Meero: photography in low cost mode in a devastated area

Meero got off on the wrong foot. In terms of reputation, of course. Because on the financing side, the start-up has blown up the thermometer by raising a total of 293 million dollars since its creation in 2017. Its last fundraising, in 2020, propelled it to the firmament of unicorns (valued at more than one billion euros). But the platform also quickly concentrated criticism in photo circles. It denounces its thin tariffs, the abandonment of the copyrights it imposes on photographers and its massive use of artificial intelligence to standardize images in order to make them commercially more attractive.

In 2022, the critics died down. First, Meero quickly gave up the field of reportage or luxury photography to devote himself to mass commercial (visuals of food, products, etc.). “They fell back on real estate, Uber Eats and others for which they pay very little, around 12 euros per photo”, explains Patricia Morvan of the VU’ agency.

The collapse of the “noble” photo

Meero also created the online magazine Blind, edited by renowned photographer Jonas Cuénin who made it a reference in press and art photography. And the company foundation supports countless initiatives. Blind also spent 40,000 euros to send in Ukraine a VU’ photographer, Ismail Ferdous, while even the greatest reporters go there on their own money.

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Meero is not the cause, but rather the translation of the economic collapse of “noble” photography in favor of a standardized and mass-produced image. “The Web does not value aesthetics. We want to democratize access to quality photography through artificial intelligence,” explains Gaétan Rougevin-Baville, co-founder of the start-up. Its market is e-commerce: Amazon’s six million partner merchants, platforms like Le Bon Coin, real estate sites, and even the swarms of home delivery services. To all these, Meero offers services and applications based on its mastery of AI, which embellish reality with several million photos per month.

Meero therefore wishes to connect this vast commercial demand with the immense pool of photographers who live on a meager basis. According to the company, a photographer in France earns on average 1000 euros net per month. A number consistent with the global study conducted recently by the Catchlight Foundation.

An impoverished profession of photographer

Meero hoped to double this figure: “Our initial objective was to achieve an additional income of 1000 euros”, recalls its CEO. The reality turned out to be more cruel, among other things because of the Covid: “Today, a photographer who works one week a month for Meero earns just over 500 euros on average”, he admits.

There are two ways to appreciate this sum. It is miserable compared to the daily rate that a photographer can expect. Adam Isfendiyar, a London-based professional who has also lived in Japan, had the chance to work directly for Airbnb, which paid him up to 500 pounds sterling (575 euros) per day. His standard rate, posted on the freelance platform Upwork, is $80 an hour. At the same time, defends Meero, very few photographers manage to work directly or regularly for Airbnb or Uber Eats. The platform’s intermediation therefore has the advantage of offering volume, but at discounted prices.

Meero and “uberization”

Has Meero “uberized” the photography profession? An uberization which is characterized by a new entrant who has come to disrupt a sector with new methods and low prices. With its capital, it can take losses over a long period and emerge in a dominant position by having, in passing, annihilated the competition and impoverished an entire population, from the delivery man to the VTC driver. According to this principle, Meero has not uberized anything. The company still faces strong competition, whether from major distribution and intermediation platforms such as Getty or multinational software companies. As for the professional photo sector, it was already in ruins long before he arrived.


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Meero: photography in low cost mode in a devastated area

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