Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Meyer made a stupid remark yesterday whilst announcing a complete overhaul of their Flickr photo-sharing website service. She actually said was that “…there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore”. Like many people who used to think that they were professional photographers I became very angry.
What I’d love to happen next is to get commissioned to shoot her portrait for a major newspaper or magazine and to prove her wrong. That’s unlikely to happen, which is a shame. Within a few hours of hearing what she had said I had deleted my Flickr account and let my Twitter followers know that I had done it and why I had done it.
Did Ms Meyer really mean to upset hundreds of thousands of hard-working professionals? Does she really think that our profession has ceased to exist? I suspect that what actually happened is that she made her remark with the subtlest of hints of humour in her voice in order to promote her company’s new-look product. I doubt that it has done too much harm but why do corporates continually keep doing this kind of thing? Gerald Ratner famously compared his company’s gold jewellery to a prawn sandwich wiping millions of pounds off of its share value and ultimately leading to his downfall. Time after time people at the top who believe their own hype and who think that they can be funny in order to sell their products make this same mistake.
Flickr’s owners won’t apologise. They have sought to make light of her remark because it was ‘light-hearted’ – or at least it was light-hearted in her mind. At a time when the value of photography is, in many ways, at an all-time low the owner of one of the biggest sites based on photography has unwittingly reinforced that perception. Stupid and un-thinking throw-away remarks do damage in ways that only become apparent over time
My business model isn’t based on Flickr. I had about thirty folio images up there simply because it probably pays to have a presence on all of the social media sites. I have probably shot myself in the foot by deleting my account but anger leads to gesture and the biggest gesture that I could make was to leave Flickr.
The point that I really want to make here is that photography does have value. Good photography is, in fact, invaluable. Maybe if the Board of Yahoo realised that they’d actually get their CEO to apologise.