The Walmart of Photography makes $120,000/week selling old newspaper photos on eBay

Rogers Photo Archive on eBay
Rogers Photo Archive on eBay

This is weird. Old press card photos of staffers from the Miami Herald are up for sale on eBay. Above is a 1981 image of columnist Edwin Pope, a print of which can currently be had for $28.88. Wait…what?!

I knew that newspapers have been selling off their photo archives, and had heard about the Arkansas-based John Rogers Photo Archive buying up many major newspapers’ photos. But I didn’t know what Rogers was doing with the photos. He started with the Detroit News and then eventually acquired the licensing and print sales rights to the photo archives of the Boston Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, the Denver Post, and other storied news organizations and individual photographers. It’s a good deal for the newspapers. The cash-strapped publications get a one-time payment and a searchable digital archive of their work. For Rogers, the deal was less clear immediately. He’d managed to parlay old sports photographers’ archives into major deals with trading card manufacturers. Images of celebrities and politicians in the newspaper archives would be valuable, but Rogers also began to put ordinary newspaper images up for sale on eBay and the money started to roll in.

The Rogers Archive is now one of the largest stores on eBay, with over 2 million images for sale (I’m not sure if there are other seller profiles operated by the Rogers Archive, but here’s one with 50,000+ images). In a 2012 interview with the Arkansas Times (That’s a great link, by the way, and where Rogers calls his archive the “Walmart of Photography”. Read it for a good background on all of this), Rogers says that eBay sales of old newspaper images bring in $120,000 a week. That’s not a typo. And that’s not the Rogers Archive’s only source of income. But that’s why and how prints of old press card photos of newspaper staff are showing up on eBay.

The Rogers Archive website says that a stock licensing portal will be made to facilitate licensing these images, but promises says it will be coming soon in 2011. Digital Stock Planet‘s website just says “under construction.”

Weird.

(via Romenesko)

Worth a look: Revolution Revisited by Kim Komenich and University of Miami multimedia grad students

Kim Komenich - University of Miami - screenshot of Revolution Revisited website

Photojournalism has a history problem. What was a banner headline and 6-column photo is often forgotten just weeks later. Rarely do we get to see what happened a year or a decade or longer after the main news event. Revolution Revisited does just that. Josh Meltzer, photojournalism instructor at Western Kentucky University, wrote in recently to let us know about this project that he and his classmates finished as part of a Master’s in Multimedia at the University of Miami. It focuses on Kim Komenich‘s 1987 Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Philippine Revolution for the San Francisco Examiner, and pairs that with follow-up photos and interviews with people in the photos and Komenich. The students started the project by working with over 800 contact sheets from Komenich’s original work, and the website makes more than 500 images available online, substantially broadening the tight edit of the work awarded the Pulitzer.

While you’re at it, also check out Maggie Steber’s excellent The Audacity of Beauty (recently featured on Lens), the website for which was created by students in the same program.

Perfesser Kev covers the canon of photojournalism

Jacob Riis - Cloth cutters on Ludlow Street - 1905

[T]his is a start on a “canon” to which you may contribute a suggestion. I’m looking not just for a list of the “great photographers” nor the most famous or successful. I’m looking for photographers who:

-Produced documentary work reflecting the important standards and ethics of the profession,
-Stood the test of time by repeatedly producing notable work, and
-Innovated in the art or profession by being first to adopt an important style or approach, break a barrier or rise above the limits of the day.

Kevin Moloney, photojournalist and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has just finished a series of posts on the canon of photojournalism. It’s a great look through the history of the medium, including many photographers whose names aren’t as readily recognizable to most as Cartier-Bresson or the like. The whole series, linked below, is worth a read.

  • The Photojournalist’s Canon: Part One — The First 50 Years
  • The Photojournalist’s Canon: Part Two — Early 20th Century
  • The Photojournalist’s Canon: Part Three — From Then to Now
  • The posts ask for contributions to the canon, so if there’s a photographer that you feel should be listed, send in a contribution. I could see, for instance, the addition of Richards, Rodchenko, and Goldin.