Pro Photo Daily | What We Learned This Week: "Getty of China" Buys 500px; ImageBrief Folds

By: David Schonauer
Publish Date: March 8, 2018, 9:55 a.m.

The stock photography landscape has changed.

This week we learned that photo-sharing site 500px  was acquired by Visual China Group  (VCG), the Beijing-based photo and media agency that’s known as “the Getty Images of China." VCG announced that its subsidiary VCG Hong Kong had acquired 100 percent of 500px shares. VCG was already a strategic investor in 500px: PetaPixel  noted that the Chinese company led a $13 million funding round in 500px in July 2015. The move came after 500px’s CEO and co-founder Oleg Gutson was ousted after a disagreement with the company’s board over future plans. The investment resulted in 500px’s increased focus in the greater China area, noted TechCrunch.

Deal terms were not revealed, though TechCrunch cited one report that the sale was in the “fire sale” range of $17 million.

Founded in Toronto in 2009, 500px was seen as a rival to Flickr. It has since grown into a community of over 13 million photographers based in 195 different countries and regions around the world; the service hosts over 120 million unique photos, added PetaPixel. VCG, which bought Corbis in 2016, is now the world’s third-largest visual-content provider, with the 500px acquisition expanding its offerings. “VCG says it plans to offer 500px photographers both new and improved features — things like big data, AI, trusted timestamping, and digital copyright services,” added PetaPixel.

Meanwhile, another startup that promised to disrupt the stock-photo industry has folded: This week we learned that photo-licensing service ImageBrief is shutting down after six years in business. The company offered customers a different way to get find and license images, noted DP Review: Instead of purchasing generic photos through stock agencies, added PetaPixel, buyers could post “briefs” with their requests, budget, and time frame. Photographers signed up to ImageBrief would then receive the briefs and submit photos for consideration.

That model has been picked up by other companies over time, but, concluded DP Review, it doesn't seem to have worked out in the long run, at least for Image Brief. The company didn’t provide an explanation for its closing but told photographers. PDN  wonders in ImageBrief's "lowballing business strategy" was to blame for its own demise.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Shortlist Announced for 2018 Sony World Photo Awards

The World Photography Organization  has announced the shortlist for the 2018 Sony World Photo Awards, which includes photographer Sasha Maslov’s portraits of World War II veterans, above. (See our 2015 closeup  on Maslov’s project.) This year’s contest attracted some 320,000 entries from over 200 countries and territories, noted the British Journal of Photography. The winners will be revealed on April 19, and a curated exhibition of the work will take place at Somerset House, London from April 20 to May 6.

2.  Capturing the Return of Fascism in Europe

Across Europe fascism is on the rise: The New Republic  recently featured the work of Norwegian photographer Espen Rasmussen, who has has spent almost two years documenting the rise of far-right extremists all over Europe, from the Golden Dawn in Greece to neo-Nazis in Ukraine. “Rasmussen’s photographs force us to confront the reality that there are forces that want Europe to fall apart rather than pull together. It is sobering to realize how far and fast such hatred can travel,” wrote political science professor Seyla Benhabib.

3. Capturing the Invisible Glow of Flowers

Viewing the flowers captured by Craig Burrows, noted National Geographic, might have you dreaming that you’ve set foot in the alien world of Pandora, from director James Cameron’s film Avatar. But Burrows’s brightly pigmented blooms are a work of science, not fiction. To capture the images, the California-based photographer relies on a technique called ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence photography, or UVIVF for short. The process uses ultraviolet light to cause substances to fluoresce.

4. An Imperfect Portrait of Adolescence

Eighteen-year-old photographer Colin Combs's portraits of his friends, most of them high-school seniors from Dayton, Ohio, are more affectionate and angst-ridden, noted The New Yorker. That may be surprising: Combs’s home town is sometimes called the heroin capital of the United States. “In his vivid, unvarnished stills, Dayton instead assumes a melancholy splendor, sheltering artists and skaters,” wrote Eren Orbey. “We’re just trying to make art, have fun, and not feel like idiots,” says Combs.

5. "Remembering Great Apes" at Kickstarter

After seeing a poached elephant in Northern Kenya in 2014, British wildlife photographer Margot Raggett began asking fellow wildlife photographers, including Art Wolfe and Frans Lanting, if they would contribute to a fundraising effort supporting wildlife-protection projects of The Born Free Foundation. The result was the 2016 book Remembering Elephants. Now, we noted, Raggett is crowdfunding another book, Remembering Great Apes. Seen here: an Art Wolfe photo of an orangutan.