Earlier this summer LCC’s Graduate School organised for a group of the College’s postgraduate Photography students to visit Getty Image’s Photo Archive. The archive is the biggest in the world for commercial photography, housing more than 80 million photographs, negatives and illustrations.
Vice President of Getty Images Matthew Butson gave a tour of the archives and explained their history to the students.
Matthew explained that of the 80 million photographs in the archive, only around 1% are digitalised. It is an immense project to digitalise the whole archive of images, some of which date back to the early 19th century. Indeed the age of some of the images makes their digitalisation really challenging, especially the old acetate-based negatives which have severely deteriorated over time.
The shelves of the archives store images which depict an enormous array of subjects, from paparazzi shots to iconic war photography. The students were lucky enough to see some exquisitely preserved 19th century negative on glass plates.
Matthew was also happy to give the students some industry insights. He explained “what goes around comes around in this business. There are few completely new ideas, it is much more about creativity and about reinventing old ideas.
“Take retouching for example. It is something that is now very common thanks to advanced digital software, but Victorian photographers were ‘retouching’ negatives to achieve better effects a hundred years ago.”
One of the secrets of Getty Images’success is that they take advantage of the technological innovations. They purchased many archives from other news agencies to preserve the history and legacy of this country, but at the same time they are actively using social media and e-commerce to monetise their assets.
The visit ended with a series of individual portfolio reviews in which the students shared their best works and received constructive feedback.
Words by Duan Tianju, MA Illustration and Visual Media