Photography: Yup, We Can’t Believe These Were Taken Free of Charge Either
I am a working photographer, trying to adapt, like many of my colleagues, to the rapidly changing landscape in the profession we love.
Today I would like to get a straight answer to a simple question: something that could help me terminally understand the current state of photography business better than any elaborate or academic theory.
Momentarily detached from the viewfinder, my eye briefly fell on “shot on iPhone 6” campaign, where Apple is using clever, funny, colorful, sometimes truly lovely photos, taken with the device, from various parts of the world.
Then, I came across several articles in the social media celebrating these wonderful pictures used by Apple in their campaign (“yeeees, taken with an iPhone!!…. can you believe it?? !!! How cool is that??”).
Then I noticed a selection of these images reproduced all over the web, on huge billboards, etc. and became aware that the photographer’s credit appears on the photos (at least on those I saw today on the walls of Penn Station, here in New York), albeit not in full, but abbreviated.
I am familiar with the fact that Apple often welcomes iPhone photographers to publicly showcase images created with smart phones and edited with various “apps” in many of theirs stores across America, projecting the photos on a screen, during a Q&A session.
I also happen to know, based on personal experience, that Apple does not allow photography or videography during such events and does not compensate in any way the photographers they invite to present their work.
So, going back the latest “shot on iPhone 6” Apple campaign, I ask myself: has Apple given any compensation at all to the selected photographers for such a widespread and massive usage of their images on many platforms? Or have the creators of these photos just all agreed to donate their visual work, free of charge, feeling amply compensated just by the “coolness factor” of having their images used by Apple in such a grand scale campaign across America and the world?
At a time when many of my colleagues passionately debate about integrity of photo-journalism, while prestigious photographic prizes are awarded only to be hastily revoked after a few days, while photographic budgets and assignments suffer from an increasingly dysfunctional “shrinkage factor”, while we are more confused than ever about copyright, licensing and attribution issues, I simply ask myself: has Apple paid any bloody money at all for the images used in this promotional campaign for their latest phone?
I haven’t been able to find an answer to this simple question yet and already a new, more important question in my mind: do we call this photography democratization or exploitation?
Ai posteri l’ardua sentenza (from Alessandro Manzoni’s Il cinque Maggio.)