Thursday, August 28, 2008

Be Careful What you Wish For...(2)

Dreaming about being a professional photographer, is one thing - doing it, is something else entirely.

I remember, at the tender age of 16 walking past a house in a very posh part of my home town, where a snazzily dressed man was opening the boot of his snazzy car, and depositing a large, clear plastic bag chocker-block full of rolls of Kodachrome 64 transparency film. I knew enough, at the time, to conclude (rightly or wrongly - I'll never know) that he was a professional photographer, setting off on a well paid and glamorous assignment. Within a nano-second of concluding that, I also concluding that I wanted to do exactly the same thing, when I grew up!

I grew up last year, over 30 years later. Insomuch that I was, at that point, for the first time in my life able to load my car with camera gear (and now CF cards, rather than Kodachrome) and know that I did nothing else for a living. It was a remarkably powerful feeling. A life-time's ambition fulfilled. A dream realised.

Reality Check!

(At this point, I need you, for best dramatic effect, to imagine that nerve-jangling zzzzzuuupppppkkkkk noise that is made when a gramophone needle gets dragged across a vinyl record).

I got the biggest commission of my full-time photographic life in June, this year. A major, internationally renowned travel book publisher offered me at least half of my projected income for this year, to travel around Ireland (where I live) photographing the people and places of the country for a new book. What could be better?

Well, that was in June. And, I didn't actually get the commission, because I still haven't actually got the contract!

Two months later and I'm just less than halfway through the job. 1600 images downloaded, 2000km travelled, €600 expended on fuel, accommodation, food and other sundries, several weeks away from home, at least 6 emails, and as many phone calls made asking for the blasted contract - most of them blatantly ignored, three changes of liaison personnel at the publishers and nothing, absolutely nothing in writing to show that I have a contract at all!

One thing I've noticed about publishers - some at least. They have it their way. If I won't do this job - give them outright copyright of everything I shoot when I'm on the road, meet their deadlines, go back two or three times to the same place to get the right shot, and agree to every other demand they may want to throw at me - they will quickly find someone else who will do it.

My publisher proved this recently when, because I didn't start as quickly as they wanted me to (I was foolishly waiting for the contract) they cut down my agreed work schedule by nearly 25 per cent - because they were worried that I wouldn't meet their extremely tight deadline.

Well, the worm has turned. Watch this space - because I've reach ultimatum stage!

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