A lot of photographers — pros and semipros alike — are angry these days.
Pros are angry because good-paying work is harder to find than it used to be; much of this anger is directed at semipros and amateurs, who are blamed for the oversupply of images in the marketplace.
Semipros, in turn, are angry at pros for blaming them for their problems, rather than looking in the mirror and adapting to the changes around them.
Battle Lines Drawn
Black Star Rising has published nearly 1,000 articles on photography topics to date — but none have generated as much passion from both pros and semipros as the posts we have run on “working for free.”
For example, a post by John Harrington, “12 Excuses for Working for Free — and Why They’re Bogus,” has been retweeted nearly 1,200 times, “liked” by more than 4,000 Facebook users, and received nearly 400 comments.
The battle lines are clear. One of the more thought-provoking questions that has been raised, by Jonathan Worth among others, is this:
If a photographer writes a blog post for Black Star Rising for free, and in this blog post argues that photographers should not work for free, is this person a hypocrite?
Some say yes. Some have even suggested that, by publishing these viewpoints while not providing monetary compensation to Black Star Rising contributors, we are participants in the hypocrisy.
Assignments vs. Personal Projects
Here are my thoughts on this.
First, Black Star Rising is agnostic on the issue of working for free. We’ve published posts for it, against it, and for/against it with various qualifications and in various circumstances.
But still, I do think the question is an interesting one.
My answer is no. And I’ll explain why.
Photographers write for Black Star Rising on the topics of their choosing. They say what they want to say. They aren’t given assignments, as they would be if writing for a newspaper, for example.
So in that sense, it’s more like a personal project, which many photographers do for free as an outlet. We like to think we’re that a similar outlet for photographers who want to express their thoughts and feelings verbally.
Now, I understand that some contributors specifically write for Black Star Rising in hopes of a financial return of some kind. Some have reported winning new clients who found them here. Others have been invited to speak at industry events or have seen an increase in traffic to their websites.
There are also cases where photographers saw no benefit and stopped contributing for that reason.
Hypocritical — or Not?
And that’s fine. It’s their choice.
But it’s not necessarily a hypocritical choice to write a “free” blog post venting about the evils of “free” photography.
Or is it?
What do you think?