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BBC Photo Submission Rights Grab

A lot has been said about people sending in images of the London blasts and the BBC particularly used many of these images, however if you’re considering (or if you know anyone who is) sending anything into the BBC you should definitly look at the terms and conditions as they end up with what is essentially a joint copyright and can do whatever they want with the images.  In other words a rights grab, so be aware.

Terms and conditions If you submit an image, you do so in accordance with the BBC’s Terms and Conditions.

In contributing to BBC News you agree to grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want, and in any media worldwide. (See the Terms and Conditions for the full terms of our rights.)

It’s important to note, however, that you still own the copyright to everything you contribute to BBC News and that if your image and/or video is accepted, we will endeavour to publish your name alongside it on the BBC News website. Please note that due to operational reasons this accreditation will probably not be possible with video. The BBC cannot guarantee that all pictures and/or video will be used and we reserve the right to edit your comments.

by [a former member] at 2005-07-21 06:07:10 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) rome , Italy | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Myself and others in the UK have been spending time shouing at the BBC over their terms and condidions for photographers for a while.

A recent BBC photo competition obtained over 60,000 images, all of whom were under similar egregious terms above in an underhand rights grab .

My advice for any photographer, whether with a camera or camera-phone, would be to avoid the BBC like the plague.

Even the commission contracts they issue for regular freelance contributors are naked rights grabs.

The thing to remember is that Copyright means absolutely nothing to a photographer if you give away such an all-encompassing usage licence to someone else for nothing.

It renders your copyright essentially meaningless – because as a photographer, copyright in the real world simply means the right to leverage the ownership of your images for gain…and for this, you need to own and issue usage licenses.

You can own a car, but if somebody else owns the ignition keys and gas, you aint going nowhere.

by [former member] | 21 Jul 2005 14:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
hey jake…i posted stuff about all of this on july 11th, and included the terms for cnn, which are just as bad…in fact, all of these cable channels, and newspapers are following suite see this as an opportunity to try and get lucky with some historically significant photos and video clips which they can snatch for free….

by al crespo | 21 Jul 2005 18:07 | miami, United States | | Report spam→
I thought you guys would like this company then (I’m not a snapper but I am sick and tired of being harassed by weekend warriors with lines like "I want £2000 for my cameraphone photo of a burning car in Brixton/the Bronx" and "I hate you paparazzi, you’re all just scum" as they snap RTA victims).
It’s the cameraphone photo agency (throw away your SLRs-you’re being made redundant. Get a new job-join the cops and chase these clowns away)
(If you saw somoneone drowing and could either save him or photograph him,what kind of cameraphone would you use?)

by Mikethehack | 21 Jul 2005 23:07 | | Report spam→

its almost like when kodak introduced the box brownie ,l but all over again!.,
."now everyone can be a photographer"…

by [former member] | 22 Jul 2005 04:07 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I would imagine that eventually, someone will submit some grainy cellphone imagery whose content is highly doctored, therefore undermining the “integrity” of these major news outlets. Maybe when that happens, they will place more value in the product that only an experienced professional can provide. In the mean time, be prepared to edit out a a lot of frames full of people holding camera phones two feet in front of their face.

Do you think canon will come out with an 8.5 frame per second, weather proofed camera phone?

by Jethro Soudant | 22 Jul 2005 05:07 | Buffalo, NY, United States | | Report spam→
8 mega pixels?…well not just yet but Samsung have a 7 megapixel camera phone:


by [former member] | 24 Jul 2005 12:07 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Well said, Sion.
Now we have hordes of people who are desperate to see their name in print ("I wanna be famous!") and will offer material for next to nothing in order to see it like that. I remember covering the G8 gigs when it was normal to encounter a stone-throwing student snapper. First the rock and then the snap and later on they were (between attempts to attack us) wondering if we would help them file their photos.
The distinction between journalist and opportunistic,scumbag voyeur is rapidly narrowing to the point where we will all be better off  becoming paramedics/firemen/cops/terrorists just to be able to get the exclusives.
It daily becomes more surreal-pass the drugs please.

by Mikethehack | 24 Jul 2005 15:07 | | Report spam→
I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is that you can no longer trust the medium, you can only trust the source, and so the companies using the images from these so called "citizen journalist" will get bit in the ass someday, sooner than later.  As well I think photographers are going through what graphic designers went through 10 years or so ago when "anyone could be a graphic designer" cause they could buy a Mac and the fancy software.  Well it took awhile, but eventually people realized that it wasnt just the tool that created great design.  The same will happen in photography.  Now if it was a perfect world everyone would decide to pay more after they discovered that its harder than they thought to make a decent image or to make there lame product look good or whatever…but I’m not holding my breathe.

by Chris Hinkle | 26 Jul 2005 00:07 | Portland, United States | | Report spam→
I’m not holding my breath either…

I think there’s always room for in-depth work, but my concern for quite a while has been how photojournalists are being incrementally sidelined both in cultural and economic terms – the phone camera thing is just another turn of the screw.

The audience for in-depth photojournalism is a diminishing niche, technology has utterly changed the market for such work and another reason is (in my opinion) the fault of photojournalists themselves.

Most of the photojournalists producing significant long term projects have to subsidise them with commercial work, or struggle in penury for years until they (perhaps) drop an award or a big grant which makes their name. I recall one photographer I met a while back, at the time a Magnum nominee, who was working in a restaurant to make ends meet.

In that sense, it’s akin to acting…you get one or two ‘stars’, who are catapulted to prominence by sheer talent, luck, or a combination of both. Then you have the character actors who stumble from job to job…then you have the overwhelming majority who subsidise their passion with other work.

So Martin Parr messing about with a cameraphone is the same as the recent trend for A-list Hollywood stars to act in West End plays in London…it’s interesting, but it’s no real indicator of the state of play overall because the stars don’t need the money.

As far as the ‘mass’ audience goes (for want of a better term) I doubt if many were really concerned about the hopeless tonal range or ‘un-decisive-moment-ness’ of the camera phone pics appearing in their papers…because by and large they’re simply not receptive to a lot of current work anyway.

That situation can be partially laid at the door of photojournalists themselves, many of whom have essentially given up on their role as mass communicators, and preach to the converted in the gallery, book and photo-festival ‘markets’…indeed, in some sectors, that is what is now recognised as ‘photojournalism’.

Photojournalism’s mass communications role is now mostly the preserve of the wire services. If you look at the UK papers, the overwhelming majority of pics for both breaking news and features are Getty, Reuters, AP, EPA or other wires who employ staff photographers or stringers on Work For Hire contracts, and pipe images through to the picture desks by subscription.

Whether the images are any good is academic, because they are good, and the point is – they’re good ENOUGH, are available quickly and easily and are essentially free at the point of sale, because the newspaper pays a subscription fee for the whole shebang.

The wire services and image portals aren’t in the business of selling pictures.

I repeat – they are not in the picture selling business.

They are in the ‘content service’ business – you pay a subscription for the service – which is a continuous feed of visual ‘content’ covering a wide range of subject matter, from portraits to breaking news to photo-essays.

Photo editors (if they continue to exist at all…) will be increasingly forced to choose their picture usage from whichever image portal their company has subscribed to.

So your stuff had better be either damn good or scorching hot news before many media outlets will pay you anything for it…and even then, you’ll have to look out for a rights grab.

I think we need to disabuse ourselves of the traditional idea of the photojournalist as being a lone artist or even a collective of like minded artists in an agency – Magnum and other agencies based on their model are continuing to struggle economically (and some have gone bust) because the photojournalism market has fundamentlally changed.

When Robert Capa stepped on the D-Day beach, not only were his images great, he was the only photographer there, and he owned his images – consequently his pictures have sold again and again over the years at a premium.

Now look at Afghanistan and Iraq – the wire services are strong and all beaming pics back which are easily as good as Robert Capa’s – and ‘free’ to subscribers.

Unfortunately there are still a significant amount of photographers inspired by Capa’s legacy who insist on pursuing a ‘lone artist’ model of work, which might have been viable as near as 15 years ago, but is no longer viable in the present day for a large amount of photographers.

I say ‘unfortunately’ because it has created a large pool of photographers competing over a dwindling source of assignment income  (why should they assign you anyway when they can get a free pic from the wires?) and invokes the inevitable law of Supply and Demand – when there is an oversupply, the price drops.

This is why day rates and commission fees for papers and magazines have hardly changed in a decade.

So as independent photojournalists, why should we have to put up with this poverty stricken state of affairs?
I’m not in this game to make millions (who is?), but there is no inherent advantage in being poor, and it doesn’t make your work any better. It’s no coincidence that the word most often put in front of ‘artist’ is ‘starving’.

For their own sake and that of their peers, photographers must begin to recognise the harsh economic realities which lie behind the ‘art’, and begin to regulate the supply of their work by turning down jobs which pay peanuts (or nothing), issuing appropriate usage licenses to obtain the full value of their work and refusing to sign away the Copyright and licenses on their images, like Work for Hire agreements and rights grabs like the BBC, Scoopt, Medicins Del Mundo, Live 8…the list is long.

by [former member] | 26 Jul 2005 06:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Once again, Sion, well said (and well wrItten-why aren’t you pushing a pen about more? You could increase your worth with prose like that).
I go to Perpignan (although I am not a snapper) just to chase skirt and hang out with old buddies. But what amuses me is the amount of idealists that I see there. I love idealists because it is they who can chage the world,but what seems to be noticable by its absence is the snapper who knows how to sell and market like an East End street trader.

Too many ‘save the world-national geographic’ types who seem to have no commercial sense and sneer at the very mention of shooting high earning corporate jobs. At least that is what I see. But I’m no snapper, just a dull,bookish pen-pusher, a screaming scribe.

by Mikethehack | 26 Jul 2005 16:07 | | Report spam→
Its alright folks…if you get sick of the photojournalism gig..you could always remarket youreself as an "artist",start shooting 5X4 and make big beautifull pictures of banal landscapes and sell to art galleries for stupid amounts of money…and retire early

by [former member] | 27 Jul 2005 01:07 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I wasn’t taking a swipe at you or anyone else on this subject and I’m puzzled at how you have come to the conclusion that I was.
I agree with your opinion on the matter and I don’t find anything in it that I disagree with. Nothing at all. I’m all for galleries and well bound photo books. The more the merrier I say.   I’m sure there are far more people that shoot purely for pleasure than for profit and good for them because it is they that spot the opportunities that no-one else sees. It is exactly those types who everyone remembers from gigs like Perpignan.

I could look at pix of the Beckhams and Britney’s all day because they are far easier on the eye than yet another starving african child or blasted baghdad base,although I have never done any pap/pop stuff. A pity too cos I’d like to live like them (wish I was banging Ms Diaz/sSpears/Jolie/Roberts) and I would imagine that puts me well in amongst the general population.

I have a lot more time for people who have the ability, talent and intelligence to be able to juggle more than one ball at a time. They may only shoot Nat Geo-type stuff 2 or 2 times a year, but at least they can afford to do so. The mundane jobs are where the real money is,yes I know that and it isn’t always soul-less. Some of my best contacts came from doing profiiles of top-tier executives and politicians and lawyers and knowing them has made life very easy for me. If I had a rights issue then I went to them first and they were always glad to see me. I sucked up to the moneyed big wigs and it paid off for years after.
The point I was making was that I know of plenty of very talented shooters who are struggling to make ends meet and want to make money (or at least make enough to be able to shoot full-time) but, for one reason or another won’t or don’t know how to sell/market themselves. I know it’s not easy,I was poor once too (and I’m not exactly in the Rockefeller league either,or is it called  ‘Gates’ these days?)
Someone who has kids and sticks rigidly to one area that isn’t paying is crazy, so what you are doing (from what I can gather from your previous post)  makes absolute sense. I completely agree with your attitude.

All I am saying is that freelance journalists would be better off if they took courses in legal/commercial studies to avoid being caught up in nasty rights issues like the ones we have mentioned above. I would love to go to Perpignan (or even Baghdad) and see lectures and workshops being given by experienced commercial and copyright lawyers because it would help to level the playing field a bit, even for those who do it for free.

Maybe I should make that my New Years resolution. I’ll try and get some of my high powered yuppie lawyer friends to give a few free workshops in Perpignan in return for some classy corporate portraits and positive news. The wire services and providers might not like it but….hey!!!

by Mikethehack | 27 Jul 2005 03:07 | | Report spam→
And Simon Norfolk…

by [former member] | 27 Jul 2005 07:07 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
well this is a helluva dialogue you got going here, and I wish I had more time right now to respond properly, because there are so many points so well expressed that it merits considerable attention.  However, let me just point out, that while photojournalism in its original form is now pretty much a moribund form of communication, since magazines are no longer as important as they once were in communicating what goes on in the world, and they are more concerned with lifestyle reporting, which really took over the market a few decades back, there are still outlets for deliberative, in depth and responsible artful work, and I for one do not believe that editors, despite the availability of cheap or free sources of instant imagery, will necessarily give up on looking for such work.  Anyone can snap a pic, but very very few people can make a picture.  Remember too that even back in its heyday, many photogs were already upset about the restrictions of the market and their lack of editorial control or the lack of editorial responsibility on the part of those who had the control.  Gene Smth is the most famous example of this ire, but there were many other less flamboyant examples.  Don McCullin is another more recent example of someone whose career was stunted by the advent of lifestyle reporting in the 80s. 

Which just goes to show that, despite the development of perhaps more grievous threats to our autonomy, our ability to make money, and our integrity, plus ça change, plus c est la même chose.  Since I entered this crazy profession, or perhaps vocation is a better word to describe it, I have shot news, commercial work, weddings, etc.  I have worked as a proofreader, paralegal, bar tender, coat checker, bookseller, and a host of other reputable and not so reputable things in order to continue creating the work that I wanted to create, and which had basically nothing to do with the media or the establishment.  Sometimes what I do coincides with their interests, and we can collaborate, but most times it doesnt, because my interests lie elsewhere.  I didnt get into this biz just to have pics published in Newsweek, I got into it to create a memorable series of photographs, which could be viewed on the web, as slideshows, in books, in exhibitions, in a variety of different ways.  And since I originally came from a literary background, I guess I am a screaming scribe as much as I am a snapper, though I dont work on Grub Street.  In that sense, the examples I follow fall squarely within that idealistic artistic set characterized by many of the people at Magnum, and as far as I am concerned I never expected anyone to give me the time of day, much less a regular salary.  Impractical, yes, though I survive somehow.  As it states on my profile, I am a roustabout, I will take what work comes my way in order to accomplish something that lies entirely outside the parameters of mere work.  In a sense Gene Smith is an example of two sorts of photographers, the working photojournalist, on contract with the most powerful mag of his day, and the crazed artist, barely surviving on a few grants, struggling to create some wildly ambitious personal work that no magazine would ever publish in its entirety or even in a decent selection.  |But man oh man, what a sublime work that Pittsburgh Project is.  Unfortunately, the photographer in that prior capacity is becoming an increasingly rare species, and it seems that it is almost impossible to continue working in that vein, though many of our own intrepid LS members continue to do so, and do so well, despite the precariousness of their situation and the dangers inherent in shooting in places like Iraq. 

While I agree with Sion entirely, and I think we need to keep fighting against the encroachment on our rights and due compensation, at the same time, I have always assumed that in order to survive a photographer has to be a bit of a chameleon, or rather one of Darwin’s exemplary adaptive creatures, and so I expect to keep looking for various sources of funding to continue my work.  To that end, I am hoping that LS can be something of a benefit to its members, which for the first time are gathered together in a unique cooperative endeavor to help each other and create new ways to survive in an increasingly chaotic and fast changing business. 

by Jon Anderson | 27 Jul 2005 10:07 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Blimey, it’s all kicked off while I was away…

My argument wasn’t specifically aimed at anyone on LS, against the book or gallery market or the photographers who operate in it.

There are photographers like Luc Delahaye and Simon Norfolk who made the transition from photojournalistic type work to a more contemplative style suited to galleries and books, and produce fascinating work.

In that way they can be now categorised as artists who work in the gallery sector, which makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the kind of photographer I described, who class themselves as ‘photojournalists’, but seek to work in the same artistic sector, or have the same mindset.

My argument was a general observation – these photojournalists have a schizophrenic attitude to their profession, in that it neither achieves the socially beneficial result they profess to desire, or an adequate income to continue working.

This is because many photojournalists have reacted to changes in our profession not by being ’Darwin’s exemplary adaptive creatures’ as Jon Anderson described them, but by driving down the wrong road into a self-obsessed cul-de-sac.

While the ‘traditional’ Robert Capa / Eugene Smith working paradigm is essentially dead, many photographers continue to aim for it, and profess the desire for their pictures to ‘change things’ -  but unlike Capa and Smith a lot of photojournalists have largely abandoned the traditional mass audience in favour of producing idiosyncratic work for a tiny audience of their visually literate peers.

Of course the creative urge is a strong and seductive one, and I know the buzz of getting a good frame like a lot of photographers.

But my opinion has always been that photojournalists working in the Capa/Smith mode should consider it their duty to try to leverage their images to the widest possible audience, because not to do so is a disservice to their subject matter, and excludes a potential large audience who (logically enough) are put off by work which they find difficult to access or understand.

Now, some may find this a heretical opinion – but I do not consider the act of photographing to be participating in humanity (as Mark Seager put it), or inherently of any particular benefit to humanity at all.

Participation and change requires action, not simply seeing.

The seeing is mostly the role of the photographer – the action is largely the role of the audience…so unless the pictures are seen, they cannot be acted upon and there will be no change or benefit.

But if there is no intention for the pictures to be seen by as many people as possible, we have to question what is the point of shooting such pictures in the first place.

To come back to the orginal thread concerning rights grabs, low fees etc. I think photographers working in the legacy of the ‘Old School’ photojournalists like Capa and Smith need to be a little more clear-headed about things.

The first question you should be asking, before you even consider how you’re going to fund a project is :

What is my audience? How do I intend to communicate with them?

The audience needn’t be accessed in outlets like Newsweek – but it isn’t simply a picture editor, your photographic peers, or a photo-festival judging panel either.

An audience should be the prime motivating force for you to shoot this kind of work – we are in the communication business, not simply the personal-project-fund-raising business.

I have no problem with photographers raising funds by any means possible – but there is simply no point in obtaining funding for projects by shooting corporate, portraits or weddings…and then not getting theose pictures seen.

We need to get away from this cul-de-sac by first of all casting aside the idea that being a photojournalist is to be a voluntarily poor artist pursuing some personal vision which requires the stamp of approval from The Photo Editor Funding Gods on Mount Olympus commissioning you like patrons of the arts.

This is the Achilles Heel of the profession (erm, to keep the Greek theme going…) which the media companies and their minions continually use to screw you and keep you poor by exploiting a hunger for recognition.

People need to stop being conned into working for nothing because ‘it will be good for your portfolio’.

They need to stop being seduced into working for newspapers who pay peanuts because it will make a good tearsheet, or signing their rights away because it will ‘make their name’ in the short term.

We need to be bypassing these rip-offs and applying as much thought to ways of reaching an audience, as we appear to do seeking sources of funding…sources which in many cases, come with nasty strings attached.

by [former member] | 28 Jul 2005 04:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
As always, Sion, really well said, and as I pointed out in my post above, I didnt have time to consider all the points you have raised, which are very trenchant, and cannot possibly be fully discussed, much less resolved, here.  However, you raise a crucial point in this last post, and I was thinking as I wrote my own entry that I was obviously begging some questions, such as this one. 

Clearly the weakness of my position stated above is the fact that fewer people will see and react to the imagery I circulate in more rarefied forms, such as exhibitions, books etc.  One hopes that the web can reach out to more people, but  if the material is not properly contextualized or presented in the traditional confines of photojournalism (the media), then I doubt that it will have the effect that it ought to have.   As far as making change happen, the forms of dissemination that i have listed above are not as effective as the traditional media, at least not yet, and I am deeply dismayed to see what is becoming of photojournalism of that ilk.

I am totally disgusted by the fact that, after the inception of agencies such as Magnum, which were dreamed up to protect the rights of photographers, secure them a working wage, and guarantee a level of professionalism and quality that would be attractive to organizations that buy imagery, not to mention their dedication to work that is engagé, it seems that instead of progressing forward from that position, we are all in retreat, if not a in a total rout.

The attempt to salvage the situation by resorting to other forms of dissemination seems an unsatisfactory solution, although it is obviously the route I am taking, for better or worse.  It is funny that we keep mentioning Luc de la Haye as an example of a photographer taking this route, because he has publicly stated his dissatisfaction with the situation even while averring his commitment to seek alternative means of funding his work.

The theme of instigating change, however, is a tricky old dodge.  I think back in the heyday of photojournalism, during and after WWII, it was easier to believe in the possibility, and even to present valid examples of change through photojournalism.  Even up to and including the Vietnam War, this seemed to be a viable paradigm for the working photojournalist.  Nachtwey has often stated the effect that viewing such imagery had on him, and it certainly had a hand in changing the public’s view of the war, eroding support and eventually building a strong opposition to the war.  But wars today are managed by governments in an effort to check the possible damage done by adverse publicity.  So the power of our lenses is not to be underestimated, but it seems that it is coming under increasing supervision.  I have always felt a little more modest in my endeavors, and I tend to believe that the photojournalist’s job is not to make change, but to make it known that change is needed.  If I can achieve that task, then I figure I have done my job.  That job,however, cannot be adequately done without proper funds, without proper and responsible dissemination of the imagery, and without proper respect for the expertise and dedication of the photographers.

One small means of achieving this goal of instigating change is to work directly with organizations — NGOs, for example, but not just these — whose job is to create change on the ground, in specific places at specific times.  Instead of trying to change people’s thinking through the news media, one can try to change behavior by taking on specific issues and work with the people themselves directly involved in making a difference, locally and sometimes in small doses, but real change nonetheless.  I have worked with several small groups, and I am happy to say that I have seen real though modest results.  For example, I keep banging away at the incredibly brutal and careless treatment of plantation workers in The Dominican Republic, even though the media could care less about such a marginalized sector, and I have to say that the long years of patient toil have helped to make some small difference.  All right, such work is not going to turn heads at Perpignan, but if we are serious about our intent to make changes, then shouldnt we be prepared to really stick with a project, see it through, no matter the "visibility" or star-making potential of the work?

The situation is not at all a happy one, but as Hart Crane once said,
 "We will make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets."

by Jon Anderson | 28 Jul 2005 09:07 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Ive been doing work with Landmine and UXO contamination in the Balkans for a couple of years now in conjunction with Norwegian Peoples Aid and the IRC.
The landmine issue doesnt attract much interest in the news these days but I like doing it all the same evan though it doesnt pay very well.

Sean Sutton has been working with MAG for some time now.Good on him.

Another example would be Gideon Mendell who has been working in Africa for years with the Aids alliance group despite the aparent futility of the problem he seems to have stuck with it.
As far as public awareness is concerned I rather like what Tom Stoddard did with his "witness" exhibition riverside…
Its a good way to attract the attention of everyone and not just the folk who frequent art galleries.

by [former member] | 28 Jul 2005 10:07 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Yeah that is what i am talking about.  And I look forward to doing more if I can.  What exactly is it that Stoddard did?  That sounds interesting, can you post a link?

by Jon Anderson | 28 Jul 2005 10:07 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
I for one was not trying to find any holes in anyone’s argument, and there is a place for photojournalism in books and on gallery wall…but AFTER  the core work has been done with attempts to reach a large audience.

My concern is that too many photojournalists are aiming for those outlets as a first port of call.

It should be noted that even Luc Delahaye (who was a Newsweek contract photographer after all) and Simon Norfolk have ensured their work appears in mainstream newspapers and magazines first, if only to publicise an upcoming show…and don’t forget the majority of the pictures in Tom Stoddart’s show were taken during magazine and newspaper assignments – this was the first port of call.

Similarly, Phillip Jones Griffiths (a particular favourite of mine) had a gallery show in the UK a while back, in which he specifically referred to how he obtained funding to complete his Vietnam Inc. book – shooting ‘paparazzi’ type pics of Jackie Kennedy for Look Magazine when she visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia – and made great pains to show the compromises (and gains) made by working on personal projects in parallel with mainstream magazine work and work for the Observer newspaper.

In this way I thought he went a great way to explode the myth of the photojournalist as a ‘lone artist’ and revealed him as a very astute critic of the very media he was dealing with.

The idea of photojournalism changing things has become increasingly more of a myth since Griffith’s heyday, but I think it’s power to ‘show that change is needed’ as Jon says, has been grossly overestimated.

For example, there exists an accepted opinion that images of Vietnam in papers and TV had an effect on hastening that war’s end.

They didn’t. It’s another myth.

The US press was largely in favour of the war until the US body count became unacceptable with the growing knowledge in the White House and the Pentagon that the war was unwinnable.

A survey for Newsweek in 1967 found that television did not cause 64 per cent of viewers to recoil from images of the war, but encouraged them to support the war and back up the troops.

Only 26 per cent of those polled called for an immediate end to the war.

By 1972, a follow-up survey found the American television audience had developed an immunity to the pictures.

And governments do indeed attempt to restrict images, but any embarassing images cropping up for them are just that – an embarrassment and nothing more.

While exposing the ills of the world is incrementally better than not exposing them of course, it’s clear (bearing in mind the recent 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre) that hundreds of pictures beamed out of Bosnia (for instance) did not stop the bloodletting, and the even higher number of images coming out of the Iraqi charnel house have changed nothing.

Indeed, since the war started the citizens of the UK and US have re-elected the governments responsible for launching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so arguably have endorsed the slaughter while continuing to look at pictures of mass civilian destruction, the sexual torture of civilian prisoners, indefinite solitary detention without trial in barbed wire camps and the beheading of hostages.

To keep to the issue at hand (rights grabs and such) a traditional source of funding has been NGO’s like the ones mentioned by Graeme Jennings, and some photographers see them as a way to square the circle by using their pictures in a meaningful way – but there are at least 2 NGO’s in the UK which issue rights grab contracts to contributors or severe restrictions on usage.

There are some good reasons for this – if you’re shooting pics for an environmental group, they hardly want to see you selling the same pictures to an oil company.

But these NGO contracts go far beyond simple caution into the same exploitative rights grab realm as some large media corporations like the BBC

These NGO’s have woken up to the fact that they are constantly being approached by swathes of young hungry photographers, working in the same mode I talked about, who want to ‘do the right thing’ with their photography and are willing to work for peanuts.

Anyone looking at the high salaries of a lot of NGO executives ought to be a lttle more realistic about the way some of these organisations work. Many of them are as riddled with manager-speak and obsessed with ‘efficiency’ as any corporation.

A photo-competition run by a Spanish NGO which was mentioned on LS turned out to have simliar terms and conditions to the BBC’s rights grab. Consequently I didn’t bother entering – but others perhaps did.

I just think as photographers concerned with the state of the world, we need to recognise we are as vulnerable to the forces of globalisation and corporatisation which are sweeping the planet as any of the people we may be photographing.

I’ve probably sounded pretty relentlessly negative about the whole state of affairs in my postings, but like other posters here I continue to be postive about our role, as long as we strive to communicate with an audience, and not retreat into an ivory tower.

We just need to spend a little time analysing how we operate in the round, and not just in terms of our pictures, otherwise the retreat from relevance – both editorial and economic – will continue.

by [former member] | 28 Jul 2005 12:07 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Agreed on all points, Sion.  And though I didnt mention it, I suppose I should have: one has to be as vigilant with NGOs as with other media.  Some NGOs are simply clumsy, poorly organized, while others make mistakes out of more venal motives.  They think the images are theirs to do with as they please.

But as to doing the "core work" before sending the material out to other venues such as galleries etc, well, not all of us have access to the establishment media, not all of us are contract photogs with Newsweek or Time, and not all of us even have an agency to represent us and ensure that the work gets disseminated in this manner.  Of course, that doesnt mean that an unaffiliated individual cannot approach these mags and try to sell them the work—absolutely, but it is very hard for those who dont have the prestige to ensure that their work will be seen in these mags.  So we do what we can.

As for images changing things, there is absolutely no way that any form of representation — writing, photography, painting, what have you — can ever control the reception it gets in the minds of the viewers or readers.  That is why I cannot hope to change things merely by photographing, but I can hope to show the need for change.  That is still a reasonable hope despite the fact that people may become immune to imagery or misinterpret the imagery or simply refuse to get up off the couch and do something, even if they are sympathetic.  And as for imagery overload, or whatever you want to call it, I myself am completely sated with images of Iraq and one more shot of a car bomb just doesnt affect me at all anymore.  Of course, that is natural.  But that doesnt mean that images cannot still affect people’s sensibilities, force them to think, to feel, and react.  On the contrary.  But it is up to the photographer to find the means to make his or her images speak volumes.  And Griffiths (one of my favorites too) is a perfect example of what I am talking about.  His book, Vietnam Inc. is so unusual because it forms a complete IDEA or argument about the war in Vietnam that goes way beyond a simple indictment of the brutality and cruelty of war.  Yes, there are searing images of victims, but there is a whole lot more.  There are marvelously subtle and ironic photos of America’s power and presence and naiveté and complacency.  There is an understanding of the geopolitical thinking that went into that war and the horrible miscalculation that created a needless tragedy (a common feature of American foreign policy, unfortunately).  And as you point out, he is a very self’conscious photographer, who is very aware of the ironies implicit in his position, working for the mainstream press, but conveying a very unpopular and complex message that the mainstream is not prepared to digest.  He forms a perfect example of the strategies one has to adopt and the kind of imaginative, overarching interpretive force one should cultivate when telling a story. 

Have to cut this short here, but I hope you get my drift.

by Jon Anderson | 28 Jul 2005 12:07 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
I absolutely agree with your opinion on Griffiths’s Vietnam Inc.

As you say, the thing which makes the book unique is that it’s a damning indictment of the cultural, economic and political culture which instigated the war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, with uncanny parallels today.

It’s a groundbreaking piece of work which hasn’t really been bettered, and when one considers the forces he was talking about are even more naked now, we should wonder why any photographers haven’t come up with something like it since, particularly as a similar story seems to be playing itself out in Iraq.

The interesting thing is that I understand he got a book contract before going and used newsaper and magazine assignments to cover the time he spent covering the war…presumably all the while keeping the book project in the back of his head.

So as well as being a supremely talented photographer, he obviously also possessed a level of strategic analysis about the war, his editorial and economic role in it, and his plan for the book, even down to making sure he obtained funding for it.

If I, or a lot of photographers had even a percentage of that kind of strategic thinking, then we’d all be a lot better off.

Just as a sidebar, a bunch of photographers along with myself here in the UK have been chiselling away at the BBC over their terms and conditions with a mind to getting them amended…don’t hold your breath, but something might come of it.

There are also possible talks taking place with Adobe concerning their Adobe Stock Photo project (don’t get me started…) which is a whole different but related way (they’re always related…) to incrementally shaft us.

by [former member] | 28 Jul 2005 14:07 (ed. Jul 28 2005) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Sion, i hope we get a chance to meet someday face to face and we can talk more over a few pints or Presidentes, i f you ever happen to be in the neighborhood down here.  Meanwhile I wish you luck chpping away at BBC and other media giants.  Maybe eventually we can all band together somehow and apply pressure as a group.  If I can ever be of any help, you know how to find me.

by Jon Anderson | 29 Jul 2005 10:07 | St Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→

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al crespo, photojournalist/film prod al crespo
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Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
Photographer & Writer
Ocala Florida , United States


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