Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I hate to break this to you, [name withheld]

I spend a few minutes a day cruising the web, looking for topics for Pink Slip. Bloomberg is a frequent source. Friends and family occasionally suggest ideas. (Keep 'em coming.) And I do sometimes trip across something in Huff Po or the Daily Mail UK. (When the latter happens, I'm embarrassed to admit, I will generally look for another source, so that I don't have to admit that I browse Daily Mail UK.) To my web wanderings, I have added GoFundMe, not for its Pink Slip potential, which is limited, but for the human interest. 

And then, while grazing there the other day, I came across a two-fer. For there, amidst the house fires and funeral expenses and the general-purpose do-gooders and the Indian guy hoping to raise enough to make his Olympic luge dreams come true (think: Jamaican Bobsled Team), was a plea to help out a photographer whose specialty is taking pictures at band concerts. For which, alas, he doesn't make any money. 
His selflessness has allowed him to attend local, and national shows and festivals  in which he stands on stage, running back and forth dodging fans just to get pictures for bands. Most of the time these bands don't offer to pay him, but use his images for merchandise, social media, and press related items to gain exposure for their band. [Name withheld by Pink Slip to protect an innocent]  has never once asked for money to do any of this, he does this because he loves music and capturing the moments involved. This being said, taking pictures for bands is not just a hobby for [name withheld by Pink Slip to protect an innocent], this is a career. (Source: GoFundMe)
Okay. I just have to say it. Taking pictures at rock concerts is not exactly something I associate wtih selflessness. I'm equal opportunity here: I wouldn't associate writing a non-monetized blog with selflesssness either. Somethings you just do for fun. 

Skip to the end of the GFM para, where we're told that "running back and forth dodging fans" is "not just a hobby...this is a career." (Later on, the career is expanded to "career and dream.")

And yet [name withheld] has "never once asked for money" for providing bands with images that they then use for commercial purposes.

So now a friend is trying to shake the trees for enough money to get [name withheld] a used car and some photo equipment. The ask is modest, and if his friends want to pass the hat to keep this guy going, good for them. But there does seem to be a pervasive theme throughout GoFundMe pleas that free money solves all problems. And, for those fund-raising for dream-pursuing, there seems to be some sense of, hey, let's try this; it beats work.

Anyway, if [name withheld] is serious about making band photography a career, he may need to stop waiting for bands to offer to pay him. Instead, he might want to:
  • Make sure he has a professional site, showcasing his rock band photos. [Name withheld] does have some band pics on FlickR, but you have to comb through a bunch of mood shots, presumably of [name withheld's] girlfriend, to get to them.
  • Include a list of what bands can use his pictures for: social media, boring old media, merchandise. 
  • Get some references from the bands he's done freebies for, attesting to the quality of his work, etc.
  • Put together a price list. 
  • Start approaching bands in a professional manner, and pitch what he can do for them.
And, finally, while all this plays or doesn't play out:
  • Figure out how to support yourself with your photography (or, with something else, if needs be) while you pursue your dream career/career dream. 
Because, god knows, if you just sit around waiting for punk/grunge/garage bands to start paying you, you're not in for much of a career. Or much of a dream, either.

I have plenty of sympathy for someone who wants to make a living in the arts (however broadly defined). I know plenty of poets, and most of them get by because they have a spouse with a good job. That's just how it goes. [Name withheld] may end up becoming the greatest rock band photographer of all time. Maybe all he needs is a break. But, in my experience, breaks tend to happen to people who make their own breaks.

Not for a second did I consider making a GoFundMe donation to [name withheld]. But I did look around to see if there was some place where he sold his photos, thinking that I would consider buying something. I found him on Etsy, but what was there just seemed to be links to the stuff he likes, and the stuff his girlfriend likes. 

Maybe rock fans don't spend a lot of time on Etsy. What do they need with goat's wool snoods, dog tutus, and potato-print wrapping paper? But maybe there would be some interest there from people interested in an evocative, skilled photo of a rock concert. Stranger things have happened. If the price were right, I would have gotten something. I may never have hung it up, but I would have considered supporting someone taking his career seriously.

I hate to break this to you, [name withheld], but if you want a dream career taking pictures at rock concerts, you need to start paying more attention to the career elements than the dream. Shaking the tin cup on GoFundMe will only get you so far.

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