A Review Of “Food, Inc.,” A Question And A Questionable Future For Stock Photographers????????
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This is in part a review of “Food, Inc.” and in part a warning to photographers that the business of stock photography, as well as other types of photography, may well go the way of farming, to a hostile takeover and domination by corporate giants that could care less about quality or about the supplier, or even worse, could bring about the end.
“Food, Inc.” is a must-see, even for those of you who believe you know everything there is to know about the decline in food value in the last 100 years and the rise of corporate farming. I was one of you. Besides growing up on my mother’s home-made whole wheat everything, home grown vegetables, scratch-made meals, hand-made butter, cottage cheese, tofu, sea salt and so on, about 15 years ago I found out even more about food through the process of learning to eat and sell dried up green slime (Super Blue-Green Algae). The pitch is that this nutrient-rich dried green pond scum gives us back the nutrients that are no longer in our food. For example, it helps you sell compacted pond scum if you know that it takes 75 bowls of today’s spinach to equal the nutritional content of one bowl of spinach in 1910.
Fear And Loathing In “Food, Inc.”
“Food, Inc.” takes all of this to a whole new plane. “Food, Inc.” not only informs, it horrifies. The New York Times book review of “Food, Inc.” said, “…One of the scariest movies of the year, “Food, Inc.,” an informative, often infuriating activist documentary about the big business of feeding or, more to the political point, force-feeding, Americans all the junk that multinational corporate money can buy. You’ll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch.” “Food, Inc.’s” narrator tells us that the food we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than the last 500. In the supermarket and in advertising we see plentiful agrarian images, but when we go behind the scenes we find a factory, not a farm. To get gross right away, “Food, Inc.” explains and shows how the industrial food system that now delivers us most of our supermarket food, is the same system originally perfected to supply fast food chains.
Corporate Takeover, Domination And Takedown
The part that applies to photography, as we will see, is that in 1970 the top five food producers owned 25 percent of the market share of food. Whereas today, the top four producers hold 80 percent of the market. This is the kind of oncoming speeding truck of which it is healthy to be afraid. Speaking of trucks, the average meal in the U.S. travels 1500 miles before we eat it.
After the decline of tobacco, many southern farmers began raising chickens. Chickens used to take three months to raise, now they take 49 days and can barely walk, defecate all over themselves and each other every day and the chicken farmers are for the most part all in debt and under the complete control of Tyson, Purdue or Smithfield Foods.
It is the same story across the board. Take corn, for example. One acre of corn used to produce 20 bushels, now it produces 200, but the water and energy consumption have skyrocketed and the diseases, bugs and weeds rampage if massive spraying doesn’t keep them down. The average American eats 200 pounds of meat a year. This would not be possible without cheap corn feed. Cows are engineered to eat grass. A corn diet produces harmful E. Coli. Besides, on the feedlot they stand ankle deep in their own manure. The hides are coated with manure. Four hundred animals an hour are slaughtered in the slaughterhouse. No wonder some of the E. Coli gets into the meat. “Food, Inc.” relates that in 2008, enough meat was recalled to feed one hamburger to everyone in the U.S. Strangely enough, the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry. The Head of the FDA is the former Executive Vice President of the National Food Producing Association. So it goes. “Food, Inc.” gets really scary when the film zeroes in on the story of a 2 ½ year old boy who ate a hamburger and then died in 12 days. The culprit hamburger matched a meat recall.
Cows Get Religion But Do People?
On the flip side of it, if you take corn-fed cattle off of the feed lot and feed them grass for five days, they shed 80 percent of the E. Coli in their guts. As the organic farmer interviewed in “Food, Inc.” said, “It is a systemic problem. The typical approach is not to fix the system or look at what might be wrong with the system, but to come up with high-tech fixes that allow the system to go on.” Why is it that you can get a double cheeseburger at McDonalds for 99 cents and you can’t get a head of broccoli for 99 cents? It is no accident that our food system is skewed to the bad calories. They are cheaper because they are subsidized.
“Food, Inc.” concludes that we can vote to change the system three times a day. We can buy from companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect. Buy foods grown locally. Shop at local farmer’s markets. Plant a garden. Cook a meal with your family and eat together. Ask your school board to provide healthy school lunches. Tell Congress to enforce safety standards and re-introduce Kevin’s Law. Kevin was the little boy who died from E. Coli poisoning. You can change the world with every bite. “Food, Inc.” is a very well-documented, ambitious, comprehensive and positive film by the end. There are solutions. This is true of food, but is it true of photography? What do you think?
“Food, Inc.” And Stock Photography: The Big Squeeze
In photography, the stock industry has all but imploded due to mismanagement by the largest players. Nonetheless, now textbook companies and many other publishers across the board are only dealing with stock agencies. The individual freelance photographer is becoming less and less welcome to share images. Imagery availability has exploded and those who supply images consistently on a full-time basis are passed over. It is starting to look a lot like chicken farming. The pricing structure has turned upside-down. Where will it end?
Various photographers have written about this. A blog post by Eric Brading on Quazen discusses the “Death of Stock Photography” and why. Moab, Utah landscape photographer Tom Till wrote a blog post called, “HDR Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Tone Mapping.” Even the New York Times chimes in with, “For Photographers, The Image of a Shrinking Path.” Darwin Wiggett asks if this is, “The End of Stock Photography?” and the answer comes in the title of a post on AU Interactive, “It’s the End of Stock Photography as We Know It, and I Feel Fine,” but MicrostockGroup.com answers that the end is nigh in, “Topic: End of Stock Photography.” And to dig the final shovel full, the Photoshelter Blog has an article titled, “Stock Photography Is Like the Gold Rush and That Didn’t End Well.” So there you have a smattering of current bloggers and experts to safely guide you to what some of them consider the upcoming dead end, and some consider a change to which they have innovative solutions much like “Food, Inc.” Maybe we will just have to find a new source for food in both industries now that the big guy has stamped out the little guys. What do you think? Are we at the end of stock photography, or in some kind of transition or what?