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Photographer writes excellent letter to the band Garbage about unpaid photo use

editor

hiraethified
I like this very much indeed. Well said!



AN OPEN LETTER TO GARBAGE

Dear Shirley, Butch, Duke and Steve

I don't know if you will remember me, my name's Pat Pope and across a few years in the nineties I worked for you as a photographer. That's one of my photos of you accompanying this letter. I worked pretty hard on that photo - actually, throughout my time as a photographer I hope I've always worked hard to make all the artists I've had the opportunity to shoot look as good as they can.

Today I received an email from your management company Big Picture Music Co. It's a very nice email, and in it they announce that you're working on a book about the band which you plan to self-release next year. The email says that you really like some of the photos I took of you and would like to use them in your book. It also says that in return for the use of my photos you will give me a "proper credit" but that given it is planned to be a self release the budget is "financially limited", by which your management company mean "we're not going to pay you". So I wanted to ask you a couple of questions, and I wanted to do it publicly because I think it's important that people know what your answer is. I don't expect as many people will see this Open Letter as Shirley's recent message to Kanye West, but I think it's important we know where you, as artists, stand.

Q1: I'm a firm believer that musicians and artists deserve to be paid for their work. I'll sign any petition that's out there supporting that concept, and even when I choose to stream rather than buy, I'm one of the fans of your band that will pay for a premium service because I think you should be paid. That's my point of view. Is it yours? When you think about artists being paid, does that include photographers? Do you think "content providers", whatever the hell that means, deserve to be paid for their work, or is that a special category for musicians? If I want to release a music album, can I use your music in it if I give you a "proper credit"?

Q2: If you're putting together a book, presumably someone at your management company or somebody in the band has written a budget. And if there's a budget, somewhere in that budget, against the line for "use of photos" somebody has written "no need to pay, we'll just give them a proper credit and get them for free". Against all the other lines, for writing, for printing, for distribution, for retailing, for marketing, for the management company, for the band, for Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, somebody, somewhere, working for you, has written a number down because that's what it costs. But that same person has written zero for photos, because that content, in their opinion, they can get for free. Who is that person? As a band are you happy to be employing someone who thinks like that? Because it seems to me that the person who writes down "zero for photos" today is the same person who will write down "zero for music" tomorrow because they don't respect the "content providers".

By writing this open letter, I'm obviously committing professional suicide when it comes to ever working with you again, and probably it won't do my reputation any good within the music industry to be seen as troublemaker. Obviously that worries me, but it worries me more that musicians and others are saying one thing publicly about the needs for artists to be paid for their work whilst privately people working for them are doing exactly the opposite. I'm not accusing you personally of being hypocrites, I don't know how involved you are in this process, but I'm letting you know it's happening and it's happening in your name.

So, very respectfully, .......no.

No, you don't have my permission to use my work for free. I'm proud of my work and I think it has a value. If you don't think it has any value, don't use it. I'm saying no to a budget that says you can take my work for free and make money out of it.

Thanks, and still a fan of the band

Pat Pope
www.patpope.com
PS: Just so you know, this is actually an improvement on the management of your "Absolute Garbage" album where the record company just used my work without even asking. I only found this out when I went into a shop and bought a copy, which, when you think about it, has a certain irony.
 

dweller

muthafuckin snakes
Dear Pat Pope
We were all deeply saddened to read your Facebook post in which you admonished us for approaching you to humbly request your kind permission to include one of your images in a book we are working on to celebrate our twentieth anniversary.
We regret that you interpreted our request so negatively.

HAVING ALREADY paid you in 1995 for the entire shoot from which these images were selected, we really didn’t expect such a hostile reception to our enquiry.
We adore the photographs you took of us at such a special time in our career but it was never our intent to use the aforementioned images without your express permission.

As an independent band on our own label we are struggling to juggle the harsh realities of the modern music business with our desire as artists to produce music and accompanying content for our fans.

Our book is not intended as a profit generating venture but something beautiful to create and present directly to our fans as a celebration of our music and the image-makers who we have been lucky enough to work with over the span of a twenty-year career.
We very quickly and painfully learned that without a book publisher to help offset costs, we are not in the financial position to afford to pay for the usage of every photograph we were hoping to include in the book.

Before we scrapped the idea of producing the book entirely, we decided instead that we would take a leaf out of Amanda Palmer’s book “The Power of Asking” and simply ask the photographers themselves whether they wanted to be included in our book or not. Any refusal of permission would be respectfully accepted and no further questions asked .

We were so grateful and delighted to learn that most of the photographers were happy for their images to be seen in conjunction with the telling of our story.
We would be entirely unable to produce a book at an affordable price for most of our fans without the generous consent of all these amazingly talented photographers and filmmakers. Historically, artists over the centuries have been known to help each other out in an effort to get their work seen and heard. We are proud and grateful to be part of this artist community.

Over the years we have happily compensated many photographers, filmmakers and other kinds of content providers for their work and will continue to do so in the future. We believe completely in the concept of the artist being compensated fairly whenever possible.

With that said, collectively as a band and as individuals, we have often provided our services and our music for no financial compensation in the spirit of artistic collaboration. Obviously we assess every request based on its own individual merits but we would never publicly admonish or begrudge a fellow artist for merely asking.

Regards
Shirley, Butch, Duke and Steve
“garbage”
 

dweller

muthafuckin snakes
Yep, I found their response very passive aggressive.

I found their letter on a thread on the petapixel facebook page. Most of the respondents are slamming the photographer for
going public instead of sending a private reply in the first place.
 

8ball

Having a teeny break
I can see both sides. Creative people commonly allow stuff to be used for free if asked - consent shouldn't be assumed but all they did was ask. It's a fairly normal thing to be asked permission or even for participation in various things without offer of payment. The deal is you get so say no. It helps if you're not an arse about it.

The photographer made the decision to make his refusal public so Garbage were pretty much obliged to reply. I think the photographer was hoping for some kind of underdog kudos but I think he'll be disappointed.

The other side is that Garbage get to enjoy the profits of continued play of their songs etc.
 

littlebabyjesus

one of Maxwell's demons
With that said, collectively as a band and as individuals, we have often provided our services and our music for no financial compensation in the spirit of artistic collaboration. Obviously we assess every request based on its own individual merits but we would never publicly admonish or begrudge a fellow artist for merely asking.
Hmmm. Nobody comes out of this too well, imo. Garbage are pretty pompous and passive-aggressive, but they also have a point with this last bit. It was a polite email. He could have replied privately, and should have done.
 

littlebabyjesus

one of Maxwell's demons
i can see why he was so exasperated though. photographers' fees keep getting squeezed and squeezed. it was probably the last straw.
They do. And writer fees too. Publishing is getting very shit for that, despite the fact that, contrary to much propaganda, the book is not dying and sales are pretty healthy. Profits are going somewhere.

But he said he was probably committing professional suicide. And he's probably right.
 

Orang Utan

knows how to use the three shells
They do. And writer fees too. Publishing is getting very shit for that, despite the fact that, contrary to much propaganda, the book is not dying and sales are pretty healthy. Profits are going somewhere.

But he said he was probably committing professional suicide. And he's probably right.
aye, shame though.

a friend of mine is not a professional but takes a lot of pictures of social housing in London and got asked by The Times for permission to use one of his pics, with the usual shit about them having 'no budget' to pay him. He asked them for £50 and they didn't reply. He couldn't check to see if they'd used it zanyway (which has happened with other friends with other publications) cos you have to fucking pay to see their site. Oh the fucking irony.
 

Orang Utan

knows how to use the three shells
And it's not just writing and photography. it's design too. and probably loads of other creative professions. except they're not viewed as professions any more. just something people do for fun and maybe a little bit of 'exposure', like creatives are nothing more than gentlefolk amateur hobbyists, not people who are relying on getting paid to earn a living.
 

littlebabyjesus

one of Maxwell's demons
aye, shame though.

a friend of mine is not a professional but takes a lot of pictures of social housing in London and got asked by The Times for permission to use one of his pics, with the usual shit about them having 'no budget' to pay him. He asked them for £50 and they didn't reply. He couldn't check to see if they'd used it zanyway (which has happened with other friends with other publications) cos you have to fucking pay to see their site. Oh the fucking irony.
It's very shit. I have some experience of being on the other side of that and asking for images when I genuinely don't have any budget - it's a case of using cheapo stock image sites and images from other sources that won't cost. I can generally offer a copy of the book, but not much else. And it's getting worse - budgets are cut year-on-year. Tbh most people say yes, though.
 

littlebabyjesus

one of Maxwell's demons
Why didn't Mr Pope just ask for a fee before whacking up that pompous buff on FB?
Good question. He says that he received the email on the same day he posted his rant. Should have slept on it.

If you're a professional photographer who wants work photographing public figures, they've got to be able to trust you. He really has fucked himself doing this.
 

8ball

Having a teeny break
Hmmm. True. I'd not seen the photo before, that's for sure. But the loss of trust, though. On balance, I reckon he's fucked himself.
Depends what you're hiring him to do, I reckon.

If you're never going to ask him for free publication of stuff you might hire him regardless.
The fact he wrote the thing in the first places makes me think he's probably diversified a bit anyway.
 

Spymaster

Cockney Wanker
On this evidence the geezer's a chippy twat.

Either he's made his fortune and doesn't care who he pisses off, or he doesn't see photography as a serious profession with more than one aspect.
 

8ball

Having a teeny break
Not if he's not getting paid for it, it's not. And that's the problem: if you give your photos away for free you devalue yourself.
You miss the point. He didn't jeopardise his job by refusing - he did it by throwing a public tantrum.

Not that I think he's especially jeopardised it - I think he was mostly trying to make a mostly valid point.
 
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