Death to Stock Founder David Sherry
D a v i d S h e r r y
For Issue No. 36 - The Future Issue of the Shape Shift Report, we teamed up with Death to Stock, a website that the Shape Shift Report has used and had our eye on for years now. We got to chatting with their founder, David Sherry, to learn more about him and how Death to Stock came to be. You can download the photo pack for this issue here.
SS: For the few people who aren't familiar with Death to the Stock Photo, give us your elevator pitch.
DS: Death to Stock is first and foremost a subscription for premium digital media and resources.
You can join our email list, and receive 10 images per month emailed out in a “photo pack.” Or, you can join our premium membership, which gives you access to everything we’ve ever created over the last 4 years + double the media (and some video packages) in a dedicated library.
Our goal is to be like your cup of “creative caffeine,” helping you be inspired to create with our new media releases, and keeping your aesthetic looking unique.
SS: You issue a monthly set of free images; what's the thinking behind this, and how do you define the theme or photographer?
Not everyone can afford premium resources or to hire a photographer, so we find that our free images helps thousands of those around the globe looking to get started learning a new skill (say, design), starting a blog or website or business, all at an affordable price -- free!
We work with various photographers to define themes, all of which we ensure both have real elements to them (the story, or the subject matter), as well as ensure that the photographer is excited about producing the work along that theme.
SS: Tell us about your life leading up to DTS.
DS: I started Death to Stock a year out of college, before that, I was “freelancing” which was really a glorified term for doing any type of work I could do to make money. I was sort of a swiss-army-knife, doing marketing, video, photography and copywriting for small businesses and startups. I had tried and failed at starting a few businesses before Death to Stock, including terrible ideas like an “intern-marketplace” which I’m pretty sure everyone thinks of when they’re young, and some good ideas that I think still have value, like a bike lock that fits in your pocket.
SS: The name kind of speaks for itself, but was there a specific incident that inspired the name "Death to the Stock Photo?"
DS: That’s a great question, I’m not entirely sure, although I will say that it was strategic in the sense that we wanted to give people a rallying cry, and a strong positioning statement. One thing I’m proud of is that we’ve never actually shit talked stock photos ever in our work. I’d like to think we’re more positioned against the “stock” way of doing things, meaning the standard or boring mentality, the status quo. Some point soon we’re going to drop the “stock photo” and just live on as “Death to Stock.” I’m going to write a breakup letter when that happens.
SS: Is it where you imagined it to be? Or has it gone in a different direction from your original vision?
DS: The original vision was really specific, and not huge. It was simply to send out 1 photo pack per month to friends who were designers and creatives. It’s definitely expanded much further beyond that. I think “Death to Stock” encapsulates our idea of being a much broader brand and resource. Our goal now is to supply our community in three ways. First, by resourcing them, with the tools to create, but also funding for artists and giving creatives a platform. Second is by teaching them what we know. This is something I’m working on a lot right now, which is educating and assisting those on the creative journey. Third, we aim to lead by example, which means that we must “dive off the high dive” first, to show it can be done and encourage others to do so themselves. I feel really lucky that our brand can be so flexible with what we provide.
When it comes down to it… did I encourage someone today? Did I equip them to create their best work? Did I help them break some rules by breaking some myself?
Any time I do one of those things, it was a successful day in my book.
SS: Where are you hoping it leads?
DS: If I’m being honest, I want to go Kanye on 'em. “Why can’t I do fashion?” “Why can’t I do events?” – I don’t really want to get stuck in any one category or box. Since I’ve always been interested in fashion and music culture, I think it’d be awesome if we started bringing in some of those elements. Also, I think building community is crucial, so in person, and more direct communication with people who tune into what we’re up to is a huge pull for me.
SS: The theme of this issue is "Future." What does future mean to you? What do you think about your own future?
DS: I’m so future focused as an artist and entrepreneur. Probably too much so. I always want to build for the long haul, doubling down for the pay off later. I also read a ton of sci-fi and work of futurists, like Kevin Kelley and Stewart Brand. I think our economy and landscape is changing so much right now, that we’ve sort of got to be thinking about these things, the future and where it’s all headed.
With these major shifts come opportunities, and also a whole lot of turmoil. The future really can’t be controlled, but you can lean in certain ways in which you can position yourself to “dance” in step with it. I want to let things unfold, and sometimes sit and see how things play out, but I also want to intentionally build and assist in creating what’s next. My only real hope for my future in the selfish sense, is that I get to keep doing the type of work I’m doing today. It doesn’t need to be the exact same, but it should look roughly like what I’m doing now, which is taking risks in my work, in hopes that it connects with an audience and changes them for the better.
SS: What about the creative industries? Digital mediums and social media is a huge platform for creatives. How do you see this continuing to evolve?
DS: This, I could talk about for hours. Things are completely changing, I don’t think people fully appreciate it yet. We’re still sort of standing in the past with one foot, and in the future with the other, waiting to see how things shake out. We have to wrap our minds around some concepts that we’re not used to, and reckon with them in a way that let’s us thrive. This is the dancing in step I mentioned. Without going down too many rabbit holes here, let’s look at what people are feeling underneath this question.
I think the tension of a creative today is this:
On one hand you feel like your work is being commoditized, that there’s more competition than ever, and that means budgets are diminishing. The question becomes: how can I create my work and make a living?
On the other hand, you’ve got more opportunity than ever, less middlemen than ever, less overhead cost than ever, easier methods of distributing your work and finding others through social media platforms than ever. So some artists are living the dream, creating their work for clients, sharing across the web, getting invited to conferences, etc.
The only thing we can do is focus on the 2nd point, which is the opportunity, and let go of how things used to be. Instead learn how to use the new tools of today. This isn’t easy, but if you’re able to make it work, I actually think it’s better than ever to be a creator. Even if you don’t reach some huge status, there is so much amazing, serendipitous, beautiful things to come out of sharing your work consistently and building community. Like meeting you all at Matte Black!
SS: You recently moved to LA, how are you liking it? How is the creative community different here?
DS: It’s slowed me down a lot, in a good way. So I’ve been enjoying weekends here a ton. I think LA has a thriving creative scene of course, but I’m also really impressed with the small business scene here. One thing that separates LA from Columbus, is that people aren’t afraid, and are able to grow, beyond LA. I knew a lot of the brands in LA, whereas I think in Columbus, brands tend to be focused really on serving just their city. People here are for sure nice and generous as well, only tough thing here is that it’s difficult to get around and meet up with people sometimes due to distance and traffic. If you had told me in Columbus something was twenty minutes away, I just wouldn't have gone… too far!
SS: If you were able to take a year off and learn a new skill (money was no option), what would it be and why?
DS: This is a dope question, that everyone should consider. I think I’m *almost* a good designer. So I could get really good in a year. I just don’t have some of the chops you learn early on about organizing your documents, using the pen tool in illustrator, etc. I think design really helps you convey your ideas, and build trust + energy in your work, so I know it would be really important for me moving forward.
Like the idea of premium digital resources? Download the free Death to Stock x Matte Black photo pack to use in your upcoming projects.