You Thought Condé Nast Was Only Cheap to Photographers?

© Vogue/Photo by Mikael Jansson

Condé Nast CEO Chuck Townsend told staff at the publishing company last week that its magazine business is doing well despite the recession, and ends 2010 with 3,000 more ad pages than its competitors. Townsend announced the success in his year-end memo to staff, according to MediaWeek.

Photographers who shoot for Condé Nast publications–those who don’t have lucrative contracts with the publisher, that is—know that the company hasn’t shared these economic windfalls with its contributors. Their day rates are low, their contracts demand extensive re-use of images and they don’t want to pay extra for additional content created for their iPad editions.  But photographers aren’t the only ones who sacrifice payment in exchange for the exposure they hope to get from having their names in the pages of Vogue, Glamour, Architectural Digest or Conde Nast Traveler. Fashion models help Condé Nast by working for far less than they could make in non-editorial work.

Buried among the documents filed in the lawsuit brought against the modeling agency Next by three of its former models is an earnings statement that shows how little Vogue and Vogue Paris pays fashion models  – and how long they take to pay.

Models Anna Jagodzinska, Anna Cywinska and Karmen Pedaru allege that Next stole earnings from them and, since they left the agency in April, has failed to pay them money they were owed by clients with outstanding bills. As evidence, lawyer filed Jagodzinska’s account statement at Next, dated April 23, 2010.

The statement, which was posted on the site Jezebel, shows Jagodzinska was owed $15,000 for a job for J. Crew shot in January; $172,500 for a job for ad agency Grey Paris done in April; $60,000 for a job for H&M shot in March. Nice money, right?  She was also owed two payments of $250 for Vogue shoots in October and December of 2009. French Vogue owed her $125 for a shoot on May 20, 2009. Calling French Vogue a “deadbeat client” that owed the model payment for almost a year, the Jezebel article notes, “Doing a magazine editorial is basically volunteer work; where a model makes her money — if she makes money — is in advertising campaigns (which are rare but extremely lucrative) and catalogs (which are somewhat easier to book and generally offer day rates in the low-to-mid thousands).”

The article continues, “The lessons here? Vogue Paris pays crap, Vogue pays not much better, neither of them pays particularly quickly, and campaigns are worth a mint to everyone lucky enough to work on them.”

It may be hard to feel sorry for skinny, beautiful women who can earn $60,000 a day at the age of 21. But they’re freelancers, too, and while their agencies may be well capitalized, models (like freelance photographers) bear most of the financial risk of waiting out payment from their clients and the cost of promoting their careers. That includes financing the magazines that promise them  “exposure” in lieu of higher fees.

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5 Responses to “You Thought Condé Nast Was Only Cheap to Photographers?”

  1. Melo Says:

    Shameful. They need a kick in the ass, and it may come via the ease of which people can now self-publish and distribute great, high-level work themselves.

    As a self-professed magazine-whore… I have really cut back on the number of magazines I actually purchase. There is just so much great content available online for free. In reality, most magazines only offer a few worthwhile editorials in a full issue. (Although Grace Coddington’s creativity may be well worth the cover price).

    I do agree that appearing in print in VOGUE carries significant weight and respect, but, $125 for a shoot is pathetic and embarrassing for the publications.

  2. PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » You Thought Condé Nast Was Only Cheap to Photographers? « Muntz Blog Says:

    [...] PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » You Thought Condé Nast Was Only Cheap to Photographers? By muntzphoto via pdnpulse.com [...]

  3. procter Says:

    I am a photographer working for these magazines.
    Without malice , I think your article is misleading, theres actually no one within this uniquely bizzare sector that isnt fully aware of the situation. (and in truth its actually much worse than your article reveals.)
    Yes it is tough but fashion is unbelievably tough. It is also one of the most rewarding creative professions in the world.

  4. JC Says:

    Procter… fashion is not tough, it’s the bull associated with it… and the only rewarding thing is getting paid “well” for being creative. Cash is still how you pay for your needs and luxuries.

  5. Trudy Says:

    What stuck out most in this post is: “It may be hard to feel sorry for skinny, beautiful women who can earn $60,000 a day at the age of 21.” That’s a bigger problem than companies being cheap. This is a psychological problem and cultural one. Psychological in that those who are beautiful by societal standards must not have problems worth caring about and cultural in that at the end of the day people value material property over intellectual property like art, thus feel it is acceptable not to pay. Unfortunately the article is only scratching the surface of this problem but I’m glad for at least the surface scratching. Great post!