Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Future Through Photography

You've heard of trend forecasters? Slate has a piece on the crystal-ball powers of companies that sell stock videos and photography.

Apparently, one such company is betting that advertisers and media companies will be soon be looking for something to illustrate a mood of modern disconnectedness.

From the story:

"I was startled to realize that stock photo and video purveyors actually create material in anticipation of demand. (I'd somehow failed to consider that stock pictures could be made, not just found.) These suppliers of the world's commercial imagery are making bets on what life will look and feel like in the near future. Which made me wonder: What else, besides an ongoing technological dystopia, do they imagine waiting ahead?"

It's an interesting business. As someone who spends a certain amount of time each week browsing for photos for the Flyer — no, we don't have a photographer on staff — I can attest that they have images that relate to pretty much anything. But not only do the companies have to predict what subject matter their clients will be looking for, they also have to guess what abstract concepts they should be illustrating.

"'We had a bad day when Dolly was cloned,' says Denise Waggoner, vice president of creative research at Getty. 'We hadn't been studying biotechnology, and suddenly everyone wanted a shot of 25 sheep on a seamless white background. So now we try to keep our toes dipped in the water in lots of different fields, so we can be ready.'"

One other tidbit? Apparently, images of people are usable for about four years — after that, the clothing and technology in the picture make them, well, obsolete.

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