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Balancing commercial and documentary work

I know some photojournalists and documentary filmmakers support themselves with commercial work, but I’m wondering if there is an ethical line that shouldn’t be crossed. As a journalist, I’m used to a “Chinese Wall” between the reporter and advertiser, and maintaining an objective perspective of the subject despite flacks (PR) pushing their agenda. However, as I shoot more documentary photo and video multimedia projects in the hopes of making it my living, I’m realizing that this route alone may not pay the bills, and therefore I haven’t left my secure writing position. But what about shooting promo videos and other commercial photo projects, which could be very lucrative? I just got passed over for a promo video for a nonprofit because while they liked my doc work, i lacked promo video experience. It got me thinking about my existing doc projects. Is it in bad taste to shoot promo videos related or featuring some of the subjects that i’m shooting a doc about? For instance, I’m following the lives of some young, talented skateboarders for a short documentary that i’m not being compensated for. A few in the group are sponsored by a skateboard manufacturer, who i could approach about a producing a separate promo video and photo series for commercial applications? Can any of you share how you navigate this world of commercial photography and video, but maintain your integrity as a documentary photographer or photojournalist?

Thanks,
Craig

by Craig Schneider at 2008-08-30 12:17:49 UTC (ed. Sep 2 2008 ) Brooklyn, New York , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

A pro is a pro and thus should be able to go the path of commercialism with out killing his integrity. It still is hard and It could result in you loosing the faith in the Docu work.

On the other hand you are the best to do a commercial work as you have the insight in the skaters life and could be able to do both at once. Get the true them even though it would be used in commercial products. Thus make a real ad.

Best probably would be if you could keep your line of work and sell that to be used in promotions if you think it will not kill the project.

by Kristjan Logason | 30 Aug 2008 13:08 | Reykjavik, Iceland | | Report spam→
Well in your particular case the skateboarders are already sponsored so in a sense making a promo video with them would just be getting more involved with that part of their lives. Surely anything that allows you to get closer to your subject and know it better has to be good? What’s in bad taste is to have a project that means a lot to you and not to be able to finance it… Do you have the choice?
I liked “Lightweights” by the way. Did you do everything yourself?

by DPC | 30 Aug 2008 13:08 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
http://timothyarchibald.blogspot.com/

a good blog from a commercial photographer shooting very personal projects

by Simon Anstey | 31 Aug 2008 15:08 | Malmö, Sweden | | Report spam→
Yes, I made “Lightweights” on my own, shooting with my Panasonic DVX100A and editing with Final Cut Pro. The short, which is part of my ongoing project documenting the lives of young Cuban boxers in and out of the ring, will hopefully be completed in the next year as i follow-up with the kids and their families ideally with some grant funding. The skateboarding project i mentioned above is just one of several projects i’m working on here in NYC that i will soon edit into similar shorts and possibly feature-length documentaries for festivals and/or television. The more i head down this route, the more it seems the niche i’m drawn to is youth and sports. It’s nice to have shooting locations and families right in my backyard, however, and not having to hire a translator. Will post a note on LS when i have more videos up for viewing… want to combine photos with my video, similar to what Ed Kashi has done with his subjects. Thanks for all the great feedback. Craig

by Craig Schneider | 02 Sep 2008 01:09 | Brooklyn, New York, United States | | Report spam→

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Participants

Craig Schneider, Writer/Photographer Craig Schneider
Writer/Photographer
Brooklyn, New York , United States
Kristjan Logason, Photographer Kristjan Logason
Photographer
(editorial and advertising)
Leikanger , Norway
DPC, Photographer DPC
Photographer
Paris , France
Simon Anstey, Photographer Simon Anstey
Photographer
Malmö , Sweden ( X )


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