Sucking the Marrow out of Dead Man’s Bones

Well, it used to be that you could tell the spring by the condom ads which came plastered on the ad stands in Helsinki…

Nowadays, you can tell it is the holiday season when the publishers start sending their “we want everything: past, present and the future – and we will not pay for it. Take it or leave it. You have 48 hours”  – deals/threats in your email.

To be fair:  technically, the latest case was I guess 72 hours, as the Sanoma News started mailing their “agreements” around 3 pm on Friday and gave all the way to Tuesday to think about  or “we would not call you anymore”.  So compared to what Aller did last summer, this was kind of very civilized and good manners.

Well, everything is relative.

This “terms of agreement” is three pages of legal mumbo-jambo. On the other hand, it is very clear and straight forward – if you are a lawyer.

But as it is addressed to photographers they should have written it in plain Finnish. Kind of nicer to sign when you understand what you are signing…? And to make things a bit more challenging, e.g. HS was distributing different versions of this deal to its freelancers – so the poor souls would be totally lost.

Anyway: the core of this “agreement” – damn, I have hard time calling it  that as it looks more like a threat letter to me  – in plain English this time is:

“We we take the rights of first publication – as well as exclusive  publishing rights, including all the financial rights now  and in the future, including the right to alter, change and distribute your work”

Maybe that’s still too complicated? Maybe I translated it incorrectly?

So, in laymans terms:

“You want to work for us, you sign this. Otherwise it is a no go.   After that, we own your shit. We can do whatever we want to do with it – now or in the future. We can publish it – or hide it so nobody can see it. We can sell it. We can put it on an iPad. We can make books with it. Whatever we come up with to make profit with it.
Most important: we don’t owe you a dime. “

Should You Sign?

Well, depends on you. If you have all your eggs in one basket (i.e. your only client is making you this irresistible offer or something like it….),  then you are basically screwed. They know that there are hundreds of students who want to work for them (2000 “media professionals” graduate every year in this country) so it’s no real threat to them if you do not sign. In Finnish it’s called “management by oven-takana-on-kyllä-tulijoita”.

BTW: kinda stupid to let all your eggs in that one basket, don’t you think? If you’ve made that mistake once, are you going to do it now again?

You might get couple of euros doing this for the next couple of years. You  will also earn the scorn of all your colleagues, you will never amount to anybody or anything worth mentioning as a photographer, because basically: you will be shoveling bulk. You are treated that way, you are paid that way.

And you get the extra bonus that you might have  hard time seeing yourself in the eye in the mirror.

If you’ve read my blog before you know how I feel about our legacy print. That much sooner than you think it will not be with us in its present form. It’s moving to other platforms…very, very fast – and these will become primary platforms. Very, very soon.

Pause. Think about it. I’m dead serious about this.

These are platforms on which you are about to sign all your work now to be used freely. No, I correct that: it won’t be used freely. It will be sold and traded – it’s just that you don’t get any of that.

Another  BTW: do you think you will be among the ones creating high quality visual journalism needed for these platforms when the time comes and for doing that, are you getting yourself the necessary skill sets?

Or are you just too busy shoveling the bulk… which will be less paid in the future as the margins get thinner?

Journalism?

Understandably, this has nothing to do with journalism, let alone visual journalism. This is business. This is getting the maximum revenue for the euro spent for the shareholders. With circulation levels dropping and the advertizing moving to the web, the legacy print is still making considerable profit presently and for some years to come. Ge’ez, I wonder how? Doesn’t take that much skill in math to figure this one out…

The Print says that this is just a precaution for the future as they don’t know what the future entails. Well, yes and no.

Yes: they don’t know what the future will be – exactly. But they have a pretty good hunch: it will be on multiple platforms, most notably on touch screens. It will travel over geographic borders. It’ll be visually driven. On 2015 it is estimated there will be c. 15 billion mobile devices hooked to the net – all able to see your content. Oh sorry, not yours anymore.

“Precaution?”. Oh that’s total bullshit. They know the publishing rights for these platforms  are a valuable commodity. Why do you think otherwise this – should I call it aggressive – “we take it  and you just shut the f*** up” – attitude?  Why the hurry? Because it is valuable, that’s why. Get it before nobody else does or before the people producing it realize it.

In a way it is scary that presently in this country the content of visual journalism is decided by guys wearing suits hacking together legal documents – which leads into a selection of individuals they manage to scare into signing their agreements – and  not by editors nor editors-in-chief having some kind of vision of what journalism should be and how it should be practiced.

But maybe that’s just me seeing trouble where it does not really exist…?

Conclusion

Let me be honest here. You might have heard me saying this before – then again, you might have not. So I say it again: I write to challenge my own assumptions. Not to attack anybody, not to ridicule anybody either. I hope we are clear on this? I am sort of thinking aloud,  that’s it. No other agenda.

Also, I don’t want to be a besserwisser of any kind. I hear already the murmur of somebody saying “well, easy for you to say, because you don’t have to sign…” True (as I practically do not work for e.g. Sanoma News).  But if Sanoma News has their way in this, everybody will be faced with this dilemma. And I say what I’ve said before: eventually, the death of quality journalism is just collateral damage.

Also, I am literally appalled by the fact that there is so little reaction from the professional ranks of our journalists, meaning staffers. Is it still the old school division into “real people” and  “those freelancers”?That these freelancers are seen as a compulsory nuisance – as you cannot hire “real photographers” – and they are thus treated like a chewing gum: chewed, chewed, chewed and spit away?

Or is it just the times we are living – meaning “me, myself and I – and screw the rest”. Alienation from  all things human and civilized, let alone common courtesy?

I simply do not know.

Let me conclude with the words of a friend, a former student of mine, now a colleague and good photographer who said the other day:

“I honestly wonder on which century did these people get their education, if they  assume that the best business strategy is to get rid of all the best, most seasoned talent producing quality journalism. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all media has”.

I wonder it too.

27 Comments

  1. hopper stone
    June 6, 2011

    O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
    The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
    The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
    While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
    But O heart! heart! heart! 5
    O the bleeding drops of red,
    Where on the deck my Captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.

    2

    O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
    Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; 10
    For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
    For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
    Here Captain! dear father!
    This arm beneath your head;
    It is some dream that on the deck, 15
    You’ve fallen cold and dead.

    3

    My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
    My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
    The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
    From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
    Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
    But I, with mournful tread,
    Walk the deck my Captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.

    In other words, the good old days are just that: Good and old. That’s why just clicking the shutter is now way to make a living. It’s innovate or die.

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      June 6, 2011

      Exactly Peter –

      There is no going back. One has to see the big picture. Click away, shovel the bulk…. and practise the “would you like to have fries with that?” -phrase – if that’s what you want, if that’s all you think you’re capable of.
      Or innovate… I could not agree with thou more…

      Let me quote Leonard Sweet, a culture historian (thank you Terry for this):

      “Postmodernism is a change-or-be-changed world. The word is out: Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die! Some would rather die than change.”

      I did not know you were Whitman fan…

      Reply
  2. Jukka P.
    June 7, 2011

    Wow.

    What else can one say?

    Reply
  3. Primoz Jeroncic
    June 7, 2011

    I’m not sure now, but I think I wrote this once in comment to one of your posts already. Welcome to the club :(
    I don’t know how this contract looks like in real (I have deal just with Lehtikuva and I didn’t get anything like this from them for now, so for now it’s fine for me) but based on this what you wrote, this looks pretty much same, as normal practice down here on south of Europe looks for quite some time. They pay you (badly) for one time use, and they keep rights forever. After your photo is published for first time (and you get those few euros), and if you are lucky credits are even written right that time, your photo (which you sold for ONETIME USE only) goes to their archive, and they can use it for whatever they want, wherever they want and whenever they want… and you don’t get anything… not even byline (normally byline goes: Photo archive NewspaperXY). Not that byline would matter anyway. So we don’t have contract like you wrote about, but it’s still considered like we would have it.
    Only difference is, that for us down here, this is cruel reality for long time, for you it’s just starting to be. Your market is/was at least kinda decent until now, our was screwed up for long time. And based on latest happenings up north, you are unfortunately slowly coming to this pot of shit we are in for ages. I was still somehow hoping it’s just us, and rest of you guys are having things arranged decent way, but obviously it’s global. And worse thing is, that there’s nothing much we can do about it. Sure we don’t need to sign this, but there’s 1000s of other behind who will take any kind of “deal” (even if it’s just work for byline) in second. And people in power know that…

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      June 7, 2011

      Hi Primoz –
      a quick answer ( I have to run the kids to day care…): I hear you, but there are couple of things worth noting.

      We live in a different kind of culture as a whole and you have to see in context. I.e. in Italy if there is – say – corruption on all the levels and it is no news (if there wasn’t, that’d be news… ;-) ) but Finland is different. The societies behave and are organized differently.

      Put in another words: if one (business) culture sucks / behaves immorally, it is no justification for the same business in another country to do the same thing. “You cannot separate action from social context” (that’s some law in sociology, forget how it is called… ,-) )

      But e.g. in UK there is strong culture of single publication only and unlimited international rights are 750% (yes, you read correctly) more. And there are photographers who manage to live by these terms.

      Purely morally / theoretically: I see there should be some sort of compensation for the person who does the work when that work proves successful /lucrative. Percentage, whatever…? Now the “corporation” has no risk (as it did not pay properly for the use in the first place) but it keeps 100% of the profits if it proves lucrative.

      Sure: if I were simply in the busines of making money, I’d say that’s brilliant. I just happen to love photography and journalism – and try to advocate that people should be treated with some sort or respect.

      Presently in Finland, this is blackmailing, pure and simple.

      Reply
      • Primoz Jeroncic
        June 7, 2011

        Kari I totally agree. I didn’t mean to say “well bad luck it’s like this everywhere so accept it as normal”. I still think it shouldn’t be “normal”, even if I understand logic behind this. It’s as Andrea wrote… too many people who give photos away for free, so publishers can do whatever they want, since they know they will still get some sort of photos either way.
        My point was, that unfortunately you are slowly but surely sliding to this Balkan way of doing business too. We had this crap for ages, you are slowly getting it now. But even if we had it for ages, I still don’t agree with it. I agree different culture makes it sound different, but either way it’s not right way to go.
        Problem is, that I don’t see any way to fight against it. Sure you can find clients out of your country, but considering just this what you wrote (different cultures) it’s going to be extremely hard for you guys from up north. You have much higher standards (moral or ethics standards that is) then more or less any other place in Europe. So where ever you go, it’s going to be just worse. For me it’s easier… Everywhere I go it’s going to be better then it’s here, and that’s difference. And I’m not talking about quality of work or anything like this, but purely about moral aspect.

        Reply
        • kkuukka
          June 7, 2011

          Primoz – no offence taken at all.

          Let me try to illustrate with a personal tale, I hope you see the connection:

          My former girlfriend said (like 30 years ago) – she was from venezuela – when we sat into the car and I asked her to buckle up “Äh, nobody wears seat-belts in Venezuela, because there are so many accidents”. Sounds like it makes total sense – but it doesn’t.

          I understand what’s going on, I really do. You’ve read me a lot so you know how I feel about this and that I’ve spent several years now getting into this, i.e. the transtition our media is going thru.

          It’s written all over and it’s global. But it does not mean I accept it or approve. I can discuss it with people – and as a professinal – try to awaiken general interest as to what is happening.

          After that I am faced with two options: either shut up (and try to make myself into a ferrari with a market) – or start doing something else.

          Reply
  4. Andrea joki
    June 7, 2011

    Although I deplore the current state of the industry for most professional photographers in Finland, I do disagree with a lot of the assumptions you’ve made. I think you’ve blindfolded yourself and are throwing darts blindly, hoping to hit a target.

    For one, the new contracts you are seeing are NOT being driven by the lawyers. Rather, they are a result of the Ewac (in Finland) and Mwac/Dwac (in America) revolution (EWAC=Engineer With A Camera. M/Dwac = Mom/Dad With a Camera). How many hobbyist ‘weekend warrior’ Nokia engineers are giving away professional quality photography for free or pennies? The hobbyists are quite happy to just see their work in print and don’t require remuneration for the service. If someone offers you high quality services for free, wouldn’t you be a fool keep paying for it elsewhere? It’s no use blaming a corporation like the newspapers for making economically sound decisions; rather, the ‘fault’ lies at the feet of those who don’t value their own work and give it away for free.

    Saying that this is blackmailing is more than a bit melodramatic. E.g., just because I only want to pay 20e for a Ferrari, it doesn’t mean the Ferrari dealership is blackmailing me by refusing to sell it for less than 150,000e. Real or perceived value is everything and the advent of the digital age and the digital photography revolution has devalued the industry as a whole. Is what you do still worth top dollar when so many others can do it as well – and are happy to do it for free?

    If anything, I think the only response to the contracts that you see is to find a niche and do it so well that it is not replicable by the masses of EWACs. E.g., as with the Craftsman revolt in response to the industrial revolution at the turn of the century, perhaps a return to the look and feel of film coupled with a unique vision and voice is the way to go.

    Which leads to the other assumption I feel you’ve incorrectly made: your work is NOT art. It is a commodity. As such, it is susceptible to market conditions including gluts. Decent quality photography is not hard to obtain and the current valuation of it by newspapers (as seen by your contract) reflects that. In order to survive the current market, you have to become a brand and not a product. Are you a car or are you a Ferrari? The change has to come from you – the newspapers and other corporations are reacting to the changed environment of the EWAC revolution and now so must you. What makes your work so unique that a company will seek you out at top euro?

    If you really want to rail against the current contract state, go talk to your friends. THEY are the problem, not the lawyers. Tell them to stop devaluing your work by giving away decent quality photographer for free (or pennies on the dollar). Write blog rants about them since they are the pathway that is driving the current state of our industry. And then really look hard at your own work and ask yourself what is unique about it that a corporate entity cannot get elsewhere. Therein lies the true rant/solution to current contract state.

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      June 7, 2011

      Andrea –

      thanks for commenting. Yes, I am totally aware of the ewac/mwac/dwac phenomenon… but I disagree on one thing: it’s not journalism. Sure, anybody can snap a good picture. With digital cameras, getting ok picture, good enough for publishing… that’s nothing, really. Does it tell a story? Does it present it accurately? What are the motivations of the person snapping it? Getting his/her favorite player into the frame, even though they had nothing to do with the result of the game (sorry for using sports examples, but this is what I do for a living) Maybe the motivation is getting the background banners into the frame as well – because the organizer of the event will garantee you season ticket for the coming season? I’ve been asked so many times to include an element into a frame because it makes good advertizing… each time I’ve said no. Because I am professional journalist.

      IF you consider that an image is there only to illustrate a story, so it would be foolish from the publishers part not to use the cheapest option. If they can get 4×6 inch accurately exposed frame of something happening for 10% of the expenses – they’d be idiots not to buy it. Simple numbers: 90% accurate for 10% of costs? No question.

      This is in the short run. In the long run, what does it do to their brand? Do people come back to the publications using imagery which is yeah, ok… Or do the go to the publication which they know always will provide them with the best possible stuff and visiting experience?

      Doing mediocre or ok is nothing nowadays when it comes to photography – doing excellent work people will want to come back to is harder than ever.

      Another example: It’s like everybody can write (well, practically everybody), right? Does it make it journalism? If so, why isn’t HS et al. copy pasted with political analysis written by aides of Mr. Katainen, Mr. Soini, Mrs. Urpilainen, etc.? Why the hell use journalists to write it? Because for sure they could get it cheap…. and it would be probably be correctly spelled and all. Maybe there would be something questionable in this, however?

      To summarize: do you consider good photography to have any journalistic value and thus needing integrity – or is it just a nasty bump on the road of making shareholders more profit?

      The melodrama bit? Again, I agree, intended. We have about 2000 “media professionals” graduating each year. Out of that c. 200 maybe get some kind of media related job. That totals 18 000 people over the past 10 years without a job in their chosen field. Naturally publishers are aware of this. So either directly or indirectly, they let you know that you either you do as they tell, or they have no trouble finding somebody who will. And they are absolutely right.

      There was a conference couple of months back entitled “How to buy effectively from the freelance market”, attended naturally by people from Sanoma News. Common concensus was that that “it was buyers market and the most valuable asset a photographer can bring is a car”.

      Silence. Seriously? These people do journalism?

      As to my work being ART and finding your own niche? No, I don’t make that assumption. I’m pretty good in what I do (sports photography) – wow, a finn is not supposed to say anything like this ;-) – or put it this way: I can hold my own. But no,I don’t call it art.

      Niche? Well, you are maybe not familiar with my work – and why should you. But I want to see the one who says it’s not different and I am not creating my own niche? Sorry I might sound arrogant here, but now you haven’t done your homework ;-)

      Let me try to simplify what I am saying:

      Sanoma News (etc.) is not doing anything illegal. The problem is not the businessmen/lawyers as you point out. They are simply trying to maximize the profit for their shareholders. That’s what they are hired to do. Actually, this is what they should be doing.

      Does it serve the purpose of journalism – at the time when we are facing the biggest structural change since the Guttenberg press? Keeping people objectively informed? Serving them news everybody should know or news which are popular (so that they can show the maximum number of clicks) along with imagery where the sole journalistic criteria is ” it has to be cheap”?

      Do we care about this? And what are the effects beoynd the immediate short term?

      It’s more a question of moral. Deliberately using ewacs etc.and the over-saturated workforce market to dictate: these are the rules we play with, take it or leave it. Knowing full well they get enough people to sign. Treating people like shit, basically… just because they can.

      What happened to hiring people in our society? By not hiring, refusing to deal with any union representatives, forcing people to incorporate themselves in order to work… and then abusing this situation to their best ability? Maybe I’m naive, but I find something objectionable in that.

      About talking to your friends; well, that’s what I am doing here in this blog. I find it very sad that lots of these people are depressed because they see no other alternative. Eventually they will sign (ewacs etc. are not going away with this, btw) and thus their fees will be further cut, cut, cut… By people they call or used to call their friends.

      Forgive me if I sound like I am ranting. Not my intention. No, I try to think aloud. Present other options: either verbally or by example of doing it. That there are other choices. That there actually might be life outside one corporation. That maybe instead of focusing on “how do I get the best deal now” one should focus on where are we in 5 to 10 years time? What are the skills needed then? Do you have them? How do you develop them?

      Let me one more time thank you – honestly there are lots of food for thought in your post. I reread it now and only now realized you were using a metaphor I myself use all the time: are you a ferrari or a car? Solution is to be the ferrari, I definitely agree on that.

      Reply
  5. Antti Haataja
    June 7, 2011

    My highest appreciation for standing up when the sh*t flies around. Respect! Such behaviour by media houses is strange in my books, since it is against all the good practices that I was taught in the School of Economics. My interpetation is that they are super scared about their future income and try to avoid facing the mirror themselves. I am pretty confident that this kind of behaviour won’t fly very far and they have to turn back to producing quality instead of quantity. After all we won’t drown into the media sea of quality but quantity in the future.

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      June 7, 2011

      Thank you Antti for your supportive words –
      You actually touch on something very important in your last sentence. No we do not have a problem of getting pictures, or getting stories, or getting videos in the future. We sure as hell don’t need Sanoma News or anybody to provide us with any. There are plenty around, as the digital knows no borders.
      But: I would love to have one place I can look – and traditionally it has been HS in our country – look and rest assured that this is the most essential I have to know and see to make informed decisions as a citizen (well, that’s a bit grandiose, but you get my drift.. ;-)) .
      To have faith that this product is as good as it can be – and then I’d be willing to pay for it. My philosophy as a user would be “time is valuable – if you can guarantee me the best there is in one website/iPad app I can trust, I’ll buy it. WIth money.”

      Presently, there is no such place in Finland. One you could trust and connect – feel that as an intelligent reader you are respected. No, you see thru it – at least I do as a media professional: “this is done because it collects clicks, this is done because they did not bother to send photographer there, this is taken with a cell phone by a reader, this is Getty bulk, etc…”

      I would welcome nothing more gladly than e.g. HS taking this role. Or anybody. Somebody should. Quaranteed quality. That’s actually another name for a succesful brandname in the longterm.

      But: the status quo is just making maximum profit with minimun overhead.

      Reply
  6. Valentin
    June 10, 2011

    This is heavy stuff! Robert Capa fight for the photographers copyrights etc…. but now we are in 2011… still the same battle??

    I’m 25 years in the adv/publish-business and I still have a hugh respect for the pro-photographers/journalists who kicks their a*** off for their work. But when you argumented in your first blog episode, is a great discussion… and I would to see/read more pro-photographers-replies….!!
    But I think the pro’s are looking “the pussycat out of the tree” (haha= belgian saying) and again they are waiting for replies/actions… I suppose…but I should say: keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      June 10, 2011

      Me too!!!

      I don’t know what the F*** is wrong with this Finnish culture? Is it the language? Kyllä hemmetti suomeksikin voi kommentoida – ja olisi ihan kivakin. But by not commenting people make it look like nobody gives a shit.

      Then, on the otherhand: this is a blog written by one seriously disturbed photographer who just loves what he does….

      Yet; this particular post has been read something like 1500 times; I see the incoming links, it is referred to quite widely. That’s more than your average sports story gets in HS web edition… Maybe I’m naive, but there could be lot of potential of voicing your thoughts here… trust me, they get read.
      I think this is first time anybody mentioned Robert Capa in this connection or in my blog in general. As it’s a friday night, I drink a toast to that.

      Thanks for commenting.

      K

      Reply
  7. Juhapekka Tukiainen
    June 11, 2011

    I have co-ranted on your blog so many times that this time I try to make it short : )

    My basic rule in life is: after seeing the big picture and getting all depressed about it, the only way forward is to see an even bigger picture.

    The big pic today is that media business is being run by technocrats. Like, say, Nokia. So the bigger picture is easy to see: Apple.

    You don’t create Apple products by hiring people who work for the least possible amount of money. Apple knows that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

    Nokia and Sanoma have not realized this yet, so we live in a period of transition. How to survive transitions? By getting ready for the next phase.

    Short enough?

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      June 11, 2011

      It’s short. It’s good (actually very good…). If you don’t mind, I might use your sentence as a headline one of these days.

      If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

      Been missing your voice. Good to see you again.
      ps. dead tired… I write properly one of these days.

      k

      Reply
    • sikaheimo
      June 14, 2011

      That Nokia vs. Apple comparison reminded me of another big firm.. Google.

      Google is known as an employer who pays well and offers a lot of benefits for its employees. Also Google brings all kind of new services to internet and Android, all the time. Be it Maps, Docs, Translate, News.. They even own Youtube. They really seem to be an innovative firm.

      Also their employees are able to do their own stuff too, actually, they’re told to have own projects! Google pays for them, to use, what, 1/5th of their working hours on own projects! That’s really something I’d happily see here in Finland, but with the tactics used by the big corporations, tactics driven by quick profit and not journalism, it’s really hard to believe seeing Google-like work atmosphere here. Sadly.

      Reply
      • kkuukka
        June 14, 2011

        You are absolutely right. As is JP above. Right to the point.

        Take Sanomat for instance. 2, 8 billion turnover. Circulation dropping, advertizing going to the net… Profit? Double from from 2009 to 2010. Literally double: from 195,4 million to 392,7 million.
        To be paid as dividence.

        How do you do that:? By cutting costs. Less staff (1300 drop from 2009 to 2010). In editorial work it means freelancers with bloodsucking deals. “Who gives a shit, they are freelancers and we dominate the market.”

        R&D? “Oh screw that, it costs money”. Journalism? “Same thing… ”

        “We want profit and we want it now”.

        It’s sickening how some people can be so shortsighted.

        Reply
  8. Ike Chime
    June 18, 2011

    Quite an interesting write up. Point is that this is not just a print journalism problem, it rears its head in every aspect of freelancing in Finland, be it in the arts, music, culture etall. They want to suck up all you have for free and keep the rights to use them in the future. The sad thing is that they always succeed in finding budding victims.

    Reply
  9. huima
    June 20, 2011

    Quality and style do require talent to produce – but even a hobbyist or a consumer understands quality when they see it — even though they might not be able to say how and why something is good. I am just a hobbyist and stumble upon every now and then to think that I have got talent to take good photographs, but it does not require more than a quick look at Kari’s blog or see truly talented photographers’ feeds in Flickr to set me back in my place and keep my dayjob.

    Unfortunately those who drive and control media by thinking that consumers of media do not understand and value quality over the vast quantities of mediocre bulk imaginary and data available in the world, do a long term harakiri for their own brands as they dilute the value of quality editorial process and journalistic integrity – which are the main functions at least I pay the media to do.

    Free and almost free content is available all around the world as competition gets fierce and consumer journalism grows stronger through blogs and vlogs. It is a tough spot for traditional media with tight cost structure to be, especially if they do not trust that true quality is what sets one apart from one another. If they have surrendered the game already and are just trying to fill in the pages…. then what can you do, except cut down the subscription to those medias.

    It is a pleasure to read your thoughts and comments on this blog – and the sad state of the world of freelance photography and journalism.

    Reply
  10. hopper stone
    July 4, 2011

    Just another 2 cents here: Kari, you manage to tie changing market conditions in with your bemoaning of the decline of Finnish society. You claim that just because the rest of the world (you used Italy as an example) does this that Finland should not follow suit. All I can say is that I remember too a more innocent day when I was a university student who thought the world should be a better place and that everybody should be nice to each other. The key phrase has been used in many posts: Media Business. It’s a business. As freelancers, we run our own businesses. The large media companies run their businesses. The world of digital media has torn down a lot of borders and fuzzied the line between cultures. While we may bemoan the societal effects, it is only natural that the phenomena travel across borders. And you think Finnish society is going downhill? Try living in my neck of the woods. It’s not for the faint of heart.
    Yes, the good old days are gone when a shooter could just be good and not have to learn anything new. You and I have the advantage of years of experience and the kids have the advantage of “new” technology being not so new to them. Personally, I prefer our place in the world. We must be Ferraris…and once we become a Ferrari, we have to become a better Ferrari.
    All that being said…the Sanoma contract sucks donkey balls. Then again…so do the contracts of every other large media conglomerate out there. Pretty soon the world will run out of donkey balls and perhaps quality will matter again. Meanwhile…vroom vroom baby.

    Reply
  11. adam
    July 5, 2011

    Your photography not art?!??! WTF?

    Flick through the Helsinki Sanomat or Ilta Sanomat. Those shitty straight fill-in flash photos of a nobody to accompany a ‘news’ story… they are not art. That I agree. They’re just bad illustrations. But check out any good photo… in fact, look back through a pile of LIFE magazines. That’s still ‘just’ photojournalism. That’s ‘only’ sports photography. But it’s also sure as hell art.

    There’s always those photos that have enough education and awareness to stand on their own. They know their terms, they know who they’re tipping their hat to, they know how to induce certain ideas in the viewer… And visually they just work. (I’m sure none of you need that idea explaning to you. And, if you do, then you’ll probably never get it anyway… hmmm… there’s a few photo editors I can think of in that category).

    Of course it’s art…. and often one with more to say than a lot of the other stuff masquerading as high culture.

    Then there’s also a truth that some ‘nobody’ who has never worked a camera before can pick one up and make the best press photo of the year. FACT. Luck? Yes. 100%. But it could still be the best photo of the year – or the decade. (Isn’t this a great fact about photography)!??!

    I saw a show once made with disposable cameras given to homeless people. Maybe 60% never returned… but of those that did, one photo still sticks with me. (This was probably 1996 that I saw the show). It was better than Nan Goldin, better than Corrine Day, better than all those heroine chic, Dazed and Confused images.

    That person would probably never pick up a camera again – maybe they didn’t even live through that winter. But that image was amazing. I find that element of photography exciting..

    Reply
  12. adam
    July 5, 2011

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/04/shutter-happy-monkey-photographer

    Ha ha… just found this… so, as I was saying… ;)

    Reply
  13. adam
    July 25, 2011

    From a review of ‘The Photographers Eye’…

    “Szarkowski was not a great photographer but he was a renowned curator, and this book reflects the content of an exhibition which was a genuine watershed in the history of photography. I didn’t realise until I had had it for a while just how seminal both it and the exhibition were, but put simply, Szarkowski consolidated the view that photography is a democratic medium that does not rely on the efforts of the best. A great picture can come from anywhere and many of the pictures in this collection are from unknown photographers. Pictures speak for themselves and an accidentally brilliant picture can have as resonant a voice as one taken by a Cartier-Bresson, an Atget, a Brandt or anyone else. True, these great photographers made a habit of systematically tuning their perception to capture the “decisive moment”, or the composition that told a story in a single image; but that did not give them, their forbears or their successors a monopoly of pictorial virtue. This is a lovely collection, briefly and brilliantly annotated. I would say that anyone who seriously wants to study the history of photography should own this book. And anyone who loves intriguing pictures too.”

    Reply
  14. hopper stone
    September 8, 2011

    OK, you think that Sanoma is trying to screw you? Here’s the latest contract from Life.com (owned by Time Inc).
    Get ready:
    SYW PHOTOGRAPHY USE AGREEMENT
    September 8, 2011
    Name of Photographer:
    Address of Photographer:
    Description of Photographs:
    Dear
    This will confirm the agreement (the “Agreement”) between you (“you” or “Photographer”) and See Your World LLC (“SYW”), operator of http://www.life.com, for use of the photographs described above (the “Photographs”).
    1. No Compensation. SYW will not pay any fees, expenses or royalties of any kind in connection with the rights granted under this Agreement including Section 2 below.

    2. Rights. (a) For consideration which you hereby acknowledge, you grant to SYW (i) the right to use the Photographs in Digital Works, as defined below; (ii) right to reproduce a published spread or webpage from any Digital Works including the Photograph in its entirety for any purpose in any media now known or hereafter invented; (iii) the right to use the Photographs in LIFE-branded film and television programming; and (iv) the right to use the Photographs, in any media now known or hereafter invented, to advertise or promote SYW and the uses permitted in clauses (i) through (iii) above. All such rights shall be perpetual, transferable and worldwide for the term of the agreement (see Section 9).
    (b) “Digital Works” is defined as: digital works, including without limitation all websites (e.g., http://www.life.com) or areas on third party websites; links or touts directing users to such websites or areas; mobile applications and services; on demand print; and any other English and foreign language materials distributed, displayed or otherwise communicated through any media and devices, whether analog or digital, whether by electronic, magnetic, digital, laser, optical, wireline, wireless, cable modem or satellite-based means, and through any and all current and future protocols or networks.
    3. Rights Of Photographer. The copyright and all other rights in and to the Photographs other than those conveyed in this Agreement shall belong to you.

    4. Archival Copies of Photographs. SYW may retain digital images of the Photographs to (i) use them as authorized under this Agreement; and (ii) for internal viewing of the Photographs by SYW and its affiliates. SYW shall have no liability for failure to return any physical images or materials provided by you.

    5. Representations and Warranties. You represent and warrant that the photographs will be wholly original material not published elsewhere (except for material in the public domain or used with permission of its owner), ]will not infringe any copyright, and the use thereof as permitted herein will not constitute defamation or invasion of the right of privacy or publicity, or infringement of any other right of any kind, of any third party. You indemnify and hold harmless SYW and such parties respective officers, agents, employees, affiliates, representatives and licenses from and against all claims, damages, liabilities, costs and expenses and cause of action arising out of any breach of any representation, warranty, covenant or agreement made by you herein, arising out of any claims of property or physical damage occurring on or in connection with any assignment, or arising out of your unauthorized acts or use of any materials furnished by you hereunder.

    6. Releases. You shall not agree to any restrictions limiting SYW’s rights to use the Photographs that may be requested by any persons pictured in the Photographs, any owners of any property pictured in the Photographs, by their agents or by others. You shall advise SYW of any such request.

    7. Term. The term of this agreement shall begin on the date this letter is signed by both you and SYW, and will continue indefinitely.

    8. Arbitration. We agree that any controversy or claim between us, whether or not arising out of this Agreement, shall be governed by New York State law and resolved by arbitration before a single arbitrator in New York City appointed by the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) and conducted in accordance with the AAA’s Commercial Arbitration Rules then in effect. The AAA rules on Expedited Procedures shall apply to any claim of less than $500,000.

    9. Entire Understanding. This Agreement represents the entire understanding of the parties regarding the subject matter hereof, supersedes any prior written or oral agreements between the parties relating to such subject matter and may not be modified in any way without the consent of both parties.

    If the foregoing accurately represents our entire agreement, please sign the enclosed copy of this letter and return it to me.
    Very truly yours,
    See Your World LLC
    By: _______________________

    ACCEPTED AND AGREED:
    ___________________________________
    Photographer – Signature

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      September 8, 2011

      Hopper –

      this has become a race of who makes the most daring rights grabbing agreement. The fact that life.com is screwing you makes it no more acceptable for the Sanomat – nor vice versa – to do the same. Simple: like you do a crime, it does not make my similar act less criminal.

      I’m just getting so tired of this… I mean, I really am. Starting to think that maybe I should have sticked to neuroscience. No, no worries, I will not sell myself to Hollywood… ;-).

      But: think about that documentary I’ve been blogging about (the Estonia one). If I had worked that time under Sanoma contract, the documentary would never have seen the light of day. Why? Because the producer would never have been able to pay the fees Sanomat would have imposed on the use of images – well understanding their value.

      IF for some reason, they would have had the budget to pay for MY images, Sanomat would have gotten all the revenue. If somebody had gotten offended by his/her image used in the movie, I would have been held responsible.

      Oh, and the multimedia: no, would never have seen the light of day. Sanomat would not have had the skill – or even more, they would have lacked the ambition to do that.

      Yes, my example is totally hypothetical… but just image our history books twenty years from now if this becomes the new modus operandi.

      And, I should add: you do know that I don’t believe e.g. HS will be around in its present form in twenty years time… I wonder who do they sell all the rights to the work before they go extinct?

      Shit, fuck, perkele – or what ever you say in Spanish, but we are living depressing times.

      Reply
  15. huima
    September 13, 2011

    Oh my god, just saw what the populist Virpi Salmi commented on the issue:

    http://www.hs.fi/juttusarja/salmi/artikkeli/Sytyt%C3%A4%20kynttil%C3%A4%20Reijolle/1135269304361?ref=fb-share

    Reply
  16. kkuukka
    September 13, 2011

    Herran jestas mitä paskaa maamme laatulehti sivuilleen työntää. Joo, joo, tajuan, tajuan… kolumni, tää on ironiaa/sarkasmia, räväkkää journalismia.

    Bullshit! Ei oo edes hauska. Puhutaan ihan oikeasti yhteiskunnallisesti tärkeästä aiheesta ja maamme suurin päivälehti työntää sivuilleen tuollaista sontaa. No, Pentikäinen varmasti taputtelee Virpiä pepulle ja sanoo, että hyvä tyttö, sulle lisää liksaa…

    Mutta; primitiivireaktiot sikseen. Suivainnuin tuosta sen verran, että yritin vähän googlettaa, missä päiväkodissa tämä kyseinen kirjoittaja on loppututkintonsa suorittanut. Ja törmäsin tähän. Terävää kirjoittamista. Oikeasti hyvää kirjoittamista. Blogi joka päätyi heti seurattujen listalleni.

    http://uusimusta.squarespace.com/etusivu/2011/3/30/virpi-ma-haluaisin-auttaa.html

    Reply

Leave a Reply