As a ‘Freelance Photo-Journalist’, issues of concern are very different to those ‘office based’ workers
The main issues of concern to me, at the moment, are primarily in ‘Public Order’ matters.
· Press card recognition by the authorities, the police in particular, since they frequently control access to locations. So often, the press card raises little more than a chuckle.
· Advice in defence in court after charges. Primarily arrest for obstruction.
· Civil claims for wrongful arrest and assaults.
· Identity: The wearing of NUJ ‘bibs’. Attitudes of police and protesters to this.
· Dealing with requests from police and authorities for film and footage. They say: ‘for the investigation of crimes’ [this became public as an issue, after the Metropolitan Police request to media organisations and freelances, after the Poll-Tax Riot in London]
· Giving evidence in court after ‘actions or events. ? An impartial observer, or not. Is work available to police or public / protestors, equally?
· Only one solicitors firm now accredited by NUJ, Thompson’s. But, they don’t have depth of experience to handle most of this. Their main experience is in employment rights, contacts etc. They know little is the issues, faced out here on the street. (NUJ, saving money after loose RSI case a while ago).
Thus, many of us have to organise amongst ourselves, aside from the NUJ. Shame, wasn’t always like this!
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Other Freelance concerns
· Widespread theft of copyright.
· Media customers asking / demanding ‘All Rights’ perpetual (i.e. Not licensed for specific use or time. This was how we used to do business, and generate an income.
· Competition from ‘Royalty-free’ libraries / sources. This activity lowers standards for photojournalism. (Now the Sunday Supps, are full of ‘lifestyle’ and food and ‘posh house’ pictures. Used to be an outlet for the photo-essay)
· Freelances not adequately trained for dangerous assignments. They are considered ‘dispensable’ compared to sending ‘staffers’.
· Much difficulty in getting adequate insurance for person and kit. Staff journalists are frequently in the same dangers, but company deals with insurance and looking after dependents etc.
· Under representation of freelancers to get any ‘muscle’ within main union activities.
· All the usuals about pensions, representation, fair dealings etc.
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I came across this quote the other day in Howard Chapnick¹s book – Truth Needs No Ally:
On Giving Away Pictures
“Every professional photographer, at one time or another, has received a phone call or letter reading as follows: “Our organization would like to use your photograph in a brochure [or advertisement, or magazine, or audio-visual presentation]. We are a non-profit organization that has no budget for the purchase of the photograph, and we hope that you will provide the picture without charge.” My standard answer is an emphatic “no.” I am tired of the exploitation of creative people by non-profit organizations. You may think this a crass and overly commercial response, but let’s consider it for a moment.
What about the person who wrote that letter or made that call? Does that person get paid for his or her job as the editor or art director of the publication? What about the rest of the staff of that non-profit organization? Do they get paid for their efforts? Does the paper company charge for the paper used: in the brochure or publication? Do the typesetter, color separator, half-tone maker, printer, and binder get paid? The answer is a categorical “yes.” So why should the photographer be the one who is asked to contribute the work without compensation?
My position is that if everybody is donating their services, and no one is getting paid for a project that is altruistic and idealistic, then, and only then, should a photographer ever consider donating the reproduction rights to his or her photograph.”
Chapnick, H. (1994) Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press. P334-335. / change in my lifestyle.