Talk about a manic Monday.
Overnight, what was a straight up request for an artist to credit the photographer of a shot he used on social media exploded into an unnecessary Twitter exchange that has spilled over into this morning’s newsfeed fodder.
Let’s get to the important and core element of this whole thing.
A photographer was not credited for their work. Again.
Noted hip hop live music photographer Michelle Grace Hunder engaged with her editors at Melbourne publication Howl & Echoes after a fellow photographer saw one of her shots of Danny Brown had been posted by him without the proper credit. What followed was this simple request from the publication’s editor Lauren Ziegler to the artist via Twitter, prompting this response:
Understandably, it was a bit of a kick to the stomach for Michelle, who had been a fan of Brown’s music and had photographed him previously.
“I was a big Danny Brown fan,” she says. “It was the third time I’ve shot him too; I always put my hand up to cover his shows because I do love his music. This has totally changed my opinion of him. It’s hugely disappointing.”
The Detroit rapper, who we have also featured favourably on our site recently, would then go on to engage with Project U Content Director Nic Kelly in a childish and pointless Twitter tirade that eventually led Brown to offer up his hotel address for the latter to come through and fight.
Because we’re all adults, here.
So while this story is more likely to make the news because of this mini-beef, it would be a shame for the main point of the issue to run as a secondary storyline. The level of support and shared contempt Michelle has received from members of the industry, from fellow photographers to artists she has worked with around the world has been significant, she says today.
“What has been amazing is all the artists from all over the world that I have worked with who do love and respect my work have sent me messages of support which is really encouraging. I mean, we just asked for a credit, for my work, which I’m massively proud of.”
Have been in the photography business, particularly the live music photography business, for some years now, Michelle is one of the lucky who are now in the position to earn a living off their artistic work. While many music photographers are still unpaid, it’s more imperative than ever that every one helps each other out in a wider industry where everyone is hustling to have their work seen, their creative voices heard. And sometimes that can just be in a simple photo tag, a shout out by an artist (who has a massive following on social media), or a link back to an original article/gallery.
“I think it stems of a lack of understanding about how the art of photography and copyright works,” Hunder says of this constant issue photographers face. “Some people mistakenly believe if they appear in a photo they own it or have rights to use it in whatever way they wish, which isn’t true.”
This was something Australian rapper 360 has sounded off on, on Twitter today in the wake of the whole debacle, prompting a wider conversation.
“Generally speaking,” Hunder says. “Music artists are really great at crediting photographers, as they understand the importance of imagery and having publications write about them/review gigs, so everything generally works together. Occasionally stuff like this happens, generally with international artists. One of two things happens: you point it out and they fix it, our you point it out and it gets ignored. Never before have I seen a response like this. Quite frankly, it was hugely disappointing and shocking. I decided to speak out for all of the music photographers that go through this weekly, to try and education everyone about why this is important (and actually legally speaking, its what you have to do).”
You might remember the shitstorm that followed Taylor Swift and the terms and conditions that were set down for photographers who were granted access to shoot her stadium tour last year. It posed the question of what types of art were considered ‘good enough’ to be paid for, particularly when existing in a time of streaming services and other free-to-access platforms. Regardless, it would seem that photography, especially live music photography, is deemed as a privileged hobby to many, not the profession it actually is for the thousands of photographers who are doing their thing week in, week out.
“It’s hard to tell during times like this.” Hunder says of any shift of perception music photographers have experienced. “I do think that – mostly – there has been, but issues like this, or when you hear [that] artists want photographers to sign away all their rights before shows, you wonder if we are going forwards or backwards. I think that, mostly, if people appreciate a great photo from a photo, have some respect for the artist that took it. It’s not just a click, it’s so much more than that, and there are some of us who take what we do really seriously and have made it our profession.”
Header photo shot for Howl & Echoes by Michelle Grace Hunder in Melbourne. You can view the full gallery HERE.