What Is A Picture Worth?

For unto whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required.
-Luke 12:48

I’ve had enough! You’re all cowards and you don’t even know it. You’ve given away your legacy without much of a fight, and I am embarrassed and ashamed to be considered part of the fraternity of photographers.

Oh, I know times are tough (they’ve always been tough for photographers) and you have lost your power to larger powers (that’s only because you’ve let them) and if you didn’t give in, they simply would have given the job to someone else. Well, too bad. If we had all stuck together in the first place there wouldn’t be someone else, and besides you’ve lost a lot more than that loving feeling, you have lost the greatest gift you have as a still photographer.

Directors do not have it. Graphic Designers do not have it. Art Directors do not have it. Only you have it, and because you are scared and desperate, you are giving it all away. Well don’t! Stand tall and upright! Be proud and do not forsake what others have given to you.

What am I ranting about? Well, I am going to tell you.

In the early 1950’s, LIFE Magazine decided that the pictures that were shot for them by many wonderful photographers were their property and therefore, they had the right to re-license them. The photographer’s thought otherwise, and insisted that the photographs were their property to resell at their discretion.

This went to court and after a long heated battle with TIME-LIFE the photographers won the battle. The courts decided that the copyright remained with the photographer and the magazine had just licensed reproduction rights. The original property, after the contract was concluded, returned to the photographer along with the negatives.

So dear photographers, others before you fought hard and long to give you a gift. And although everyone from corporations, to magazines, to art buyers try desperately to take it away from you, I implore you not to give it away.

Most of you are young and feel the need to work, and feel powerless against larger forces. You do not realize that when you get older, having the rights to your own work will be the best gift you have as a still photographer. It will help you when you need it most.

I have never given it away, despite enormous pressure or at times significant time to educate a client. I have walked away from magazines and clients, unless we could reach a compromise that was acceptable to me.

The pressure is on. The economy is awful and people will grab what they can get away with. I implore you to stay strong and fight hard for what many other photographers, over the last 50 years, have fought hard to give you; the right to own and control your own work.

We are at the precipice. Either you retain your rights, or the next generation will have none to protect.