There's been some 'lively' discussion on Twitter this morning with some people choosing to see this idea as exploitative and, in some way, me getting free images while pro photographers suffer and can't pay their rents. Really?
Nothing could be further from my intentions. I'd naturally assumed that most of the people who'd want to take part would be amateurs; by no means untalented but not earning their primary source of income from photography. I'd also expected many of the photos to be captured on smartphones or small digital cameras while people were going about their daily business. It may even be a photo that they've already got stored on their phone or computer. That kind of image very much fits the subject matter of the book - tackling crime, disorder and social issues. I certainly wasn't imagining people treating this as an assignment, scouting venues, setting up expensive equipment etc.
Here's the kind of image I mean (taken by me):
It's not art. I'm not a photographer. It was taken on an iPhone6. But it's perfect for the flavour of the book.
So, in the interests of complete clarity, let me explain again what I'm proposing:
It will be a competition. Like most competitions, there will be prizes for winning entries that make it into the book (and they'll be in a book). However, unlike most photo competitions that require you to surrender your copyright, every photographer whose image gets used will be properly credited and they'll retain all rights to the image. The photographer will, naturally, have to agree to their photograph's use in the book for all printings; that's only sensible. But they will get a contract from me, stating that their image belongs to them and will only be used in the book and nowhere else.
There would also be a 'lottery' prize chosen at random that could by won by anyone submitting an image, regardless of whether it's used or not. No submitted entries would be used by me in any way other than those chosen for the book. They remain the property of the photographers.
The prizes are yet to be sorted out but will certainly include original artwork, signed prints, signed books - by me and by a number of celebs - and more as I think of them. I would advertise the prizes before asking for submissions so people are in no doubt what they are playing for and can decide whether they think it's worth joining in.
Have I missed anything?
Is this fair?
It would be much easier to drop the whole idea and do the photos myself. London is very photogenic and I have some very nice photographic equipment of my own. I just fancied the idea of sharing the project in the spirit of crowdfunding.
The landscape of publishing - just like the world of commercial photography - has changed drastically in the past few years. I'm getting no advance for this book. I'm essentially writing it for free and hoping that enough people want to read it, and pledge their support, so that I can cover the production and distribution costs. That's what crowdfunding is. I'm not expecting to make much of a profit from it, although one always has hope.
I'm not some millionnaire celeb using his/her status to get fans to give away their photographs for free. The truth is, I can't afford to buy images from image libraries and photo banks. Nor can I afford a pro-photographer. If I could, I'd employ my brother Si, who is one. Or my photographer friends Mark Page (warning- NSFW), Naomi Stolow, Joel Meadows ... and all the others I know. I know times are tough; the rise of digital technology and the internet has decimated the photography industry. But I'd like to think that what I'm doing here is something mutually beneficial for both me and the person who submits an image. I'm inviting people to get involved in the book. And I'd like to think that it's ethical for me to do so. I'm not just stealing images off of Flickr or trawling the internet for anything with a Creative Commons licence. Goodness knows I've had enough of my own artwork stolen and used without my permission - I blogged about it here and here. I know how that feels.
It would be lovely to think that maybe someone's photograph, if featured in my book, might one day lead to a request to use the image elsewhere and earn some money for the photographer. It won't earn a penny for me.
So there you go.
I hope that's clear enough.
If the whole thing becomes too problematic I simply won't do it. I'm out to have a little fun and share the love. I'm not out to upset people or ruin people's careers.
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