In mixed news for the photography world, Unsplash, the free photo-sharing platform, announced it has raised $7.25 mil in funding to “build a new economy around photography.”

“The people behind it speak of giving back- but in reality, it`s simply a one way street.”-Dennis Beyer commenting on

I say this news is “mixed” because Unsplash—along with other royalty-free sharing sites—have seen their fair share of criticism from those in the photography industry.

Past Criticisms

For example, I’ve been documenting the work of Zack Arias, a 20+ year veteran in the field who has investigated the legality of the site, as well as interviewed its co-founder Mikael Cho.

Most criticisms lobbed at the site involve its “one-way street” of benefits: photographers stock it with images, while techies on the other end reap all the profit. As the former struggle with declining prices and an oversaturated marketplace, the latter helm a valuable company, provided with steady work. Here’s a tweet, for example, from one employee which corresponded with the funding announcement: 

The Deal

Unsplash Co-Founder Mikael Cho

“value…is accelerating downward”

Announcing the investment deal on Medium, Mr. Cho writes about Unsplash’s past, present, and future. He begins by noting in detail the spread of photography from the hands of only those who could afford film, to “everyone.” This “democratization of creativity,” he notes, has coincided with the “value attached to licensing a photo…accelerating downward.”

Having established its increasing economic worthlessness, he goes on to explain that, despite eliminating its monetary benefit, free photo sharing has “pushe[d] the impact of photography further than ever before.” He supports this by stating that a photo published on Unsplash is “seen by more people than a photo posted anywhere else.” With an average of 12 downloads per second—all of which are free—I wouldn’t doubt it.

But What About The Money??

Well, not exactly.

“It won’t be a mode where photos are going to be paid for with cryptocurrency.”

Now for the part we’ve all been waiting for: Are photographers going to get paid or what? 

Well, I’m not quite sure.

Cho states that for a long time he’s been thinking about how to “one day…derive value for photography” while retaining Unsplash’s current model. That “day,” he continues “came earlier than expected.”

He then explains that Unsplash will be partnering with Simple Token, a blockchain-payment company. BUT, he says [emphasis his]:

“The funds being invested today will be going toward defining a new economic model around photography. It won’t be a model where photos are going to be paid for with cryptocurrency. It will be a model that leverages the unprecedented distribution Unsplash photos gain to bring as many opportunities to contributors as possible while maintaining the open, free-to-use principles of the community.

…….and that’s it.

Bit of a head-scratcher, that one.

The rest of the note is a “big thank you,” and a promise to design a model that “works equally well for both photographers and creators.” What this means, why blockchain was brought into it, and why this is that “day” Cho  which refers to are left to your own imagination.

Or, as one redditor, rideThe, put it: “There is an unbelievable amount of vacuous crap in that text.”