It’s boom times for concert photographers who want to complain about the terms of their contract. Jason Seldon’s public letter to Taylor Swift drew huge interest from traditional media companies, followed by the public calling out of the Foo Fighters by the Washington City Paper.
But, like a lot of online griping, the spilling of rage pixels rarely results in change.
Writing in his blog, the Norwegian photographer Jarle Moe argues that concert photographers wouldn’t be on the receiving end of unfair or overly restrictive contracts if they stopped thinking of themselves as concert photographers:
“If more, if not all, concert photographers identified as journalists and with the ethics that follow in their work, photo contracts would be a thing of the past. Signing a photo contract should be unacceptable, not because it’s disrespecting you as an artist, but because it’s a violation of the ethics you follow as a journalist.
So stop thinking about yourself primarily as an artist. You are a [photo]journalist. You may create art, but it’s more to it than that. You are a part of the freepress. Encourage new photographers to identify as journalists. Make the journalism be as natural to our profession as the artistry, and heed to the obligations that come with that label.”
Sound naive? According to Moe, Norwegian concert photographers banded together under a similar ethos:
“The Norwegian press as a whole, has made a joint statement to never sign any contracts put forward by artists or their management pushed forward by concert photographers, as can be read here. In Norway, most concert photographers are, in essence, photojournalists and identify more or less as such. And because of that, we are part of the press. We are not 100 concert photographers, but 7000 journalists.
Together we have a powerful voice. We generally do not meet any photo contracts, and the few we do, never gets signed. And because of that, contracts get fewer and fewer. With the press associations and unions behind us, we actually have a powerful voice against such demands, and the contracts get dropped (though, it has to be said that the local promoters have done tremendous work as well in that regard, but without all of the press acting like a collective, they would have no incentive to waiver the contracts). The aforementioned Foo Fighters contract? Guess what: that was not presented to the photographers in Norway. I can’t even remember the last time I “had” to sign a contract. That’s what having some integrity gets you.”
Sounds like an interesting strategy, but is it workable in a market as large and competitive as the U.S.?