United Archives, an independent photo library based in Cologne Germany, has acquired exclusive rights to many millions of photographs over the last 10 years. The collection consists of whole life archives of professional photographers and the archives of press photo agencies that have ceased business operations.
“After 30 acquisitions in the last 10 years we estimate the stock today to be about 10 million originals in the form of negatives, slides and prints that can be commercially exploited in the future. The total inventory is probably larger. To date, there are about 500,000 digital copies, almost everything online shows a time that has passed at least 30 years and mostly longer and thus fulfils the attribute RETRO and in addition includes the guarantee that the motifs are unique and thus have a certain protection against competition and price pressure. “This is important for growth in the future, because we finance acquisitions and digitalization from cash flow as much as possible.” says Frank Golomb, Founder and MD at United Archives.
Every acquisition is different and understandably photographers are attached to their life’s work and have personal values here. Whether these are realistic for the future, we try out on the market. For this, experience has led to fair resilient models that work today.
In the process of “decommissioned” press photo archives, it is often the case that their physical existence and large space requirements alone cause costs that are a burden without revenue from them. This costs leads them to often enter an agreement for United Archives to acquire or represent the collection.
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