchain-based distribution and exchange system for digital content, the company is ‘zooming in’ on stock photography by removing third party agencies and fostering a creator-focused economy, which ultimately allows creators to license their content directly to customers.
With this new system, Wemark’s ‘distributed marketplace’ keeps control and rights in the hands of the photographers and protects the work they create.
“The current system for distributing digital content is not working anymore with creators giving up many of their rights and only receiving a fraction of their content’s real value.
“Alongside Caia Image, Cavan Images and other partners, we are working to build an alternative distribution system that content creators need and deserve,” said Tai Kaish, Wemark Co-Founder and CEO .
While blockchain is not always the panacea that it promises, anything that enables photography to be part a marketplace where all stakeholders are paid for their work is certainly positive.
In an age where negatives in photography are part of its analog heritage and history, the last word goes to Heisenberg’s Taylor.
“I believe that publishers aren’t intentionally stealing works, it’s simply a matter of being unable to track down the source. Having a universal ledger removes this barrier. So not only credit, but perhaps more importantly, creatives can now be paid for their work,” he concludes.