— Silkscreen print on plexiglas, 100 cm x 50 cm —
iStockphotoforreal is the translation of iStockphoto´s digital watermark into a phsyical object. iStockphoto is an image bank for stock photos and stock videos. The digital watermark appears on each stock photo preview to avoid the free, or more to say, pirate usage of the actual photo. After buying the photo, the watermark is removed. The watermarked photo is so to say less valuable in the image economy.
In the class society of images, the watermarked photo takes the role of the poor image while at the same time, the non watermarked photo takes the role of the flagship1. By translating the digital watermark into a physical object, the watermark becomes a definitely part of the image, which defines the preview-stock photo as a self standing image.
In the history of stock photos, the setting to create a photo can be compared to a stage setting of a hollywood movie shooting. Photos were created with huge efford and a big crew of professionals, from actors and screenwriters to the photographer, of course. The images showed a perfect world and were mainly used in advertimsements to sell products2.
The power of stock photos lies in it´s contextual adaptiveness, as Matthias Bruhn points out in his text “Visualization Services: Stock Photography and the Picture Industry”. It is not about the image as such, but about the image as perception. A crucial role play the photo´s description, or tagline, as well as the categories they are stocked in by stock photo agencies.
On the website www.stockingisthenewplanking.com, which was just shut down in summer 2012, people imitated existing stock images and wrote their own tagline underneath their photos. The site shows examples of that with the original, watermarked version of the stock photo, placed on the left, and the imitated version including a new tagline, on the right. The digital watermark is what maked the stock photos official. And though they are (mostly) done more professional, the watermark brings them on the same level like the imitations, they are both for free4.
1: “In Defense of the Poor Image”, Hito Steyerl
2: “The New Heraldry: Stock Photography, Visual Literacy, and Advertising in 1930s Britain”, Helen Wilkinson
3: Visualization Services: Stock Photography and the Picture Industry”, Matthias Bruhn
4: www.stockingisthenewplanking.com (till summer 2012)