Why must we stand by and somehow accept what other photographers are doing to the detriment of our profession? Why must we simply sit back and say "heck, go ahead and do RF!", or "wow! You just took an assignment for $75, using $250 worth of equipment if you had to rent it all. You go girl!", or "wahoo! You just got a photo credit for your work! Congrats! It looks great next to the full page ad that the advertiser paid $50k for! That's awesome!"
I was listening to the radio on the way home tonight, and heard this story. British General and Commander-in-Chief in India in the early 1800's, Sir Charles Napier, became famous when he was confronted with a terrible Indian (and that's India's Indian, not American Indian) ritual, called "suttee". It's a horrendous act, whereby when a man dies, as they are burning his body in a ceremonial fashion, the now widowed woman is tossed on the fire to burn to death. Napier, in charge of India, governed by British Authority, confronted the Indian seeking to do this, and stated to him:
"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."Which brings me back to my point. Why must we stand by without making an objection as another photographer stands before us and says "man, I just think it's so cool that I made $25 off that photo." Why must we feel compeled to say, "It's ok that all you got for your hard work was a photo credit." Why, somehow, are we to listen while someone says "oh, my full-time job is X, so I'm not worried about how much I get for my photographs." Or, from our fellow photographers who are full time staffers, who say "oh, my freelance work is gravy to me, it's an extra few hundred bucks or so. It's no big deal to me."
I don't know. I suppose, there are several ways to confront someone. One is to yell at them. One is to try to convert them by citing how wrong what they are doing is. One is to toss a glass of water in their face and walk away. Trust, me, all of these are thoughts I have had. Really.
Napier, of course, had a bit more authority. He could actually jail, hang, or otherwise punish wrongdoers. What he did, though, was reason with the man.
What, then, should we do? Well, for one, not be silent. Yet, take a positive approach as you do respond. Stock licenses still cost good money. Just yesterday, I licensed an image for $1,800. That was fair for this company to pay. There is clearly a bottom, and it's free. I can't concieve of anything I'd ever endeavored to produce should ever be given away for $1, or less.
Perhaps ask a few questions, like: "do you want to do this for a long time, or just a few months?" "Do the people who hire you have health insurance and a 401k? Can you concieve that you'll have that in the (near) future? Is that fair?" "Do you think you could afford a family, or to eventually make mortgage payments at a revenue level that is about $200 a day?"
Try helping people to see the reality of their future. Suggest that they may look back at this year and next when they are five years down the line, and realize that all the work-for-hire deals they signed means they have nothing to show for their hard work back then.
Noted novelist Catherine Aird said it best:
"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning."That's pretty damn succinct. Thanks Catherine.
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