The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Friday, September 4, 2015

Taking Advantage

My county Public Arts Committee recently released a call for local photographers. Since 2006, I have taught photography and managed a photography club in Fayette County, Georgia. My interest was piqued. But when I read through the call, I became concerned.

This is a civic art project and there is no compensation for those who participate. The project is open to both professional and amateur photographers. All photographers whose work is included on the mural will receive photo credits on the mural. All photographs submitted for this project become the property of the Fayette County government.

Hard to believe a group called Fayette County Public Arts Committee would not be more friendly to the artist. Claiming all submissions as government property is quite a rights grab. The first thing that comes to mind is the county would like images to use for webpages, printed materials and future press releases but were not interested in hiring a professional to shoot them.

I contacted the county commissioner responsible for this committee and never have I met with such lack of awareness or understanding. He stated there was nothing wrong with the call wording.

I asked when the public art committee formed, where did they turn for guidance.

I asked if the business providing the printed mural for this project would receive compensation.

I asked who wrote the call.

I asked these questions several times. I only received a reply to the last one. The commissioner wrote the call. I asked if he ever read other calls and, again, no answer.

Since I began in art photography, I have submitted to and read many, many calls. It is common knowledge among those of us who do submit to avoid calls where we lose ownership of our work. I volunteer my time for a photography event, SlowExposures. I conceived of and directed a photography exhibition/competition for 5 years in my home county of Fayette. When starting this event, I turned to experienced people for guidance. Oh, and I never saw anyone from this new public arts committee at one of my events. 

The county commissioner claims no one was doing anything for the arts until he came along. I know this is not true -- others work to promote the arts in my community.

The commissioner claims he has no budget. I suggested soliciting donations sponsorships. I had zero budget when I started the photo event. I solicited donations from companies for awards - at a time the economy was taking a nose dive.

"You go out and get those for us, Donna, and we will appreciate it."

I asked what does the committee do -- I received no answer.

I pointed out that this call takes advantage of the inexperienced photographer. I expressed my feelings that a county arts committee should work to help the artists, educate the inexperienced, not use their naivete. This committee is leaning heavily on high school students for art. This committee is doing nothing to help educate the students about their rights. The commissioner states he is helping them by giving them the opportunity to be creative, gain exposure, and have something to put on a resume in the future.

I offered, last year, to help bring in professionals to select art for projects from the submissions they receive, I was told that the committee will make selections. If they are truly interested in giving young and inexperienced artists exposure -- why not bring in professionals from the High Museum or Atlanta art consultants to view the work?

A rising tide lifts all boats. Other municipalities embrace public art and work hard to create impact in their communities. They promote the amateurs and help educate them through programs and with professionals giving informational talks. Yes, we have a mural on a water plant and most people haven't a clue that it exists. But when I read through the meeting minutes for this committee, I see a lot of interior decoration discussion for county offices with wall art provided by high school students.

Two days ago, I posted my displeasure for the wording of this recent call on my Facebook page. I did not call out the commissioner -- but he showed up. 

Yesterday I posted a link to a post on the Photo Attorney blog and directed him to it -- it was about the wording of calls that are rights grabs. He dug his heels in harder.

I am at a point where I don't know what else to do -- except put together a handout on artists' rights and seek to speak with local groups and high school art classes. 

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