I have spent a busy month co-developing a new collective site for photographers. The site, RacerShots.com, is a timely development in the changing world of sports photography. In an age when everyone is a photographer or videographer and recording every step of our life is efficient and prevalent, what does the flood of visual images mean for a photographer who has worked hard to etch their niche in the already competitive world of photography?
Change and adaptation is what it means. Bike races are not what they were even three years ago. Pro Teams are their own PR production studios; fans post images instantly on twitter, facebook, instagram, vimeo and youtube; cycling news sources are fed the same news blasts and reproduce similar sentence structure within minutes. With everyone clambering for views and followers, in the wake of the haste, some quality is sacrificed.
I believe there is still joy to be found in a quality professional photograph or a well-crafted story. Please support those sources that you value knowing full well imminent changes are coming fast. Rapidly we will witness continuing changes in how cycling news and promotion is farmed and distributed.
The joining of forces by photographers is a growing trend. By doing so we gain added exposure, provide a variety of skill-sets and coverage, build a brand that circles back to grow our personal efforts and receive support from the community at large. We offer an organized approach. Cooperatives are a good idea which requires letting go of old-school approaches where photographers would cling to their contacts in an attempt to maintain exclusivity.
How can an artist be truly exclusive when Joe Fan just got the same coverage on his GoPro or iphone? Race promoters and teams freely mine and encourage outsourcing of public images for use in advertising. It's like having thousands of non-paid employees out there promoting your product. Yet I believe professionals or well-practiced amateurs with good knowledge of the sport, athletes and location offer better presentation.
For a photographer to officially cover the sport of cycling, they are (and I believe should be) associated with a publication. Publications (magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, mixed media account) are important to organize and distribute news. They are key to getting the sport out there to the wider population. Sure a quickly posted video is an excellent source of immediate news, allowing the viewer to feel like they were there. Instagram and Twitter speaks well only to it's respective specific sub-set of followers.
I believe there are two many photographers in ratio to publications at the races.
I feel far greater respect for the journalist or photographer from the local high school paper who shows up to cover the bike race that came to their town, than I do for the mass of photographers who simply have a facebook account and had asked their friend to get them "in." I feel the understanding that the photographer's role is not access but joint promotion, can be lost. Free advertising and spreading the word via social media is a grand idea, but it could stand to be pared down a bit for the sake of professionalism.
Strength in refined numbers. I see photography as an important piece of the big picture through both promoting races and sponsors ahead of time and during the event. In addition, photographers can provide organizers and sponsors with good photos to circulate post event and before the next year's event. These days we all want things now and images are an exciting form of now. I believe the death of the professional photographer has not yet come, but we better adapt, and fast. Flying solo may be far less effective than joining a team and working in partnership to cover more faster.
When my co-creator at RacerShots, John Flora, first decided to organize some of the local photographers together onto RacerShots, I could instantly see the benefit, but I was interested in photography for use in my storytelling, I am not a pro. We experienced growing pains yet had good success in our first month with over 5,000 views while introducing our name and concept.
In the first week of our endeavor I reached out for advice from Tim Labarge, an accomplished photographer in Portland, Oregon (see his work), who had himself been part of a cooperative of photographers. Tim was open and encouraging, he even sent us a letter of good luck before we headed into our first big week of covering the 2014 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships as a team.
That same day, Tim LaBarge passed along this timely article about photography cooperatives and the changing world of professional photography, a valuable read and reinforcement that we were on the right track: Photography Cooperatives and Collectives
My interest in photography began in my twenties when I first traveled abroad. It has grown with my interest in story-telling and need for original photographs. I continue to learn and be inspired by the best. I have my favorite cycling photographers whom I regularly follow, they include:
- Darrell Parks Photography
- Doug Pensinger
- Jered & Ashley Gruber
- Kristof Ramon
- Louie Traub
- O'nev Cyclismo Fotographia
- Paddy Sweeney of VeloPeloton
- and more cycling photographers listed on this page: Pedal Dancer
Recommendations and Resources
|My new pride and joy - RacerShots.com|