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New French Report Zooms In on Field of Photography

Photographers at a FEMEN demonstration (photo by Yaroslav Debelyi, via FEMEN Women's Movement/Flickr)
Photographers at a FEMEN demonstration (photo by Yaroslav Debelyi, via FEMEN Women’s Movement/Flickr)

Anecdotally, most people would probably agree that photography has changed more dramatically over the last 15 years than any other sector of visual art. Thankfully, France has published a 22-page report on the state of photography documenting the myriad ways in which the profession has changed, and how that has affected photographers’ ability to make a living from their work. Some 6,000 of France’s roughly 25,000 professional photographers — working in every field, from fashion and photojournalism to fine art and corporate photography — were surveyed for the study, which was conducted between December 2013 and December 2014 by the Ministry of Culture and Communication and its Department of Studies, Probability, and Statistics.

“Far beyond a mere changing of the techniques of production of the photographic image, [the changes of the last 15 years] have involved the development of new practices for distributing, circulating, and exchanging images through online networks, contributing to an unprecedented inflation in the availability of photographs, market deregulation, and an undermining of the legal protections for artists’ rights,” the study’s authors Claude Vauclare and Rémi Debeauvais write in their introduction. “Indeed, the full range of conditions for the production, transmission, distribution, and consumption of photographic images has been redefined.”

The ensuing data ranges from unsurprising — nine out of ten photographers use digital equipment to make most of their images — to encouraging — the number of women photographers in France grew by 85% between 1995 and 2010 — to depressing — 43% of French photographers made less than €15,000 (~$16,500) in 2013. Some of the information is very specific to France, where, for instance, more than three quarters of professional photographers receive artists’ social security. But on the whole the report offers a very high-resolution snapshot of a field in the midst of unprecedented transformations. Some notable numbers:

  • Between 1995 and 2010 the number of French people identifying as professional artists of any kind increased by 16%, but the number of photographers increased by 37% over the same period.
  • Between 1995 and 2010 the number of men photographers increased by 25% while the number of women photographers increased by 85%.
  • 58% of respondents had other jobs before becoming professional photographers, 40% of them in a related field (graphic or web design, public relations, animation, etc.).
  • About half of the respondents have at least one photography degree; among photographers under 30, 66% have a photography degree.
  • The number of salaried photojournalists in France has dropped by 40% since 2007.
  • In 1991, 46 % of professional photographers were salaried, now only 17% are.
  • While 19% of respondents said they once had official press cards, only 7% have them today.
  • Two thirds of respondents teach photography or a related skill.
  • Nine out of ten respondents use digital equipment primarily; one third still use non-digital technologies as well; 40% also make moving images.
  • 40% of respondents said portraits are the most important type of image they produce; 17% said landscapes; 13% said photojournalism.
  • Three quarters of respondents work on commission.
  • Nine out of ten respondents work alone.
  • Eight out of ten respondents make money from multiple sectors of the photography market; the most popular revenue stream is corporate photography (executive portraits, event photography, conference materials, annual reports, etc.).
  • Only 4% of respondents make most of their income through gallery sales.
  • In 2013, 43% of respondents made less than €15,000 (~$16,500), 31% made between €15,000 and €29,999 (~$33,000), and 24% made over €30,000. In France, the poverty line is €645 per month, or €7,740 (~$8,500) per year.
  • 59% of respondents said photography was their main source of revenue in 2013, but 55% said their revenue from photography had dropped over the past three years.
  • 58% of respondents said digital technology has had a positive impact on the field.
  • While 63% have a pessimistic or somewhat pessimistic view for the future of the field, only 6% plan to change professions.

h/t Alain Servais

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