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The Business of Reggae Photography

Posted by Sista Irie 
The Business of Reggae Photography
September 02, 2013 07:10PM
Written and Posted by LLoyd Stanbury on Facebook:

The Business of Reggae Photography
September 2, 2013 at 2:33pm
This year I have had the privilege of attending three of the biggest and most important Reggae music festivals in the world in the form of Rebel Salute (Jamaica), Sierra Nevada World Music Festival (California), and Summerjam (Cologne). My association with Protoje and The Indiggnation and my strong support of the Reggae Revival movement has provided me with a special vantage point from which to observe the activities of several of the leading photographers operating in the global Reggae community.

I have come away from this experience somewhat startled at the amount of business and professional development that is required to enable Reggae photo journalists to make a living from taking and publishing photos. My first observation was that there seems to be hundreds, and maybe even thousands of photographers tripping over each other at these events. Most are armed with the most expensive pieces of equipment strung around their necks, trying to capture the best photos of artists and other music festival scenes and personalities.

In talking to several photographers, I also learned that many spend their own money to attend these events, and earn nothing from the hundreds of hours of work put into shooting, editing and publishing their photographic work. I also learned that most photographers are totally unaware of the principles of Copyright Law which govern the rights related to the commercial exploitation of photographs. I learned too that many event promoters and artists do not pay photographers for their services, and often expect to be provided pictures for free.

Photographic images are a critical component of the business of music and entertainment. Unfortunately too many of us take the business of photography, the work done by the photographers, and the rights of the persons whose images are captured, for granted. Maybe its time for Reggae photographers to come together with a view to creating a more professional environment where their works and the images of the persons they photograph are respected and better protected.

One Love,
Re: The Business of Reggae Photography
September 02, 2013 11:27PM
Excellent view. This is a great topic as Amy Young our own NorCal professional reggae photographer based jn Santa Rosa CA. told I in a conversation regarding her services the exact thing about her cost/fee and overhead expenses. She is worthy of getting paid and respected for her talents and hard work shooting/editing etc as well as others in the business of Reggae photography etc. Thanks Lloyd!
Re: The Business of Reggae Photography
September 03, 2013 01:53AM
I was paid quite well for a show in Austin last year and have been compensated in various ways at several festivals. I think this is a great topic, however, I also want to know more about the copyright issues associated with capturing someone's image. Lloyd has shared some of his knowledge helping me realize there is so much incorrect use of photos in various promotional situations. It would be great to have a seminar on the legal aspects. I am hoping he will apply to do one at SNWMF however he also suggested on FB that it could be associated with large festivals, as well.
Re: The Business of Reggae Photography
September 03, 2013 03:18PM
Thank you for your well articulated statement Lloyd which raises many salient issues. From my vantage point, it would seem that these issues are not limited to just reggae music nor to just photographers. I have attended numerous non-reggae musical events and witnessed the similar 'throngs' of "photographers" tripping over themselves as well.

The advancement of technology inevitably leads to change. Once upon a time. one needed lots of fancy (expensive) equipment in order to capture vivid images (to say nothing about a keen photographic eye). But in today's world, the seemingly majority of concert goers bring a camera along with them (albeit tied to the end of their phone 'cord'). In addition, with the quality of cameras going up and the cost going down, it has become far more possible for the 'average joe' to capture great photos. As with anything else, the increased 'supply' of photos without a corresponding increase in 'demand' will drive down the cost of those photos.

For instance, as a youth I remember having to go and pay a professional photographer to get my passport photo taken. Several renewals later, a visit to 'Walgreens' or 'Kinkos' would have done the trick (for far less $). But the last time I got my passport renewed, the photo was taken by my partner in our home for which nobody got compensated.

But professional photography is hardly the only field which has been 'changed' by advancing technology. Good reporters are a critical component of the news business. But, with the advent of the internet and blogging, what we are witnessing is a dramatic decrease in the number of persons employed as 'reporters' by news agencies. Many of them are being replaced either by 'bloggers' or by 'associated contributors' which has led to both a decrease in the quality of reporting (courtesy of bloggers) and the 'nationalization' of news (courtesy of associated contributors and all the mergers in the news industry).

Similarly, the onslaught of 'social media' resulted in this festival giving less money to 'printing companies' in order produce flyers than in prior years. Pro Tools and other similar programs have resulted in a decrease in demand for professional 'recording studios' and photoshop has made it possible for everyone to be a 'graphic designer'.

As I see it, these advances has an up side and a down side. On the one hand, virtually anyone can take photos, become a writer, produce music or do graphic design. To me, this is a GREAT thing. On the other hand, while the quantity of MP3s that are emailed to me every day is FAR GREATER than the music I would receive in days gone bye, the 'quality' of these productions is dismal in comparison to the quality of the music I got a decade ago. Similarly, I've seen a digression in the quality (and accuracy) of news reporting.

Whether it is photography, news reporting, music production or graphic design, as the 'field' becomes more 'open' due to technological advancements, the quality of what is produced goes down. As an avid consumer of news, it forces me to wade through more articles in order to get quality information. As a radio DJ, it forces me to wade through more 'music' in order to find quality tunes to play. As a Webster, it forces me to wade through more photos in order to find quality images to feature on a web site.

There are two things that I would be most interested in getting your views on Lloyd. First, I share Sister Irie's desire to know more about the copyright issues associated with capturing someone's image and what can and cannot be done with said images. This would include whatever 'rights': 1) the photographer has; 2) the person photographed has; and, 3) the venue has. In addition, I would be most interested in learning what YOU believe can be done to insure that a photographers "works and the images of the persons they photograph are respected and better protected."
Re: The Business of Reggae Photography
September 04, 2013 12:28PM
Daniel and others, all these points of view are great conversation. I posted Lloyd's FB note here to see if it could generate conversation which it surely has. I would like to suggest keeping the conversation going here but also please go to either my timeline on FB (Sista Irie) or Lloyd Stanbury and post your comments.

I want to add to my post that festival promoters have given me the opportunity to hone my skill and grow as a photographer. For this I am EXTREMELY grateful and will never complain that there is little financial compensation at this point in time. Unless one is THE official photographer which I think warrants another point of view. That is how I got paid this year at a large Austin world music festival. As Warren says in his response on FB, photographers do get prime real estate in front of the stage opening the door to entering the market in whatever way they can. Many sides to this issue but it is really great to get it out for discussion especially because of the technology advancements and ongoing evolution of social media.
Re: The Business of Reggae Photography
September 04, 2013 06:14PM
Thanks for the comments and interest in the post. Daniel, I could not agree with you more that new technologies have drastically altered the way we produce music, deliver and access news and other content, with serious implications for the entertainment industry. I do think there is the need for more opportunities to be created to enable Reggae music industry practitioners in the USA to meet and discuss these issues.

My visit to the SNWMF 2013 in June was my first, and I sure hope that it wont be my last. I must say I was very impressed with this festival. Being backstage at SNWMF I felt as if was at an international Reggae music business conference because of the large number of key Reggae music industry personnel I ran into. I would like to suggest that the organizers of SNWMF seriously consider facilitating the hosting of at least one panel discussion at the festival in future in an effort to address issues such as the one raised in my FB post that is reproduced here. I would be more than happy and willing to work with SNWMF to make this possible.

One Love,
Re: The Business of Reggae Photography
September 05, 2013 06:32AM
I would like to suggest that the organizers of SNWMF seriously consider facilitating the hosting of at least one panel discussion at the festival in future

Cosign! I can think of a few topics that could be interesting considering all the industry folks there

  • photo, video, & music copyright stuff
  • the business of music promotion
  • production/recording advancements
  • social media
  • politics/economics that effect reggae music
  • soundsystem business/culture

I know most of these might not be easy to facilitate but they would be interesting. Perhaps one or two each afternoon.
Just thinking
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