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Stuck In Customs Essay

2749 words - 11 pages

Trey Ratcliffe’s business model belies traditional thinking about how to create a successful photography business and his masterful high dynamic range (HDR) landscapes challenge the classic semiotics of what an image is and how it should function. He might just be the quintessential 21st Century photographer as disruptive force. Borrowing from the technology world, disruptive technology (coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen) is seen as bringing to the market a product or business model that has a radically different value proposition than what was previously available. It is something that unexpectedly displaces an established technology or business model, and ...view middle of the document...

“When you travel to another country and observe or engage in new customs, you realize just how stuck you are in your own,” he notes.
Ratcliffe has broken with the traditions of the photography business by creating a successful photography business based on generating revenue from maximizing the potential of social media, not client work. In fact, he almost never accepts client work (he recently made one exception) because he doesn’t want to waste creative and emotional energy. “There are only so many brain cycles in a day and I would rather spend mine on creating images than thinking about clients,” he says. The business generates an annual seven figure gross from mobile apps; ebooks authored by Ratcliffe (most priced less than $20); a new publishing venture, flatbooks, that publishes books by other authors; video tutorials ranging in price from $10 to $100; speaking engagements; image licensing fees for commercial use; workshops; print sales to his loyal followers; and The Arcanum, what he terms a “magical academy of artistic mastery”, his newest and potentially most disruptive innovation.
The Arcanum is a new approach to photographic education that relies on the very old idea of the master-apprentice relationship but with 21st Century technology, including Google Glass. This on-line Hogwarts’ ultimate goal is to create a more human way of learning. If accepted into the Academy, apprentices pay a modest monthly fee to be paired with photographic masters who personally guide them through “levels” of mastery. “This is the decade of the artist,” says Ratcliffe. “Art education is broken. It doesn’t do a good job of creating artists. We can do so much better.”
When developing his business initially and with his latest creation, Ratcliffe intuitively grasped that information was the most precious commodity on the Internet and that in the early half of the 21st Century everyone on earth would be connected either via mobile platforms or the Internet. To capitalize on this connectivity, he analyzed how information and money flow throughout the global economy. He figured out that sharing information and creating a frictionless experience for people who found their way to his blog would generate loyal followers. Drawing on ideas about genomes, biology and super organisms, Ratcliffe visualized the Internet as one big organism – a huge beehive. The current 5.6 billion users are like bees looking for food sources (information and content) leaving scent trails (IP addresses) so others can find the “food” and doing waggle dances (sharing information about websites with other members of the bee colony). He reasoned that freely sharing his ideas and images (his own waggle dances) would lead users to his website, who in turn would lead other users. To date his site has received more than 60 million visits. With his background as a computer scientist he understands Search Engine Optimization (SEO) better than most, but his knowledge increased...

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