Life was simpler before the Internet. Exchanges made and relationships built depended on whom you met, phoned or wrote to. Research was done in a library, travelling, talking and experimenting. You bought in shops or catalogues.
Photographers marketed themselves in print, the yellow pages, and word of mouth. Photo libraries consisted of slides and negatives. There were fewer photographers then.
The affordable digital SLR changed everything. Semi Pro’s rose up and outnumbered the elite. The digital image is now reproducible, cheap and in abundance. The problem that faces photographers is how to get noticed; the problem for image buyers is finding the greatest images in a disorganised and growing mass of choices. There is still ‘an elite’; it’s just even harder to become one amidst all the noise.
Of course price matters, to both the buyer and the seller. Well established photographers, who’s names are well known, can still command a good commission for a job. If your name is big enough, you are a recognised artist; you can command a high price for your artwork. Unless you are famous though, nobody is going to pay a high price for your work if they can get it elsewhere for much less. There are many photographers for whom publication itself is reward enough.
News and documentary photographers have probably been hardest hit by the digital transition. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, getting a shot that will convey emotion as well as recording an event. The technical quality of the image and the experience of the photographer however has become less relevant, and the strongest images can come from anyone with a mobile phone, it’s not necessarily about talent or experience, sometimes it’s luck. Those who have dedicated their lives to seeing and catching the perfect frame that encapsulates an emotion or the environment are loosing their revenue to the lucky shot brigade.
Mobile photography is becoming an industry in itself. Not only that, but because people are taking billions of images and seeing so many (a video on YouTube suggests there are 348 524 706 340 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p3RvIPuhw8 and these figures are already over a year old) people who are becoming better photographers. Photography has reached the masses and people are devouring it.