Stocksy was set up by Bruce Livingstone, the Canadian behind iStockphoto, an agency he sold to Getty Images in 2006.

Launched last week, Stocksy is a co-operative that pledges to split 90% of profits among its members.

Livingstone says the shared-ownership system will give members a ‘real say’ in how the business is run, and lead to ‘sustainable careers’ for those involved.

He added: ‘There’s no reason these artists shouldn’t be able to earn a living from what they produce.’

Among the first to sign up was US photographer Thomas Hawk, who says he was attracted by the 50% payout for photos and the co-operative element of the business.

However, in a blog last week, he reported that Stocksy is being ‘very selective’ about prospective members and that some of his friends have not been approached to join.

‘Especially early on, Stocksy is trying to build a super-premium library of images…’ he wrote.

A spokesperson for Stocksy confirmed that the agency is ‘invitation only’.

It has so far signed up around 250 photographers.

Hopefuls can show their work via Stocksy’s ‘call to artists’ page.

The spokesperson told Amateur Photographer: ‘We are looking for photographers who demonstrate they have a style and a workflow [process] that is consistent and unique, from styling to post-processing, and final delivery.

‘We are not looking for the hyper-reality of too-perfect models pretending to do things, floating in white space or anything that appears to be forced conceptually. We want to specialise in authenticity and avoid clichés.’

In a blog on its website, Stocksy claims its business structure is set to ‘revolutionise licensed photography’.

Explaining the philosophy behind the launch, it adds: ‘Photographers came to us en masse. They said the same thing. They wanted more. They were disillusioned and frustrated with the state of affairs in the industry – artists were not fairly paid for the work they were creating.’

Livingstone continued: ‘We believe that through this equitable, participatory structure and a straightforward, transparent compensation system – combined with the knowledge of the marketplace we bring to the table – Stocksy will quickly amass the finest pool of photographic content on the web.’

Stocksy is based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Work on the new venture began in Los Angeles a year ago.

The Stocksy team