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|| News Item: Posted 1999-11-15

New Agency Joins Sports Photography Fray
By Mark Warford, Icon Sports Media

Photo by
The photographic industry has collided with a brick wall disguised as success. The race to combine numerous, and somewhat directionless, companies under one all-encompassing banner is being lauded as the way forward, but realistically it is only confusing matters further. Image quantity masquerades as quality, photographer's compensation is reduced further and confidence in these 'monolithic' organizations is at an all time low. How did this happen and what are we going to do about it?

One cannot ignore that evolution within the photography industry is absolutely vital. Recent history has witnessed more and more reluctant practitioners falling by the way side as new methods supersede the old. Embracing technology for its supplemental role is not only imperative, but extremely exciting - digital dependency, new compression formats and increased interactivity are spearheading the way we will do business in the years to come. As mass communication continues to "shrink" our virtual world, so does the demand for visual media increase - online investment alone is accounting for a concerted effort by non-industry types to force their way into a previously exclusive club - and it shows. With demand, of course, comes revenue, and so on and so forth. So, ultimately, when organizations large and small focus on delivery and not production - something has to suffer. It's happening already, "The online supermarket is open - in fact, today we are having a sale on the guy that just died. Oh, but you'll have to search for yourself, there's 7000 pictures to choose from and please excuse the quality but you just can't get good help these days! Do call again." What a sad state of affairs.

Photo by Jim Gund/Icon

Photo by Jim Gund/Icon
But it doesn't have to be this way. We cannot afford to lose sight of what makes this business unique and why we have suffered at its temperamental feet for so long. Great pictures are worth every drop of sweat you can muster; a fragment of history unfolded in front of you and you caught it! Why cheapen and belittle this skill for the sake of lining someone else's pocket? Does this not only condone a "watering down" of an already saturated medium? In order to promote their work, photographers are handcuffing themselves to contracts and institutions more concerned with market fluctuations than they are about an investment in their contributors. Pictures are nothing more than product - "who needs it and how much do you want!" The irony of course lies at the fingertips of the perpetrators - the photographers, if they didn't shoot it, it wouldn't exist. Alas, we all live in the real world and no matter how much the loony on the soapbox makes sense, we all have bills to pay.

So here we are - Icon Sports Media Inc. Take five industry professionals with a combined expertise of over 40 years, contract the work of sports photographers of international repute, place unprecedented customer service as the highest priority and sustain a commitment to integrate cutting-edge technology in order to effectively syndicate an increasing body of work. Simple. To achieve this ISM Inc is prepared to exercise a long-forgotten factor in the business world - TO LISTEN. Success in a creative medium is undoubtedly a question of balance. On one hand we have a digital revolution that has almost become 'passe' in its ability to surprise, such is the frequency of new developments, and on the other we have a desperate longing to produce a world -class collection of defining moments. After all, there is no point sending a client bad images really quickly. To achieve this balance ISM Inc. actively encourages input from contributing members. What better way than to have 40 -50 key individuals providing their feedback and in-depth knowledge of the industry on a day to day basis. Who could ask for better market research ?

In addition to showcasing an editorial collection stretching back some 20 years, Icon SMI will be aggressively pursuing a full model-released image catalogue due to be announced in early 2000. This, in turn with the incorporation of a fully interactive web archive, will place the company at the highest level of the stock image industry. Industry standards for
fully released sports imagery have, and still do, leave a lot to be desired. All too often they project a bland and sterile vision of sport. Our goal is to continually attract photographers with not only a keen eye for technical detail, but also an understanding of the visual element of competition.

We're throwing down the gauntlet and challenging the industry to wake up! Icon Sports Media is here and, guess what, "we care!"

Icon Sports Media launched on November 1st, 1999 with an archive totaling some 500,000 images and is expected to reach the magic 1,000,000 mark by February 2000. All sales, whether editorial or model-released, are based on a 50/50 split. With regard to new photographers, Icon SMI encourages all interested parties to contact us directly prior to submitting portfolios.

Icon Sports Media Inc., is located at 7334 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Suite 206, Canoga Park, CA 91303; Tel: (818) 346 2876 Fax: (818) 346 1539. Email: Web:

(Mark Warford is an award-winning photographer and director of photography.)

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