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What happened at the Corbis Press Conference?

20 September 2000 - EPUK

Perpignan Update by Frédéric Neema fn@fnphoto.com

I just finished gathering as many testimonies as I could in order to give an accurate report of what really happened during Corbis’ press conference in Perpignan, France.

Since I was not in France at that time, I was also astonished when I heard that nobody asked questions after the press conference. Other photographers reacted the same way on our online forums. We just could not believe that the photographers missed such an opportunity to face Corbis with all these unanswered questions.

Since then, we learnt what really happened. Steve Davis, CEO of Corbis, never gave the audience enough time to ask questions and left the room in such a rush that it even surprised Francois Hebel (Sygma’s Director of Editorial Photography for Europe), who remained seated at the podium.

Some photographers immediately rushed out of the room and stopped Steve Davis in the corridor to start a “frank” discussion with him. TV crews were present. Tension was very high. They were very unhappy to have missed the opportunity to face Corbis in public and wnated to make sure that Davis knew it. “I was shaking, I was so upset” reported one of the frustrated photographers present at the scene. All reports and testimonials show that tension was high during the press conference and that Steve Davis could not ignore it.

Some photographers later said that by the time they thought about a question that made sense and did not appear too aggressive, Davis was gone. Some said that they were waiting for someone else to start. Some said that they had questions about Sygma but did not want to jeopardize the negotiations in process. Some said that it was not worth asking questions to get empty answers. Some admitted they were impressed by the surrealistic scene.

But ALL of them were highly interested and wanted to know more. There were no reports of someone sleeping during the press conference or leaving before the end. Steve Davis knew it very well but wanted to avoid facing questions. This is why he announced the press conference (that was originally cancelled) at the last minute and left the room 15-20 seconds after the end of his monologue.

Now, some clarifications regarding Sygma.

  • Sygma was ready and organized for Perpignan. A press conference by the photographers was planned as well as a communique. Unfortunately, the Sygma photographer in charge lost his father that same week and never made it to Perpignan.

*The statement read by a Sygma photographer during the press conference referred to the negotiations under way. The majority of the audience understood that it meant negotiations about the contract only. In fact, the negotiations in France concern many other topics that also include the fate of the archives of those who wish to leave or have already left the agency.

The problem is that they refuse to answer the main questions that any photographer should ask before signing up with an agency: How are going to market my images? What are your sales in such and such market? What is your business plan? How many images similar to mine do you have or are going to accept? ... etc …

They keep saying that we are going to make a lot of money but they don’t say how. They keep saying that the world has changed and that we refuse to accept it. Sorry, but even the weirdest dot.com company today needs a strong business plan to get the confidence of its investors or even of its own employees. We, photographers, invest in an agency. We need to know a little bit more than the fact that they lost $50 millions last year.

Copyright © Frédéric Neema

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