Looking for NPN members who formerly had stock photos at Bruce Coleman

Thanks in advance if any of you can help me with this issue. Anyone involved in nature stock photography since before 2000 will remember the agency Bruce Coleman Inc (BCI). I had a few thousand 35mm slides on file in the BCI library right up until the agency rather suddenly closed. Coleman sold all their stock holdings to an overseas outfit known as Photoshot, which in recent years was rolled into a larger agency that currently is known as Avalon. Many BCI photographers, myself included, elected to have our BCI slides transferred to the new agency.

Recently I decided it was time to end my relationship with this agency, and so I wrote and asked for my original slides back. I was not happy to receive a reply indicating that they were unable to find any of my slides. All they have are 200 or so digital scans. Zero slides.

I mentioned this disturbing revelation to another pro nature photographer who, like me, had his BCI slides transferred to Photoshot/Avalon when BCI closed. Turns out he had a similar bad experience. He was able to get SOME of his slides back, but estimates that he only received about one third of his original BCI library.

There are more details to this story, but for now I just want to learn if there are any other former BCI photographers have run into similar problems with Photoshot/Avalon. If so, please contact me via this posting (or by private messaging if this forum has that capacity).

Thanks everyone—

Sorry to hear that Kerry. I’ve heard all sorts of stories about agencies consolidating and shutting down. Just glad that I’ve only ever submitted digital files.

Thanks for your sympathy, Richard.

Of course when I got started with Coleman, scanning slides was non-existent, and when it did become available, it was prohibitively time consuming and very expensive. Digital SLRs were a long way off. So submitting your original transparencies was what we all did back then. Your best defense as a photographer was to take as many frames of a worthwhile subject (so called “in camera dupes”) as possible. But with wildlife and many other subjects, often you’d only get that one perfect shot out of a whole 36- exposure roll. And if you gave it to your agent to sell, you counted on them keeping track of its whereabouts and taking good care of it so it could be sold again and again.

Off topic somewhat, but what the heck. I’ve not had any good experience with agencies. My first agent— who ran another well-known firm specializing in nature images— quietly stole around $15,000 in my commissions, money he collected from various small, out-of-the-way publications that he sold my images to. My agent hoped that I would never run into my images in these esoteric pubs and would therefore never catch on to his thievery. Unluckily for him, his wife divorced him, and her attorney forced my agent to open his books to reveal ALL his income. At that point he had to come clean to ALL the photographers he bilked, including me. I got my money and all my slides back promptly but I had to apply some legal pressure to do so.

So I didn’t have a good feeling when Bruce Coleman announced that they would be sending all my slides to an overseas agency…

Ugh what a mess. I remember when they used to publish those big source books 15+ years ago that listed tons of agencies. Can’t imagine there aren’t more than a handful now that are still doing solid business. I’ve been with Alamy since 05, their commissions have steadily dropped to 45/55 now. I haven’t submitted in over a year as a result. I’ve been with others in the past but they either went out of business or wanted exclusive representation - of which I ended up having to refer my own leads on those photos to make the sale. So I’ll never do exclusive deals ever again.

When BCI was acquired by Photoshot, soon after there was a letter asking if we would like to get our slides back, though there might be a clerical cost beyond a certain number of hours of time sorting them. I said I would like my slides back, but never received ANY. I’m pretty sure they were all thrown out in NYC, rather than being shipped to London. That acquisition by Photoshot was made in 2008, and I haven’t received a dime from them since. What a disaster.

Hi Lee. I received the same letter as you —actually mine was an email, and I still have it, in fact— and like you, I replied to it immediately and asked for my slides back. Never heard back. The current owner of Avalon implied that my slides “might” be in some kind of “archive” they possess. It’s located in Florida. He said he was uncertain when they would have a chance to check it. Why does an overseas agency have slides in an “archive” (I’m thinking it’s a self-storage unit)—in Florida? And what kind of pressure do we need to apply to get this outfit to do the right thing, namely, find our slides, or take responsibility for losing them and pay us a fair settlement?

I’m hoping I can flush out a few more photographers who have had a similar run-around with PHotoShot/Avalon. I would like to send the owner a forceful letter signed by about 10-15 angry photographers and suggest that the next step will be a class-action suit.

Just curious Lee— did you ever sign any sort of contract with PhotoShot? I don’t have one in my files, and don’t remember signing one.

@kerry This sounds like an opportunity for a class action suit. If you can get enough respondents, you could then decide to send a forceful certified letter with a warning that if there is no response, a suit will be filed.

Sorry to hear of your misfortune, and I hope you can get your trannies returned, along with a monetary settlement for loss of income.

Hi Preston, and thanks for your input.

It would, on one hand, be highly satisfying to let loose the class action lawsuit dogs on this agency— if my experience is typical, they clearly don’t give a damn about the livelihood of the BCI photographers whose lifeblood went into making the images which they sell and have so carelessly misplaced. In this regard, I think they need a loud wakeup call on how the photographer/agency relationship is supposed to work.

On the other hand, lawyers expect to be paid, and I’m not sure where the money comes from in a case like this, especially if PhotoShot can actually find and return our “lost” transparencies (and re/ the likelihood of that happening, I say “fat chance”). So what I really need is a family member who is an attorney in the UK and would take this case pro bono. But that’s not happening. It is interesting to speculate— could we force the case to be heard in the US? I don’t know.

Are you aware of any other forums that would likely attract career nature photographers? I would really like to find some more victims of Photoshot and I suspect I’ve probably heard from most of the people in this forum who fit that bill.

Style point, hope this doesn’t offend you or anyone else: 35mm slides may be “trannies” to you and me, but I’m afraid that term has been hijacked in recent years— nowadays it’s hipster slang for “transexuals”. Disclosure: I am neither a hipster nor a tranny.