At a time when no self-respecting photographic publication is without a scheme to keep an inconstant readership on board, Archant’s glossy Professional Photographer has come up with the novel idea of a UK-based email list for professional photographers.
In an ambitious launch statement in the magazine’s September issue, Group Brand Editor for Archant Imaging Grant Scott says “It’s time for a revolution in how photographers see themselves and their place in the creative, commercial world. It’s time for professional photographers to come together, to work together and help each other.”
Called The United States of Photography, Scott’s email list is based on the format established by Editorial Photographers in the United States. “I like the idea of EP and it seems to me to be a template which could easily be replicated by other like-minded photographers in the UK,” says Scott who seems to have forgotten that a list bringing photographers together, to work together and help each other has existed in the UK for more than ten years – it’s called EPUK.
EPUK was modelled on the EP template. It was launched in 1999, just months after EP itself was launched in the States.
To be fair, Grant did email EPUK when reminded of our existence to say he’s interested in talking about future collaboration – a statement consistent with the call for “strategic alliances” and “the need for a united front” that he makes in the pages of Professional Photographer.
There is no doubt professional photographers need all the unity and partnerships they can muster in a time of great change, which is why EPUK has long established strategic alliances, notably with the NUJ and with the British Press Photographers’ Association (BPPA), a number of EPUK moderators and list members being active members of one or both of these organisations.
EPUK moderators also played a key role in the founding of the British Photographic Council, an umbrella body established to “protect, develop and promote the rights and interests” of photographers to the Government, the European Commission and other relevant bodies.
Grant may know most BPC member organisations: the NUJ, BPPA, AoP, BIPP, BFP, CIOJ, MPA, NAPA, Pro-Imaging, Redeye, BAPLA and the Royal Photographic Society.
What Grant may not be aware of is how the latter two found themselves on the wrong side in a disagreement with EPUK recently over the way they should be supporting professional photography in Britain.
A fighting organisation
Since EPUK was launched it has taken up a number of battles on behalf of professional photographers – the most successful being the recent fight against the Orphan Works Clause in the Digital Economy Bill, which is where we fell out with BAPLA. We fell out with the RPS when they thought it good for the industry to supply photographs for free. Yes, EPUK is a fighting organisation.
We fight not just because photography is our livelihood but because we believe photography matters. And we understand when our fellow professionals suffer in the course of their work.
In October 2008 the EPUK membership rallied to help the families of a Georgian photographer and his journalist friend killed while covering the conflict in South Ossetia. Only one EPUKer knew anything about these guys but all EPUKers understood the plight of their families and we made damn sure the money we raised reached them in Tblisi before winter.
A list like The United States of Photography could be useful in cases where individuals need to be brought together – Grant does call USP “an international support group for photographers,” but in EPUK’s experience it will be much harder bringing photography organisations together and holding them together even when they appear to have the same broad industry-supporting agendas.
“Exploit the opportunities”
However we suspect the greatest pitfall for the USP list will be its association with Archant, a publishing company whose guiding principles can appear at odds with those of individual creatives.
EPUK understands that a number of titles in the publisher’s newspaper arm Archant Regional, pay £35 for a first published picture and £15 for each subsequent published picture from the same shoot. Photographers are paid £16.50 if an assignment is not published. And it seems that nobody is quite sure what happens regarding copyright or payment for secondary use of images now that photographers upload their work onto Archant’s new group management system.
EPUK is at a loss to understand how a freelance is expected to survive on such rates let alone cover overheads like equipment, insurance and office expenses.
One photographer whose three-year stint freelancing for Archant’s local county-style magazines has just been terminated, tells us they started with ten days work a month at £100 a day plus mileage. This morphed into one monthly payment of between £500 and £600 for all work, before becoming a feature rate of £70 or £80 per story including mileage. Finally, in August, the freelance was told there was no more work because Archant had brought in an agency to cover their entire region.
Archant’s half yearly figures released the same month showed operating profit for its magazine division up 18.9 per cent, Archant chairman Richard Jewson commenting “Our management have continued to exploit the opportunities presented by the changing trading environment whilst reducing operating costs by 4.1 per cent.”
Again EPUK is at a loss to comprehend how increasing profit while cutting costs can be seen as supportive by professional photographers who supply this publisher. Maybe Grant and the USP list will be able to help us.
Surviving the new economic landscape
Digital rather than print is of course the future for photographers and publishers alike. And key to that is advertising revenue. What we would not like to see are the photographers’ contributions to USP being used to boost the list as a further vehicle for Archant’s advertising.
USP rules stipulate that individual photographers must not use the list “for promotion of work or websites.” So neither should Archant. Fair has to be fair.
Any final thoughts on the United States of Photography? Well there is the name, but we won’t let that get in the way of a good idea.
Grant Scott says “Only by working together and helping each other will we be able to exist in the new creative economic landscape.” EPUK agrees. That is exactly what we have been doing since 1999.
• To join Professional Photographer magazine’s United States of Photography email list for professional photographers click here.
• EPUK – Campaigning for photographers since 1999.
Text © 2010 Graham Harrison
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