On Monday, March 2nd, 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial average fell under 7,000 for the first time since 1997. NPR had assured me of this as I was packing up for the day. Since I rarely concern myself with the stock market, the numerically sound fact struck me as something that surely related to design, but I couldn’t remember what that was. I wrapped a scarf around my neck and headed out, one foot in front of the other trying to reconnect-the-dots in the frigid winter air. As soon as I entered my apartment, I began fervently shuffling through papers in the recycling bin. Whatever complacent connection I was trying to make was in there somewhere.
Earlier that day, I received an email from a well-known stock photography site that announced the sale of photographs for as low as one dollar. This was nothing new—other sites have offered similar prices for a couple of years now. But the email brought a feeling of contempt deep within that I could not, at the time, explain. In my mind, the stock house was devaluing its product. This particular web site offered a better-than-normal selection of stock photographs. You might find a handshake, let’s say, that doesn’t look like most handshakes. After I did a few quick image searches, however, I realized that the site was not selling more images for a cheaper price. Rather, it was cheapening the quality of more of its images, a depressing thought.