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Why Taylor Swift is doing Photography a Favour

An unlikely heroine, at an unlikely time, but Taylor Swift’s stance against Apple music is making strides outside the world of pop music. Not that this was her intention of course, but the accusations of double standards by fellow UK photographer Jason Seldon in a brilliant response to her open letter to Apple Music, have opened up the debate about photographer’s rights, that have been ignored for far too long.

I, like many people, admire Taylor Swift’s letter to Apple Music, because at the centre of it is the message that people at any level should be paid for the work they have created and has been used. I’m sure there are other double standards people can find on Taylor Swift in addition to the photography contracts, but if her stance against Apple leads to wider recognition of creative artists rights, then it is a certain good thing.

There has been a consensus for far too long that photography is not a valuable resource. Having had a particular passion for 5 years with photography, I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard ‘anyone can do that’ by both photographers and non-photographers. But it simply isn’t true. Yes the digital camera era has opened the floodgates for people to easily create and post-process photographs, but a good photograph still takes dedication, craft and a keen eye. Anyone can’t get published in a professional magazine. Anyone can’t make a living by taking pictures. Like any discipline, it takes years of experience and practice to hone your style and stay passionate enough to reap the rewards of an income earned through photography. I’m sure there are people ‘getting away with it’, but it would only take so long for a truly talented individual to come along and blow away any individual cruising their through making a living through photography.

You only have to surf the internet to see how common photography is, and is required, which is why people will do all they can to not pay for it. It is a common experience amongst many photographers to be approached by a magazine to carry out a shoot, only to be told that there won’t be any money involved, but it will be ‘good exposure’. The magazine of course has no interest in the likely outcome of the photographer’s career as a result of the shoot, but it will do all it can to ensure it keeps its own costs low when requiring professional work. It is up to the photographer whether they accept these assignments, as of course it is up to the photographer whether they accept Taylor Swift’s photography contracts. Accepting them doesn’t make it right though. When you have created a piece of art (yes, art) and stand to be the person who profits least (if at all), there is something not right in the arrangement. A lack of respect to say the least.

Freelance photographers put time, money and effort into events that they might not even get paid for, as Jason Seldon pointed out. So years of practice and hard work are rewarded with a strangling contract and no money. I’m sure it’s the same in other artistic fields as well, but against much bigger individuals, companies and brands, the opportunity for change is a very small one.

Inadvertently though, Taylor Swift maybe the saviour. She is not a struggling artist by all means, but an artist nonetheless, who for whatever right or wrong reason, is prepared to stand up to those who want to avoid paying artists if possible. I’m sure she herself is not in charge of dictating photography contracts of her concerts, but she has an opportunity now to look at her own business team’s policies and practices, and provide a fair and better deal for artists also working hard to earn a living. As I said earlier, if her letter to Apple, and the subsequent response from photographers leads to a better deal for all working artists, then she could just become the photographer’s new friend.

The Antonio Vivaldi Museum

It has absolutely nothing to do with Taylor Swift, and I’m scared to death of using a picture of her anyway, but I can’t blog about photography without posting a picture. So here is the nearest thing I could find, a picture within the Antonio Vivaldi Museum in Venice. I’m sure he struggled to make ends meet at one point or another as well, but at least they couldn’t bootleg his music…


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