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bennet

Something musical for a cold snowy Friday anyone?

The Treacherous Orchestra, and the legacy of the sadly missed Martyn Bennett. Read this to get you oriented. Or just listen…

 

 

And for a slice of pure off-the-wall genius, well….just listen to this (ps if you have decent bass speakers wind it up to 11 and feel your kidneys turn to jelly):

 

 

And if you want to find out more about Martyn Bennett and his legacy look here.

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

More articles from John Macpherson

Working in the free world

The desire for ‘free’ is pretty widespread in the photo business these days, right across the creative sector in fact, with writers, illustrators and indeed anyone else with a viable skill expected to provide it for free, with the dangled carrot of ‘exposure’ and other intangible ‘benefits’ that ALL bank managers will reject with a derisory sneer.

But must ‘free’ be such a compelling aspiration? Should we all trample on each other in the rush to be the biggest provider of free in a lemming-like race to the bottom?

I wrote about young Jack Alexander recently following his fstoppers article on working for free. You may not have read it. Here’s a link to my duckrabbit post about it. Worth reading to get a full flavour of where this post is going.

But to shortcut it, here’s a quote from my article to get a flavour of what Jack is on about:

 

“Jack’s had three years of experience as a photographer and has an interesting business model:

“I didn’t know what to expect when I first started working in the creative industry, but I soon learned the extent of how many jobs are expected for absolutely no payment in return. But is it really all that bad? Speaking honestly, I don’t think so. Here’s why I think we should stop complaining and, within reason, keep saying “yes” to more free projects.

Recently, I was trying to source a creative team for an upcoming photoshoot — just the usual: a makeup artist, hairstylist, and wardrobe stylist. The shoot was with an up and coming musician signed to a major record label and the feature is to be inside the next print issue of a renowned British magazine. I thought it was cool; this is exactly the type of project I want to be working on and exactly the kind of photographer I want to be. But when asking around to see which of my regular contacts were available and interested, I couldn’t help but notice a reluctance from quite a few of my peers once they found out there would be no payment. One said they were focusing exclusively on paid work right now. Another asked if it was for the magazine’s front cover and soon lost interest upon finding out that it wasn’t. This, to me, was really strange — to completely write off the opportunity to have your work printed in a respectable publication. I can’t help but feel it was almost a little arrogant for these people to be seeing nothing further than the prospect of money. It got me thinking about the state of the creative world.”

 

I’m not going to make any judgement on his decision to work for free other than to say I think he could do it differently, and in a way that is more advantageous to his future career prospects.

I tried to contact Jack for some comment on his fstoppers piece, as I had a burning question. He proved elusive. But finally I was able to get him to respond. My question was really simple: did he get paid to write his article on working for free. Here’s his response:

JackA paid

I’m not entirely sure that Jack realizes the irony of being paid to write an article that extols the virtues of working for free. I guess if he REALLY believed what he was writing he’d have been prepared to write it for nothing.

So here we are in the digital age of creative endeavour. Not only is there a sector of the industry that expects you to give them your work for free, there’s another that just takes it. They cut out the middle man (‘permission’) and just help themselves.

It’s a cool business model – they get lots of choice of ‘free’ stuff and hey, the web is the wild west and the buffalo are still roaming aplenty so they think nobody will notice they just took that one cute furry one for their in-house corporate report.

Wrong.

Many photographers use the online tools available to them to track down offenders and send them invoices. I did this very thing a couple of weeks ago.  A few hours with google’s reverse image search and hey presto several offenders, and what do you know, on receipt of my invoices with screengrabs of their misuse and a peek into the File Info © bearing my contact details, they paid me. All of them.

 

Yunghi Kim
Yunghi Kim

Renowned photojournalist Yunghi Kim did the same, spent some time chasing copyright abusers, and getting them to cough up. As she’s been around a while, and has a lot of work online, there were many many many misuses. But Yunghi is smart, and had registered the images copyright which gave her considerable leverage over offenders, and having pursued them and recovered a fair amount of money, has made a wonderful gesture with the proceeds.

She’s giving it away. Yes I’ll repeat that – she’s giving it away. ‘It’ being money. $10,000 worth of free money!

 

yunghi

 

What a concept!

Here’s how it works (now please try and keep up, I know this will be a struggle for many of you new to the creative business and the expectation of working for free) if you’re a member of her Photojournalists Cooperative you can write Yunghi a submission with an idea, and if she likes it Yunghi gives you $1000 and in return you do this thing called ‘work’ – you use the money to fund the production of photographic projects that you would otherwise not have been done. Genius!

Someone talented and deserving gets money, and in return we get compelling visual essays on subjects we need to see, consider and understand.

Now why has nobody thought of this concept before!

You can read all about it here on Photoshelter’s blog.

Will this novel idea of being paid to work as a photographer catch on? Watch this space………..

 

*And a PS for young Jack Alexander, and I do write this with the greatest of respect for you  – if you’re still insisting on working for free please consider following my advice in my original post, about invoicing – a proper fully costed invoice for your time and ALL production expenses, then ‘adding’ the 100% discount. Unless YOU put a value on your work in that way, your ‘clients’ will have no idea what you’re worth, and fact is many of these image users need educating about the true cost of ‘free’, the ‘free’ that pays THEIR wages. And at the end of the day you can be known either as ‘the free guy who does it for free’ or ‘the $5000 guy who’s really worth $5000 and generously does it for free’ ? Why does that matter?

Because when you decide to start charging, only one of those ‘might’ be a basis upon which to build a business.

Bottom line?

Know your worth and let other people know you’re worth that too.

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

More articles from John Macpherson

potter
(C) Tin Cho Chaw

It’s an understatement to say I’m not built for jet-lag.   So when Christopher Potter (Creative Director for World Nomads Group having a good laugh at me above) emailed to ask if duckrabbit would come to Sydney and give a training I was flattered but set up a skype convo to politely decline.  I just couldn’t imagine flying half way around the world and having the brain power left to deliver a really sharp training.

Turns out that Christopher could talk a highly suicidal lemming off a cliff and by the time we’d finished our chat he’d somehow talked me into teaching a couple of workshops.

It’s deeply encouraging to me that business’ like World Nomads want to invest in visual storytelling. Not just by outsourcing work to creative agencies but by empowering their own staff to think deeper about what they do; why it matters and what stories are worth telling.

At duckrabbit we spend a lot of time thinking about what is means to tell stories authentically. It always surprises me how businesses and charities often reach for advertising clichés that have little play with audiences when they already have great stories to tell. Too often there is lack of collective belief in the value of what they do. Either that or the agencies they employ have no confidence in what they’re being paid to sell.

Belief in what you do + great product + honesty + effectively market like mad = success.  Visual storytellers who can help companies package this will inherit the earth (or at least get to do some great work along the way).

No such problem at World Nomads. They do really good shit. They get people home when terrible things happen. And they also get their customers to fund good shit through their Footprints charity (run by a tiny but super dedicated team).

OK Benjamin (I hear you say) why are you bigging up this company who’ve just invested a lot of cash to fly you half way round the world to train their staff?

Two things. Business is a great way to create jobs, educate people, and give something back. We should celebrate business’ that actually do these things.

Secondly I travel a lot. My worst nightmare is that a member of my team gets hurt in a foreign country where medical assistance is hard to come by. I watched just how hard the emergency team at World Nomads (led by the legend that is @Lisafryer) work to help people through desperate times.   I’m changing duckrabbit’s insurance so if the worst happens at least I know the team dealing with it genuinely care about the outcome.

Oli and I had a great week. We trained some talented and really enthusiastic people which despite the jetlag was a huge buzz.

THANKS Chris P, Simon, Chris N, Pari, Lisa F, Frieda, Laura, Alicia, Seb, Cho, Marty, Chris, Lisa D, Sue, Celia, plus all the people who came on the one day training and a big thanks to the rest of the company who very graciously sat through my very jet-lagged talk.

By the way this is the back story to the training:

Christopher Potter won a company award that enabled him to fly anywhere in the world and train. He could have come to the UK and done a week long one on one training with duckrabbit (for example). Instead he decided he wanted as many people in the company to benefit so he flew us out to Sydney.  That’s just the great guy he is. So a special thanks to Chris who put a lot of hard work into getting us out to Sydney.

 

chow

 

marty

 

 

 

I really loved the course! It’s really helped me to get clearer about how I want to develop some important areas of my work.

Jonathan Perugia, Photographer

A mini-documentary is the perfect way to get your story heard by an audience that is ever short on time. The demand for films that are short in length but high in quality has never been greater.

So if you’re interested in producing or commissioning content like this, then why not join us on our Introduction to Mini-Documentary Film Production one-day workshop, on 8th December in central London.

Drawing heavily on our experience of producing award-winning mini-documentaries for some of the world’s leading institutions, it’s a fast-paced, practical workshop, designed to introduce participants to making short documentary films.

This workshop will provide you with the production knowledge and technical direction skills that you’ll need to get a fast start in producing your own work.

Visit our training page for all the information you’ll need, and to book your place or ask any questions, contact us by emailing us at [email protected]

We look forward to seeing you in December.

More articles from Peter

Bear 71

This has been around for a while, but I revisited it this week as I’d been involved in a discussion about the ways that technology ‘distances’ viewers from nature. I was arguing to the contrary and cited this piece as a good example of technology, and data, driving an innovative understanding of the natural world. Some of you may not have seen it.

bear 71

It cleverly utilizes data, metadata and a story, with ‘trailcam’ remote imaging interspersed throughout, to weave a compelling narrative that ultimately packs a considerable emotional punch. It also enables viewers to be a part of the narrative, enabling them to appear within the screen via webcam and be ‘aware’ of who else is participating simultaneously. It’s a full 20 minutes long and some might argue it could have been shorter and worked just as well, but the storyline as it is held my attention with no difficulty. I’m not a great fan of the anthropomorphic approach to natural history, but this piece with the bear as narrator, worked for me.

Here’s some of what WIRED had to say about it:

Bear 71 is a unique and powerful way of telling the story of a bear under the influence of human technology, using that same technology as the medium. By adding viewers as markers on the map alongside the video feeds from animals and fellow visitors to the site, Bear 71 allows its audience to watch surveillance of fellow participants while at the same time being subject to surveillance. The pervasiveness of observation throughout the story helps to bring the viewer deeper into the story, nurturing a deeper sympathy and connection with the wild’s wired animals.

It’s clever and it’s innovative, but the great thing is that at its heart it relies, simply, on a very compelling story.

Bear 71 (link)

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

More articles from John Macpherson

In the free world

Interesting pair of articles I encountered recently. On working for free.

First up young Jack Alexander – lifestyle and fashion photographer, who wrote a strong piece for fstoppers entitled ‘Why I Think All Creatives Should Consider Working For Free More Often’

Jack’s had three years of experience as a photographer and has an interesting business model:

“I didn’t know what to expect when I first started working in the creative industry, but I soon learned the extent of how many jobs are expected for absolutely no payment in return. But is it really all that bad? Speaking honestly, I don’t think so. Here’s why I think we should stop complaining and, within reason, keep saying “yes” to more free projects.

Recently, I was trying to source a creative team for an upcoming photoshoot — just the usual: a makeup artist, hairstylist, and wardrobe stylist. The shoot was with an up and coming musician signed to a major record label and the feature is to be inside the next print issue of a renowned British magazine. I thought it was cool; this is exactly the type of project I want to be working on and exactly the kind of photographer I want to be. But when asking around to see which of my regular contacts were available and interested, I couldn’t help but notice a reluctance from quite a few of my peers once they found out there would be no payment. One said they were focusing exclusively on paid work right now. Another asked if it was for the magazine’s front cover and soon lost interest upon finding out that it wasn’t. This, to me, was really strange — to completely write off the opportunity to have your work printed in a respectable publication. I can’t help but feel it was almost a little arrogant for these people to be seeing nothing further than the prospect of money. It got me thinking about the state of the creative world.”

Yes Jack thinks people who expect to be paid are “arrogant”. Now in case readers misunderstood his thinking Jack was happy to provide clarification:

 

jack a 1

I’ve tweeted twice to Jack to ask if he ever invoices for his free work but sadly he’s not replied. I am genuinely interested to learn whether he does or not. Jack – care to reply?*

Curiously – Jack is listed as a Staff Writer for fstoppers. Here he is in the back pages, not a ‘guest writer’ but a Staff Writer – which I presume means he’s being paid. (I could be wrong, given his track record).

jack a 2

But if he IS being paid, then this all smells rather rotten. I’ll simplify it in case it’s eluding some of you:

Aspiring photographer writes article urging more creatives to work for free and gets paid to write it.

Of course I could be wrong and he’s not getting paid to write it. But then the ad revenue for the many thousands of page clicks just racked up a nice little sum for the site owners. Or are fstoppers a charity that runs its site for nothing and gives all its profits to the homeless? I have no idea.

The other piece I noticed, was this rather nice video which should explain to young Jack why his business model needs tweaking a little:

 

 

*If you DON’T invoice for free work how will the person you work for (for free) ever know what you’re worth?

Free stuff has value. And it is good to do free sometimes. I do work for free, and supply images for no cost, and have done this quite a few times over the last three decades, mainly for small charities and other organisations that I know have little or no budgets. However, some organisations (or certain key individuals within them) will often place no value on your work, free is free. And once they’ve got it in their mitts, it’s still free and they’ll treat it as such, which might mean reusing it in other ways or even passing it on to others for them to use. For free. So it is a good idea to invoice for your time/expertise/value of work. Work out exactly what it costs you to produce the work and send a proper invoice with 100% discount.

Why an invoice?

Simple: If you don’t put a value on your work why should anybody else?

But what this invoice should also carry are the use restrictions so they know exactly what they may/may not do with your work. Bear in mind that this is also a contract, and acceptance of the images for use implies acceptance of the terms, and if they breach that contract by either passing on the work to others or using it in ways not stated in your T&C’s they can be held to account. And the value of the invoice is a very good starting point for compensation. It works, and I’ve pulled folks up several times for misuse of ‘free’ stuff and been paid. Just because my work was free does not mean I consider it worthless.

But there is a further value that such an invoice has for charities and the like – if they are in receipt of a lot of ‘free’ stuff there is a hidden cost to running their business that they may not realise, and may not be taking advantage of. If you invoice them (with 100% discount) there is an audit trail that will clearly show how much their image material should cost them. Where that becomes useful is when they are applying for funding support – your invoices can be used to show an ‘invisible’ cost that may be able to be covered with grant funding. Now what that might mean is that in subsequent years they ARE able to pay you – they get more good work, you get real money, or if you are still committed to the work of the organisation and can still give free stuff, they may actually be able to use those surplus funds to underpin delivery of services to their client group which attracted you to them in the first place. Everyone wins. And remember also that although the people you deal with in these organisations may be image consumers they may have no idea at all about the time, costs and expense of image production so you are in fact educating them. That’s something that is well worth doing.

And of course if you ever do subsequently start invoicing these companies for your services the cost of your skill should come as no surprise to them – you’ve been shoving it in their faces in your invoices for ages. In fact it may come as a surprise to YOU to actually tally up your costs involved in production, your time, gear depreciation, pension, tax, accountants fees, transport, software licences/subscriptions, insurance for gear, contractor’s liability insurance etc etc etc.

Free is not free. Free has a cost. If you don’t place your value on your work, don’t expect anyone else to. And at the end of the day being a bit smarter about ‘free’ can see real and tangible benefits for you and others you work with.

But the real bottom line? Just expect to be paid. Paid just like the editors, the picture researchers, the ad execs, the web designers, and the office cleaners who clean up after them…………………..and make your feelings clear to those who wont honour your skills and expertise with a just and proper reward. Fact is that 99% of all the users who want your work for free earn a wage from it, directly or indirectly. Just remember that little detail.

This message was brought to you by duckrabbit. But it’s not free. If you think it’s useful, and you heed some of it, and as a result you benefit from it, next time you see someone down on their luck, buy them a decent sandwich with some of the money you earned, and tell them that sometimes, for some people, there is such a thing as a free lunch. It all just depends on how you think about it.

But lets leave the last word to the delightful Harlan Ellison, talking eloquently on the subject of being compensated as a creative:

 

 

 

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

More articles from John Macpherson