The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) has announced it is to reconsider the terms of a controversial venture, following an outcry by photographers.
The climb-down came just 24 hours after it announced the launch of The Season Doesn’t End with Summer – a scheme which encouraged RPS members to allow their images to be used free of charge by large commercial enterprises including First Great Western, the Highways Agency, BMI and flyBe as well as local businesses and a major government-funded agency.
The original announcement on the society’s website has been replaced by a brief statement from Director General Stuart Blake.
Malcolm Bassett-Smith of the RPS’s Visual Journalism Group told EPUK “We within the VJ group know all too well the state of the market, it is our livelihood. We also know the realities of life and the truth is no one is getting a bean out of domestic travel pics right now”. This may come as news to many professionals earning a difficult living in this field.
He added “Please look at the bigger picture… we are exposing named and credited RPS members – photographers to a potential market of 11,000 new commercial customers in the southwest”. The contradiction between promoting a free supply of images and the concept of a “market” appears to have eluded the VJ Group organisers.
The declared aims of the society – founded in 1853 – are to promote the Art and Science of Photography, a mission it claims to continue to this day.
The confused thinking behind the venture becomes apparent when in their promotion the RPS encourages its members with “Have you ever seen one of your images on the cover of a magazine? It offers such a buzz the first time it happens and it could happen to you!” Yet in an email to EPUK Bassett-Smith writes “In reality I would be surprised if any more than 2 – 3% of those who take part will have anything published”.
Worse still, members submitting images have to give a perpetual licence to the South West Tourist board to use the photographs in any way they choose, and to pass them on to any other bodies without even the promise of a credit.
The RPS had intended to supply its members work free of charge, replacing paid for use in high-profile areas including displays at motorway service areas, in-flight magazines, national newspapers, specialist magazines and trade shows, web sites both for consumers and commercial partners, as well as poster campaigns at railway stations and on trains.
South West Tourism is a ‘strategic partner’ of the South West Regional Development Agency tasked with promoting creative industries in the South West.
One RPS member summed it up: “You and like minded members of the VJ group obviously don’t see the link between promoting the ego trip for the few and undermining the profession. Possibly Shooting the Visual Journalism in the Foot will be the next VJ project”.
Another pointed out: “The project isn’t dead, rather the terms and conditions are being reviewed. Hopefully a sensible compromise can be reached.”
Indeed, it is not yet dead. But the opportunity to drive a stake through its heart is at hand. Fortuitously the VJ Group’s AGM is less than two week’s away:
Royal Photographic Society Visual Journalism Group AGM and Social
Date: 17th August 2010
Time: 6:30PM – 9:30PM
Contact: Malcolm Bassett-Smith
Phone: 0752 598 4444
Location: Civil Service Club, 13-15 Gt Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ
Group: Visual Journalism
© 2010 David Hoffman and Andrew Wiard
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