Monday, May 21, 2012

The Image Is The Product

"An Image Is Worth More Than The Object It Represents"

Welcome to the digital age.

Many pinners have convinced themselves that artists ought to be eternally grateful for the publicity. They haven't noticed how few artists are posting their own content for their own publicity on Pinterest. When pressed, they'll argue that posting a digital representation of an artwork, a craft project, or a landscape photograph, cannot possibly hurt the sales of that product, on the contrary!

Not to single out pinners, many attorneys, photographers, writers and visual artists themselves still have a view that the only avenues for profiting from one's artwork is to sell the work itself, or its reproduction on less expensive media ranging from coffee mugs, calendars, giclee prints and t-shirts, or by licensing rights to the ever-shrinking print media, or internet news behemoths like CNN.

It is often thought that multiplying the images of the object on the internet in no way interferes with the sales of the object, so why should artists complain? The more the object is seen, the greater the likelihood that it will be purchased by someone. Pinners justify themselves thinking that they wouldn't have bought licensing rights to the image under any circumstance, such that the artist isn't losing any licensing income. They are, after all, only looking.

In the digital age, the image of the object has become the product.

The image is consumed through the viewing of it.

Self-publishing artists can profit from the distribution of their images for viewing on their own websites, supported by advertising sponsorship. The images can be displayed on their own as sources of inspiration, or simple viewing delight. They can be essential decoration to how-to articles. They can support ideas and help with brand recognition. None of these strategies to profit from one's images involves sales of physical objects of any kind.

The artist's ability to profit from self-publishing is eroded when pinners contribute to the building of a large, central marketplace of image consumption. Pinterest, as a central viewing marketplace is not only populated by the artist's own images (forcing the artist to compete against his/herself), but it also conveniently features the added bonus of the best work of many other artists.

In the aggregate, the consumers of digital images will be satisfying their viewing needs in the new, more convenient central marketplace, stripped of intellectually-demanding accompanying text, and have no incentive at all to consume images in their dispersed and non-uniform original sources.

If there is any doubt that it is the image itself that is consumed, kindly refer to this article: Pinner Hall of Shame?

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