A different tomorrow. Interview with Thibaud Lemonnier, CEO at OCUS.
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Through its Charter, OCUS pledges to promote social dialogue, collective governance, fair price, and social protections for freelance photographers – a balanced model that will sustain self-employed photographers around the world.
Thibaud Lemonnier, co-founder and CEO of OCUS, introduces us to the OCUS vision.
What vision does OCUS have for the future of photography? Images are at the heart of our daily lives. They inform us, move us, embark us on a journey. In 2020, 3.2 billion images are shared on the web every day. This shows how much of a massive shift we have made from an offline to an online world. Images drive more traffic, they increase conversion, and they add value. They allow you to sell more, faster, and at higher prices. See it this way: in 2020, the biggest driver for growth is imagery.
Every picture requires craftsmanship to be produced. The quality of a picture is a direct consequence of the photographer’s talent and know-how. This is what OCUS aims to keep in mind at all times.
This is why our first mission is to make sure the photographers we work with are satisfied with the working conditions we provide them. Top among the stakes we want to address is the hourly compensation rate. How do you know that a photography mission is paid a fair price? This is the question that the University of Paris helped us gain in-depth insights on in 2019. Watch our video to learn more about our vision and our commitment to fair pay. Pay rate is not a subject we take lightly; our creator community’s feedback is precious. We must educate our customers on the issue, ensuring they understand that quality imagery costs money. Our goal is to create a sustainable model that works for each and every creator.
What role does OCUS play in supporting its own community as well as the greater community of freelance photographers? Freelancers thrive when they’re part of a system that guarantees them stability, viable social protections, such as health insurance and paid personal days, and an adapted status to work. This is why we support french organizations like Wemind or Sharers&Workers.
We give photographers new business opportunities and diversity in their work. We bring them recurrence and stability.
A strong community is about mutual trust, collective governance, and shared vision. OCUS’ success hinges on that collective effort. Everyone must get involved at their own level to promote new industry standards and clear digital regulations. I’d like to see regulatory improvements in terms of copyright, support for the industry, remuneration, and training. I’m fully convinced this will support and protect photographers, and lead to the healthy development of the industry.
How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted photography professionals? .During the confinement, we launched a masterclass program to support our community and bring them new skills:how to develop new business opportunities, how to improve their SEO, how to better manage your social media, etc. We also worked with our council of image creators, the Pathfinders, to explore the post-crisis period with them.
A crisis is only a rupture, a paradigm shift. It’s a fateful moment during which you must rethink not just your principles, but also the vision you have of a situation, a job, a daily life.
Since its creation, OCUS has embodied this change. We must learn from the past and focus on our goals and the impact we want to have, fully dedicated to our community’s needs. The consequences of lockdown have been dramatic for some freelancers. We want every freelancer to look at our model and perceive it as fair and sustainable. Previous studies (Malt, 2019) reporting on self-employment have highlighted the freedom and independence of working for oneself. But that freedom and independence should not come at a cost. In a crisis, the self-employed should be protected by the system.
What is your strategy for tackling these challenges in the photography profession? To create a fair and sustainable model, we need to set a certain ethical standard, adhered to by all stakeholders involved — public authorities, the market, the representatives of the professionals, and those working in the image-making field.
In January 2019, we organized our first OCUS Council to discuss initial thoughts. If stakeholders understand one another, communicate effectively, and share their interests and concerns, we will be able to propose appropriate strategic and political recommendations regarding ethics, legality, and sustainability. OCUS will also alert all impacted decision-makers, working through the appropriate channels and agencies as necessary in each region. We are in discussion with the Ministry of Culture and other players in the image market to deal with these issues.
Tell us more about the OCUS Charter. Our mission is clear. We have to elevate the perceived value of imagery, increase photographers’ remuneration, and thereby improve their working conditions. The OCUS Charter is all about who we are, what we want to do, and where we think the market should go. We are designing the future of the image-making field in a fair and scalable way. And this is reflected in concrete actions: collective exhibition, collective governance, fair price study, consultation with industry leaders and peers, etc.
It’s our responsibility as a platform to ensure that our community’s interests are protected. Through a collaborative effort with our creator community, we’ve laid out our commitments in this charter. We believe that together we can create a better, more sustainable model for photographers. We will use this charter to advocate for legislative change, and we invite anyone who is interested to join us in reflecting on the future of the image-making profession.
At OCUS, we believe that technology should always be a way, never a goal. Ultimately our vision is to establish a fair and sustainable model that unites clients, freelancers and platforms. We’ve started a global work with Politics and Researchers to make the Platforms’ economy a better world. Join our movement on change.ocus.com.