At your tables, chairs set…ready ? 1, 2, 3.. Go . The freshly renamed  Centre of Photography ( Cepic) Congress  is about to start in Dublin, Ireland, in what is now an annual gathering of photographic convenience stores. Wide computer screens boringly pushing one lifeless image after another, hundreds of neatly arranged 4 seats tables ( no more, no less), a huge hall of sedated whispering, and every hour, on the hour, the delicately pre-arrange ballet of musical chairs. The only thing that changes, year after year, is the location. But does anyone even notice?

The CEPIC congress is  Einstein’s definition of insanity at its best : Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  Punctuated by “talks” from self-proclaimed “experts”, “gurus” or “coaches”, whose only claimed to photo knowledge is to have been recently vomited from an highly paid executive position at one of the photo corporations, it repeats, year after year, the same pattern of stubborn  blindness. Year after year, its resembles more and more a meeting of eggs in a closet whose shells show signs of heavy cracking.

Why this assembly of  Commercial Stock photography suppliers continue to be so closed on itself, so violently persistent in its obsessions, so un-creative, so resilient to change, is becoming a boring mystery.

The grand old pompous  IPTC Consortium will hold it cyclical marathon session repeating over and over the same things, demanding full respect by obstination, claiming high and loud that is it a standard when it can’t even get two software companies to agree on  the same field name.  The Plus coalition will continue to speak highly of its endless and obsolete development, announcing more and more board room agreements that are never implemented. The same faces, the same voices will take the stage, (also behind tables), to fill the stuffy word space with vague and inconsequential statements, in front of a sparse and half asleep audience. Finally, night after night, all will reunite to wash the whole thing down with huge amount of free alcohol.

Sure, the CEPIC is relevant because it allows for agents and suppliers to meet at one place and one time, do their little business, and go back home, agreeably satisfied with a job well done. It gives everyone who attends a sense of safe continuity, the sense that, after all, everything will be alright.

Here is what to expect : More will be said about microstock (snooze), vendors will painfully try to sell software solutions to agencies that do not have any money to invest, arguments will be made about switching to licensing video (really ?), old timers will parade the halls looking for some self-gratifying recognition, lots and lots of notes will be taken on blocks, pens will be given away, and people will cross each other saying ” Sorry, I don’t have the time to talk, I have a meeting with…”, all day long. There will be more talks about how keywords will save you, search is key and of course, a lot of comparing size of collections.

Something new ? Of course, social media will be discuss ad vomitum : Twitter will save you, you GOTTA have a Facebook account,  viral this and viral that, Youtube, Flickr, Foursquare , Tumblr,   along with SEO and Google this and Google that. If you do not have or working on a Ipad/Iphone apps this year, you will be considered a loser. You GOTTA have an App.

People will also hear that you need to create a Niche. Because that is only way to survive : a niche. In other words, they will tell you to get out out of Getty’s way, because you can’t compete, and find a corner, where, hopefully they will not find you.  Problem is with this strategy is that a succesful niche is not a niche anymore, its a target. And, in industry where everyone, absolutely everyone is looking for  market share, becoming a target is not good news.

They will also tell you about Freemium, as they have freshly come out of reading the book, forgetting to tell you that the only companies that can afford Freemium strategies are those that are very well funded. Or to think “Long Tail” because it’s a cool concept, no knowing exactly what it means.

The Cepic congress is a big feel good gathering, like a giant therapeutic group hug , where everyone leaves satisfied that everything will be alright and to continue business as usual. It’s a soporific ego satisfier, a yearly lobotomy. Everyone pats each other cracked egg shell fully knowing that only accepted growth business model is to screw each other.

For CEPIC to one day be relevant again, it needs to go through a violent change. It needs to elect young Presidents ( 30 or younger), it needs to invite speakers from outside the industry, it needs to start looking 5 years ahead and not 10 years backwards. It needs to bring image buyers, photographers, creatives, thinkers. What it really needs is to come out of its highly reactionary protective bubble and destroys those crippling walls that they think are protecting them.

Author: pmelcher


  1. Well, this is the “feel-good” post for someone who will go for first time at CEPIC today…like me. thanks for the critical hindsight!

  2. Sorry Paul that you weren’t here in Dublin last night for a gathering we (my “panelists” Taylor Davidson, Shannon Fagan and Cathy Yeulet)gave for a select group of invited guests here in Dublin.

    The majority had not attended CEPIC before and many were present for the New Media Conference. I think if you were here, you would have seen and heard that there are many young voices from outside the industry that are willing and able to push what you and I came from into a new generation of image usage businesses.

    Only one person out of the 40 or so in attendance has a ‘table’ and of my speakers (On The Future)only one has been to CEPIC before.

    I know you’ll have fun with the concept of the oldest living photo agent leading a panel on the future! But I love you anyway.:)

    PS Christina Vaughn isn’t under 30 but she is a force for change and doing a lot along with Klaus Plauman and Sylvie to give CEPIC new life and focus. You should join us to see how.

  3. Author


    You are not only the youngest, but also the smartest . The issue is not so much who and if they had been to CEPIC before or not but rather what was said and what will be done. A lot of people go to the congress once and never return. That is nothing new and not a sign of creative reflection. The commercial stock photo industry is suffering from cobweb thinking and needs heavy dusting if it doesn’t want to quickly become obsolete. You know that very well.
    The survival of this industry largely depends on its ability to reach outside of its current pool of traditional players.
    PS : I love you too…

  4. Paul you are too funny and right on in your re-enactment of what’s likely occurring…conferences are about networking and nothing more. Sitting and listening to the speakers is a waste of time, they can be viewed afterwards on video.

  5. Couple quick points:

    I don’t understand your point about freemium. The key is to give away things that are inexpensive or very, very low marginal cost. Companies don’t need to be very well funded to do that. Freemium can be an effective part of a marketing / business stragegy if used effectively.

    I don’t understand your point about the long tail. Nobody says “think long tail” (or at least, nobody that understands it). The ones that understand how to create strategies that leverage the tail say “get out of the tail”, or “profit from the tail” (i.e. be the head of the tail).

    I don’t agree with your point about niches. Creating a niche is not about getting out of Getty’s way; it’s about doing it better than Getty in a specific area.

    You’re right about twitter, tumblr, social media, etc = simply using them will not save anybody. But using them intelligently, with a strategy and method for testing, measuring and refining one’s approach, gives one the best chance for success.

  6. What a refreshing and intelligent blog – and I thought nobody talks without sycophant accolades about microstock except for frustrated contributors. I will keep my eye on this site – it definitely worth my time to read your posts.

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