It’s been over a decade since I first packed all my negatives into a cardboard box and posted them off to Canada. They were enroute to a guy I’d never met and barely conversed with via AIM. The microstock phenomenon was still several years away yet, but Bruce and his idea had a spark that made me want to participate. To do that, I had to throw caution to the wind, and put all my “source files” in a box and send them across the world.
Around this time, many of my favourite digital haunts had vanished as their owners sold the domains, got day jobs, became parents or became consultants. Some of them did all of the above. A few of them managed to hang around, but not many. Some time in 2000/2001, Jeffrey Zeldman started touting a new site called Frequency Labs.
I made contact with Bruce (can’t remember how), and arranged to send all my negatives to him to be drum scanned. He then colour corrected all 1200 scans for me before batching them up in ZIP files for me to download and do the rest (keywording/metadata, making sure they were cleared with releases etc). My images started appearing on the site, and people started commenting on them and downloading them.
As the site took hold, I was among those people who received credits for the images downloaded by others, and in turn I cashed in my credits to download images from others. We soon moved to a new domain, istockphoto.com, and the credits became cash. We got five cents for a download, and we felt like millionaires. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the last few years I’ve seen the mood at istockphoto change as the Getty machine, and the machines that control it took charge. I stopped actively promoting the site a few years ago, but was still uploading there until just recently. I dropped out of exclusivity in 2011 and began uploading to other sites but without enthusiasm or direction. None of it felt right, really. The opportunity to interact with like minded amateurs who were learning to do something more than just create images didn’t really exist elsewhere, and it no longer existed at istock, either.
I missed the microstock wave completely, by the way, as I was too busy making other plans, to flip the Lennon quote (and mangle it a little). I’ve only made a few thousand dollars over the decade, so I never quit my day job to do stock full-time. I’ve often rued not dedicating myself to learning the craft and the industry more. I could’ve spent the last decade doing something I really enjoy.
I’ve kept in contact with Bruce intermittently through the years, and after I hatched the idea for Sojourn, we began chatting a lot more. He revealed the plans for Stocksy (or some of them at least), and somehow I’ve found myself with him at the starting line of a new venture once more.
If you’ve followed news in the tech or photography world recently, you’ll have seen plenty of signs that istockphoto is in decline, perhaps even its death throes. At the very least, it and those who still contribute are in for a challenging future. From my perspective, my association with the site is coming to an end. When I finally close my account later this year, I doubt they will miss me, or for that matter, even notice that I’m gone. I’ve never been a big contributor and thus never a big money spinner for them.
For me, I will miss what istockphoto was. I can only hope that stocksy will recapture the key parts that have been lost.