PDP – Worksheet 2 – Critical awareness of the current commercial contexts within photography and the significance of other practitioners and related disciplines (c2)

Personal Development Planning 2A

Criticial awareness of the current commercial contexts within photography and the significance of other practitioners and related disciplines (C2)


Following on from the lecture, as photographer working within the discipline of Landscape Photography, I have been asked to conduct research into this particular genre. The notion is to consider what is happening currently within the photography industry and additionally examining what is happening in the wider world. The aim is to look at how things may affect me as a photographer who is at the beginning of my career.

This could be anything from changes to the law (such as copyright) and how that affects me as a photographer, technological changes and how these may affect me within my specialism in particular and to the impact of wider financial issues.

Analysis of Considerations involving current debate: How this affects my work as a photographer, the legal position, solutions to resolve the issue, technological changes.

According to Dave Lee from the BBC News (April 2013) photographers are angered about a change in the law over so called ”orphan works’‘. This means that photography can be used without the owners explicit consent as long as a ”diligent search” has taken place and a scheme backed by the government is being developed he reports, to ensure that those who wish to find pictures online can do so quickly but can also find the correct contact details of the pictures owner. Additionally, for the first time, these orphan works as they are known can be licensed for commercial and non commercial use.

If the term ”orphan works” was altered, the legislation, could not be upheld. It is in the descriptive title that the problem lies. How could a work be considered to be ‘orphaned’, the notion is ridiculous. Someone has taken the photograph and what the government needs to get behind is that the companies who want these images need to actually prove they have a right to use them. It is the same as purchasing a car or completing any other legal transaction, you would not go to the garage and say hey that car is parked outside so it must be an orphan therefore I will pinch it. There are identifiable marks on any camera with an obvious serial number, a recording of data such as when the photograph was taken, what aperture was used and so on. It is theft and is therefore illegal to remove any data and claim it as your own. Large organisations with legal team behind them will work to manipulate the law so it is the law therefore and the greed of corporations that encourage illegal practice.

In clause 68 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which was first introduced in the House of Commons in May has been supported by Vince Cable and Lord Marland from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills states that the bill was written to get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy but the proposals sparked a worldwide protest, attracting criticism from rightful owners and photographers who fear that the provisions will make it legal to use images without authorisation. Litigation will no doubt ensue. This raises many questions. For example: What level of investigation is used to find the photographer in the first place? What is deemed as being a ”diligent search”?

To myself as a practicing photographer the law is clear so this will make me very wary in the future regarding sharing any images online, as, if they are not there then how can they be copied? I would produce an editorial portfolio like Joe Cornish to enable interested parties to view my Landscape Photography work via publication and limited edition prints or just allow my images to be put up in Alamy who ought to have a vested interest in protecting my copyright.

According to Olivier Laurent (25 January 2013 – British Journal of Photography) the controversial provisions of the bill were originally designed to eradicate unnecessary bureaucracy but in an unprecedented move 73 organisations and individuals have co signed a briefing letter to express their concerns to the changes in the UK copyright law. Copyright Hub have requested that they will find a new way to improve conditions for all concerned regarding copyright law. As a photographer I will be following this development with interest, however, I feel that with care I can avoid these issues simply because I excessively limit what I put online these days (except this blog!) which I have to complete for my studies, which could potentially question legal ownership.

Users of popular social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are at risk due to changes to copyright law in the UK that could allow others to exploit photos that they upload online. Adam Rendle who is an associate lawyer at Taylor Wessing states: ”Before the introduction of the act, the law was that any copyright work cannot be used without the authority of the copyright unless a defence applies. So, if there was a picture on Facebook or in Flickr that is then used in an advert for example, then that cannot happen without the owner of that photo saying yes or no. Rendle points out that you would have to satisfy the licence of the conditions proving that a diligent search had been undertaken by paying a reasonable rate. But who would that reasonable rate go to if the author could not be found? As the final submission of the act has not yet been revealed the details regarding what is considered to be a diligent search remains sketchy to say the least. If said diligent search didnt require much effort, publishers could use photographers images for promotional material on the basis of carrying out a simple Google search.

I believe that consumers of media sites such as Facebook and Google itself will claim copyright infringement for even having information stored. The Data Protection information act stipulates that information cannot be shared without consent or knowledge. So consumers and photographers can either choose not to share photographs or not put them there in the first place.

The UK Intellectual Property Office has issued a myth busting document about the effect on photographers with this newly introduced law according to the staff at DP Review (8 May 2013, for example). However the solution seems more appropriate for the UK government to assume copyright of the article on behalf of the unknown party. Fees should be charged and payable to the government at current commercial market value with no sub licensing allowed. This would ensure that if the owner could not be found then theft would not be possible either. A twenty year search say could then be undertaken to find the owner and if the owner could not be found then the money would go to the treasury (the same principle that is applied to inherit property).

This is not an ideal situation but it would appear that it would be workable as, in the absence of a painter for example who produced a work of art years before or a manuscript that cannot be really verified and no current family connections could be made then at least the government (and subsequently the tax payers) could benefit if the artist could not be found. I would therefore conclude that stripping metadata is an illegal process that should not be tolerated and that there be a body and legal rewording of documentation to suggest that orphaned work or otherwise not be permitted to protect the individual. This legal position is already set in practice when trying to trace owners of property in the UK and therefore an appropriate time limit needs to be agreed giving time for any claimants to copyright to be located.

I do not see that metadata is critical to ownership in the photo business or in any other creative industry. Records are kept on computers and laptops and receipts of ownership or even tools, photographic equipment and so on should be sufficient to prove a claim at least. The IPTC offer membership to embed data and define standards appropriate but I do not consider this to be necessary. If the image is yours it is yours and prove can be made in the ways I have suggested above.

What can you learn from this?

How could you compete if you were to open a business today?

My interests in research and development and the landscape photography of religious architecture will provide me with sufficient business acumen as it is a specialised area. I have identified that no other photographer works in this field currently on a permanent basis. As I  have established links with church organisations I intend to fund my work through editorial practice assisting these organisations with documenting their artefacts and period properties on an individual and collective basis and I will continue to investigate working as a curator andprofessional artist and photographer. To this extent I am currently gathering information regarding funding through the application to funding bodies such as the Arts Council from a research and development and visual perspective.

I am additionally evaluating and updating my business plan with a projected overview plan for the next five years, from that moment I will continue to document and research the history of the church from a visual and developmental perspective but will be working part time as I will be semi retiring.

My current research/photography proposals are working towards producing a body of work (including a portfolio) that will complete my studies the aim of which is to exhibit in my chosen discipline.

What are the current industry concerns/gaps?

I have learnt to study in detail what it takes to set up a successful photography business as I need to be as up to date as possible on copyright laws. There are organisations such as the British Institute of Professional Photography that will give the individual advice through membership subscription which I consider is a sensible thing to do. I am also a member of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photography and the Society of International Nature and Wildlife Photographers as I may consider working in these genres in the future and as I am not overly concerned with working in one particular genre I think it is wise to keep your skills as flexible as possible. There does not appear to be anything specifically orientated to my area of expertise, i.e. Landscape but I have studied the work of other Landscape Photographers such as Joe Cornish (for an extensive list please refer to my Studio Practice online feature on the subject). Joe has established a unique way to sell by creating a portfolio of images which defines and gives a style to his work. I am planning on working in a similar way by creating a niche in the market combining my skills as a photographer with my acaemic knowledge on theology. I am keen to write academically on the subject of St. Aidan and Northumberland in general, explaining my roots and the connection to where I live at present as Bradford Cathedral has a chapel dedicated to St Aidan and I have a planned exhibition there in 2016. All my aims in my photography currently (i.e. in the final year project) will be aimed at achieving this. For this purpose (i.e. exhibition work) I will be creating an editorial piece to accompany the series of photographs and possibly some artwork also. I am currently at the stage of researching the historical aspects of my project overall.

I have therefore referred in detail to Lisa Pritchard’s book ”Setting up a Successful Photography Business” to enable me to be aware of photographers terms and conditions to make sure that I have everything set in place and all academic research is completed prior to doing a photo shoot. I have submitted a series of photographs currently to the cathedral and will work towards the planned exhibition from a professional perspective.

A business plan was created by myself last year and little has changed towards my original intentions. I have re-established a new mission statement, looked more intensely towards my market and have a financial plan as well as a realistic business structure that involves me working as an independent exhibitor. My ambitions extend towards the church and towards future exhibition work, perhaps becoming a curator as well as an exhibitor, hence the reason I am a member of artbound community and fabric as they are leaders in exhibiting within the Bradford area who are both currently helping to promote my work as an artist. I will need to look at insurance in the not too distant future for my portfolio, as I have both an online presence and a physical copy. If these images are to be used in the exhibition and put in an editorial research book, then the images will need to be protected.

I feel that I have the necessary constitution to be a self employed person, according to Pritchard, 2011: chapter 6) it is vital to have patience and a strong working ethic, you will also need a thick skin (not so sure about that one!).

I do feel that I have a mind for business and a professional attitude and flair as I am making my own opportunities as my interests are unique and I believe that I can work away at creating a new way of looking at a photograph (i.e. from a spiritual perspective).

A photographer never stops learning as the industry never stops evolving (according to Pritchard, 2011, 42-43) so its important to be up to date and knowledgeable whatever stage your career is at. It is also important to note that as a sole trader it is not possible to know absolutely everything about the medium in which you are working but to be as up to date as possible is in your own interests. Its not just about taking photographs or being technically capable, it is about who you know, what you know and how you apply your business acumen that makes a professional photographer.

For more details about the research I have referenced to compile this PDP exercise, please refer to my research folder, learning outcome 2 and 3 as this area really covers all aspects of personal development planning. I have also referred to Beyond the Lens, 2003 Ed Gwen Thomas and Janet Ibbotson examining chapter three: the business end in order to identify which type of business/company is best for me as a Landscape/Spiritual/Exhibition Photographer which backs up information already gleaned from Pritchard’s book.

Further points of interest in my research folder: Synopsis:

Overall, I have complied a lot of information that will prove useful for both my research and development ideas and for promoting and understanding the business needs of the photographer. I have looked at what the reality of a photograph is and I have additionally looked at how and where and why an image is displayed in order to convey with accuracy the meaning you intend. I have established that the curator/editor’s interpretation of the art piece can affect the meaning of it dramatically, so, I need to be aware of this when considering setting up a gallery space or becoming a curator. It is also important for when I work in an editorial capacity. Deciding which photograph goes where can affect the overall aesthetic of a book in much the same way. Being aware of this is vital.

I have continued with my research on this topic looking at Rose’s ‘Visual Methodologies’ (2012:237-247 and 344) so that I can further understand my potential to develop my ideas further and put them realistically into practice. For example, looking at how a specific discourse of culture in museums and galleries determines function in that ”the aim of the gallery is to use culture as a tool for social management showing a particular way of life. i.e. often a Westernised version of what ‘art’ is which is further established through classification and display. Therefore, if I want to avoid a stereotype, I must take this onboard when looking at gallery work. My aim therefore would be to work and perhaps own a gallery as an independent.

My overall aim is to work as a freelance photographer and I have detailed information regarding this in my research folder. I have determined that and concur with the opinion of Zoe Whishaw (Photomonitor: 2012) who states that ”there is no such thing as a single ‘right path”’. My philosophy of work does not adhere to the prinicples of commercial photography from an advertising perspective directly but fits in with editorial and research and development work.

The rest of section 2, outcome 2 (which arguably applies to all the aims of this module) focuses on the notion that the iphone could take over the market, however this would not affect me directly as my aims are to produce editorial work from guide books to academic books and research on my chosen subject although I do need to keep abreast of the market to ensure that my publications are not superceded or promoted because some photographers choose to put forward photographs from this type of digital photography.

The remaining part of this folder concentrates on orphan works and the possibility of protecting the rights of the photographer and business basics. It is being aware of these things which will make a successful photographer and by keeping up to date with copyright changes and other appertaining issues will ensure that the business and practical side of photography is taken care of.

For further information see Outcome 2: Research folder

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