The Conundrum of Doing Nothing

This was forwarded to me from a friend. It was written by DC-based freelance photographer, John Harrington. It is a must read for all freelance artists, illustrators and photographers.

Today I was out on assignment photographing Arlo Guthrie. It was among the assignments this week that I was most looking forward to, hopeful that he'd sing Alice's Restaurant. Alas, he did not, but he did posit a thought to the corollary: "The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you're finished."

Gutherie said: "The art of doing nothin' is probably one of the most profitable things you can do, because it sets you up to be doing something."

This then begs the question - What should you be doing? Well, the right thing, of course. What exactly is the right thing?

Well, in the abstract, when you justify taking an assignment for fees that are too low, or an excessive rights grab, with the sentence "well, it's better than doing nothin'", that should be a sign to you that Arlo's thinking should be kicking in.

If your justification for taking an assignment worth $1,000 and doing it for $200 because the client has said, "$200, non-negotiable, take it or leave it", and you said to yourself "$200 is better than making nuthin' tomorrow" then you might need to be thinking like Arlo.

If your justification for taking an assignment and being paid $400 but having to transfer copyright is because "$400 for images that have little resale value anyway is better than not making the $400", then you might need to be thinking like Arlo.

Arlo was talking profitability by "doing nothing." At first blush, it seems contradictory.

Yet, upon further reflection, it's not. Instead, free yourself up on that day to seek out a better paying clientele base, and one that does not demand an excessive rights package. These clients are the ones who respect you and your work, and thus, your constitutionally guaranteed right to control the rights to your work.

One of the more unpleasant conversations I had today was with a client for an assignment tomorrow, who, after his subordinate signed my contract with a rights-managed rights package, called saying "I just want to make sure we own all the rights to these photos", to which I had to explain that that wasn't the case, and that, outlined in the contract was a rights package that, for the press conference we were covering, was all the common rights needed and that we grant as a part of our standard package. Further, we weren't granting rights to him which we did not have (i.e. those that require model releases when people attending have not signed model releases, and thus, cannot appear in marketing materials). I noted to him that I couldn't convey to him "all rights", since "all rights" includes the right to use the photos in ads and brochures and so forth, and I'd be charging a fee of him for something I didn't possess.

He then said, "We just have a fundamental difference about how to approach this." And I said, "Well, mine is a perspective based upon copyright law and rights granted under the Constitution. Are you suggesting that if an artist produces a song and earns money off the CD, that they then shouldn't be paid additionally when their music is used in a movie or a commercial?" And he said, "Well, that's different." I said, "No, actually, it's the same copyright principle."

We are doing this assignment tomorrow, not because the client is happy with the terms, but because they signed a contract with a standard rights package and then, after the fact, just a few (business) hours before the event was to start, thought they would try to renegotiate the terms of the agreement - to terms which we cannot convey, and which we principally objected to. Thus, the power of the signed contract.

Today, Arlo didn't play Alice's Restaurant, which is all right by me, since what he did play was incredible in it's own right. At first, I thought I'd be disappointed that he didn't, but afterwards, and upon reflection, I was exceedingly pleased with what he did play. So too, will tomorrow's client be pleased with the work we produce for them, even if they don't get every right under the sun, they will get quality work from a professional photographer, who is "doing something" profitable tomorrow.


If anyone knows Italian, please hook a sista up and let me know what they're saying here! The Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, features their editors' favorite photographers from around the world every week. Check it out! Click on the image to view the gallery. Ciao ciao!

Get it. Get it!

Got it! My recent indulgent and impulsive buying rampage of new art has landed me another piece from 20x200. This time by Los Angeles artist Aili SchmeltzDear Santa: I only want white hardwood frames with UV glazing for Chrismahannakwanza this year. (and maybe a new pony!)


My friend (and trusty assistant) Mark introduced me to the fantastic online gallery 20X200. They have a great concept: introduce two new pieces a week; one photo and one work on paper. Each is available in three sizes. The smallest (8x10) is sold in editions of 200, medium sized in editions of 20 and largest sized in editions of 2. A great idea that allows access to limited, hand signed editions for a great price. And, it supports emerging artists from around the country.
This week, I snapped up Unleaded, Unleaded, Premium Unleaded by Eric Graham, a Brooklyn-based artist. I'm excited for its arrival and eager to see what's in store next week!

The Bandit

My burf-day was last week. Another year closer to yelling at the rugrats to get off my lawn (with a furrowed brow and waving my sleek aluminum walker with two tennis balls for gliders). I received one of these Bandits from my friend Emily.Such a simple concept that I couldn't wait to stick a photo in it. Currently, its an image of Sammy the Squirrel from Design Is Kinky. Whats next? The lovely Dolly Parton.

Looking back...moving forward

This year has been awesome so far. The last two months seem like they're going to rock too! New clients, our holiday party, friends flying in from everywhere, new test shoots, and yes, MORE SNOWBIRDS!!!
So as it gets closer to the end of the year, I'm beginning to dust some of the shelves of our server. One of my favorite producers (you know who you are) always pokes fun at me for being such a hyperactive, over-organized, OCD, funny, tech-savvy photographer. These are from a whirlwind of a shoot for a fantastic client. 15 models, over 2 dozen setups, a simple theme, a cohesive color palette, and a blizzard in the middle of February.I cannot wait for what 2008 is going to have in store. If you're a regular here on my blog, you'll be along for the ride!