Steering the Ship

It’s an exciting time for contributing photographers at Stocksy United, the new co-op stock image agency.  Lots of positive news coming from the press, like the announcement that Stocksy projects to be profitable in Mid-November.  An amazing feat, considering it just opened in March!  Also all the articles about why the agency was founded and it’s paradigm.  Reasons like disappointment in how other businesses were operating, and a challenge to bring a positive vibe back to stock photography.  However, behind the scenes, contributors (and buyers) have something else to be hyped up about!

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Stocksy United is a co-operative venture.  In simple terms, the contributors own the company, and it is run by a board of directors.  The board members come from several “groups”, and right now, we are in the midst of the election process for the directors that come from the contributing photographer group.  Imagine that!  A stock photo company where the artists have a direct say in the operation of the business.

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Over the years, when I was at iStockphoto, we had asked several times for artist representation within the company, either a straight representative from our group to make sure our voice was heard, or even a company sponsored ombudsman, whose job was to make sure messages got through and could represent and advocate for the side of the contributor.  Here is one forum suggestion I was able to find:

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So I better get on to the suggestion… for iStock to have a Calgary based employee who has the role of representing the concerns, frustrations and issues coming from contributors, of taking ownership of iStock’s communications about them, and making sure that they’re being addressed by iStock, and not falling through the cracks.

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It never happened, of course.  That’s not to say that the contributor support team wasn’t, at least, supportive.  The closest we came over the years was a group conference call after the big fraud issues happened in 2010-11.  Six members were “elected” to sit in on a call discussing the fraud that had happened, listen to future plans, and then go back and assure the community that things were going to be ok.

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We’re going to take a few people (maximum 5?) and ask them to sign NDAs. Then we’ll have a conference call this week about what’s going on. They can be the ears of the entire community and see if we’re doing anything out of the ordinary.

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I was in on the call, but it was more of a show and tell than a way to solicit suggestions from the contributor base.  I did, several times as well, speak privately with management to try and suggest improvements or relate concerns, and I’m sure others did as well.

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However, at Stocksy United, the contributor base is actually represented on the Board of Directors that guides and runs the company!  Two contributing photographers get to be the official liaison between the board and the membership.  Concerns and resolutions will be brought up by members, and at board meetings, issues will be discussed and actions taken (or at least planned).  Any member can create a resolution (essentially a suggestion) that gets officially passed on and discussed.

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Right now, we are in the midst of getting ready for the contributing member director election.  It’s in just a few weeks.  The idea of real involvement makes us giddy, and it’s a real change from the current business paradigm in this industry.

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That’s where you, the buyer, come in.  By supporting Stocksy United, and licensing the work of its members, you have a chance to show that you are for fair treatment of both buyers and artists, and that you recognize that this set up is a right and fair way to go about things.  I mean, you already know about the amazing images, the simple “no-credit” pricing, the huge comps and speedy search, but now you have an ethical reason as well.

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The agency exists to work for the contributor, so they can make the best work possible for the buyers, paying out %50 royalties and all profits back to members for a “sustainable” career.  The agency exists for the buyer, to have a place where they can feel good about buying an image, to make that experience easy and intuitive, and to help the buyer end up with an incredible design piece they can be proud of, and profit from.  The library of images is always growing.  There’s no reason not to stop by Stocksy the next time you need an image.  Thanks!

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