The Photographer Who Rocked Taylor Swift: Open Letter Helped to Expose “Hideous Terms” Concert Photogs Face

Posted by on Wednesday July 22, 2015 | Copyright/Legal

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There’s a neat symmetry to the Taylor Swift photo contract saga. It all began with an open letter, penned by UK concert photographer Jason Sheldon on his Junction10 blog, lambasting Swift for exploitative contract terms for her 1989 World Tour.

Sheldon’s open letter was sparked by Swift’s own public scolding of Apple for not paying artists during the three month free trial period of Apple music. And while Swift’s letter provoked a quick (or is that swift?) mea-culpa and an about-face from Apple, Sheldon’s appeal drew force more gradually from repeated media mentions, protests from news organizations and criticism from the National Press Photographer’s Association.

Shortly after the news broke that Swift’s team had altered its contract to appease critics, PDN reached out to Sheldon via email for his thoughts on the affair. What follows is an edited transcript.

PDN:  I’m wondering if you had any comment regarding the changes [Swift’s] team has made – do they go some (or all) of the way toward addressing your complaints?

Jason Sheldon: I’ve not had chance to examine the revised contract in detail – had a quick look and it appears to be a very positive step in the right direction. I think there are some minor points which I’d be happier tightening up, but I’m happy they’ve shown willingness to appreciate our rights a bit more.

PDN:  Are you surprised that your open letter has had the reaction and impact that it did?

Sheldon: I’m certainly pleasantly surprised it went viral.. It was good to have the support of publications like the Irish Times as well, who picked up on it and refused to agree to the terms of the contract.  It’s helped expose the hideous terms music photographers are sometimes forced to agree to (under economic duress) in order to carry out their jobs, and that is what it is – a job.

PDN:  Have you experienced any negative reaction (loss of work) from concert promoters or management teams because of your open criticism? 

Sheldon: Generally the feedback has been extremely positive on the whole. With various PR [reps] and promoters saying publicly that they agree with me – a few saying it privately as well. Of course, there has been some negative feedback which is to be expected, but most of it seems to come from people who have not read and understood the point of the open letter. These are usually the people that think we’re getting free concert tickets and living a parasitic existence off the back of the artist talent, which is certainly not the case. I haven’t lost any work from my stance, yet. But then, I’ve yet to apply for the Foo Fighters shows later this year.

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