Edmund Pearce to close the gallery – Can You Make a Living Doing Photography?

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I have just received a real sad news. My favourite gallery specialised uniquely in photography is closing down. I was reading the email and thinking at the same time to the many exhibitions I have seen there and what a great place for photographer is, or better say, was.

For anybody not familiar with Edmund Pearce, this is a gallery located in Flinders Lane, right in the centre of Melbourne. They used to organise rotating exhibitions, every fortnight. The medium was only photography, which is probably unique in Australia at this level.

The long email was pretty distressing especially one of the sentence which I paste here below”

The decision to close did not come easily to us; most importantly due to the impact it will have on our artists and loyal audience. Despite the strength and diversity of our programme, it has become clearly evident that the Australian market is not sufficient to sustain a commercial space dedicated to photography

One of the question that I keep asking myself is “Can You Make a Living Doing Photography?”. The answer in most of the days is “probably not anymore”. It’s as simple as that. There are few elected photographers out there, most of them can just make it to the end of the month, others that have a comfortable life and very very few that have more that they actually need as it is the case for Peter Lik and his photos sold for $10M in just one day.

I had some interesting experiences this year.

I started writing and making photos for a Cycling magazine. I would get paid only with gear in exchange. Lucky there is EBay out there otherwise it would be difficult to buy a coffee in exchange of a lycra tshirt. I was selected to document the Tour de France. It was all paid for. It was a great experience and an exceptional vacation but technically speaking my photos were not paid for. In both cases of course I knew before accepting the job that payment was not in money and I agreed with that. I thought that it was a first step into the market, however I soon realised that it was the only way to be in the market.

I also had cases when my photos were used without contacting me, without references to me or, even worst, with reference to somebody else. Excuses and sorry was the usual response but again no money.

The commercial photography usually pays the bills however it is really hard to find any artistic inspiration in commercial or wedding photography. And that is the trade off. Pay the bills to have the time to make your own inspired work where passion is the main driver. I am 100% sure that there are photographers out there that are extremely passionate in wedding and commercial photography and I totally respect them. Doing what you love is extremely important.

Why nobody wants to pay for photos? Why the press is firing more and more photographers?

I can give just my opinion, which is 2c value. There are tons of free photos out there nowadays. It is so true that 97% of them do not have a great quality however it is also true that 97% of the people watching them do not really care about the quality, over/under exposed, noise, colours, etc Till the arrival of digital photography, it was all very “mechanic”. Agencies and photographers had a big database of the own work and they were proposing photos to the press based on requested subjects. Nowadays it works the other way around. The press goes on the stock photography websites and just downloads what they need, paying close to nothing.

Can we change this trend?

Probably not. The Internet is a fantastic “tool” to share our work and life, however the trend is towards an all-free direction. We all need to understand that, we cannot change it however we can adapt to it. Find other possible income, other strategies to use in an all-free world. What if we cannot find them? Well we probably need to change our job. I know it is not easy 🙁

Let me know your comments. I am really curious to know your experience.

PS I spent a bit of time in the selection of the photo for this article. Eventually I found a perfect one. The inside of an old factory that used to produce clothes in Italy (see map), one of the main industry in Italy till the 80s-90s. Time changed and the production moved overseas leaving a huge amount of unused buildings. Italy was not able to adapt to the change, introducing new services. We all know the financial crisis being experienced in Europe.


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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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