Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Extra Credit

After the pursuit of fun and art is over, an artist still needs to eat and have shelter, right? This basic concept is at the root of why you have to pay an artist for their work. After all, we're people too, and we expect and need the same things that everyone else does. But what happens when your needs are met, but not your full demands or expectations?

I recently did a shoot for a long-time musician friend. We've been working on our respective current projects for almost the same amount of time, so we have seen each other through the ups and downs, the struggles and the joys, of doing what we do. Many nights were spent at coffee houses commiserating and congratulating each other. When the time came for him to record a new album, he would give me the first shot at hearing the tunes, even before they were completely finished and totally refined. I was there for the rehearsals, the recording process, and eventually got hired for the promo photos that would be used in the album art and to promote the latest release.

Understanding that times are hard, we agreed on a mutually beneficial price for the shoot, and I like to think that I over-delivered for the cost, which is something I always strive to do anyway. My friend was very gracious and understood exactly why I was charging him for the first time ever and had no problem with it, so I wanted to make sure that he got more than his money's worth. 

When it came time to promote the album, he promised me that whenever an outlet would use the photos he would make sure they listed my photo credit. Every artist wants credit for their work, and unless you explicitly sell the copyright to the client, the photos still belong, at least partially to you. Last week I heard from my friend who told me that a website wanted to interview him and they asked for photos. He told me he sent them some of the photos I'd taken, and told them "Give Rob credit for the photos or don't bother using them." - He really didn't have to do that, but he was looking out for me. We never did discuss who owned the copyright to the photos, because between friends it really didn't matter to me. I knew he wasn't going to make a million dollars off selling a print of himself, so I didn't have anything to lose in letting him just pay me for my time and use the photos however he'd like to. However, a few days ago I got to see the website where the interview appeared, and only one of my images, which wasn't even from the most recent shoot, had my copyright, and the only reason it did was because it was already embedded into the bottom of the photo. The newest image that graced the top of the page had no credit. Now, had he not told me that he demanded they give my byline with the image, I wouldn't have known any better and I wouldn't have cared, but what bothers me is the blatant disregard for the artwork and the craftsmanship that it took to create the images. I'm sure if I lifted the interview text, word for word, and placed it on my own website they'd be up in arms about me stealing their content. Well, if you're told to include a credit for a photographer, and you flat out ignore that request, then you're stealing my content, or my friend's content. He paid for the photos to be created, if he asks you to put a copyright, or a byline next to it, then that needs to be honored and taken seriously.

It's not so much about craving attention or acknowledgement - however, that would be fantastic for a change - it's about respecting the wishes of an artist, whether you are a musician, a journalist, a photographer, a videographer, a painter, or whatever. If you give something to someone that you either created, or hired someone to create, and you request credit be given, make sure that they honor that. Likewise, if you are a journalist and you get a photo from a source that requests to be credited, do so, it's only fair. You work hard at your craft just like I do at mine. 

More soon,

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