Director of Photography
you did me the honor of having one of your picture editors call
on me for a very important assignment on death row, and I really
wanted to do it. First, because it was you.
I have already spent a week living in a prison on death row -
a long time ago for the old Life Magazine. When that story ran
it got so much attention that the governor of Illinois commuted
the sentence of my subject to life - proof that photojournalism
can really make a difference. I really wanted to have another
go at that subject matter for you.
in a very important place in our world now, and you must know
how proud I am of you.
was young Magnum photographer, I had the most wonderful of times
living just down the street from one of my best friends, and your
father, Magnum photographer Charles Harbutt. He went on to be
a president of Magnum, and has had a life of great distinction.
Well, Charlie and I have both long since left Magnum, have had
our long lives in photography. And now you, that little girl Sarah,
who played football with my kids in Brooklyn, is in one of the
most important jobs in my world. Please forgive the sentiment,
but It's a feeling that gives me great pleasure in getting older.
you were old enough to play ball with us, however, my relationship
with Newsweek had already started. Among other things, I had done
the Newsweek cover when Martin Luther King was assassinated.
is the funny part - in those days I was making as much from Newsweek
as they want to pay me now, in a whole new century.
is, in those days myself and Charlie and all the other young photographers
could more or less get by with a Leica and a loincloth. Now that
loincloth (which was never that becoming) has turned into sixty
thousand dollars worth of gear and way more overhead. I used to
run five miles a day to stay in shape. Now I run five miles a
day to stay ahead of the sheriff. (The loincloth still fits, but
I don't get it out much anymore.)
strange time. Much of the business is about celebrities and making
big deals and eloquent pictures of milk on faces and stuff like
that. Now, while all that's fine with me, there are still some
really talented photographers around who have wanted to have a
different kind of life quite apart from the world of celebrities,
to grow as people from their experiences out there in that "other"
world, and to turn it all into fine, serious work that will actually
make the world a better place.
that has not been so much about making deals are the photographers
who have historically wound up on your pages; they have brought
the world to your readers.
In a way,
that brings us to one of photography's dirty little secrets. A
lot of photographers are not very good at business. And it's hard,
especially when you're young and hungry and need a few bucks and
a few credit lines to get started, to stop and think about the
business ramifications of it all. But boy, do we photographers
need to get better, and fast. We've got to start defending ourselves.
us into the era of downsizing and screwing the help and eliminating
the benefits and making the bottom line all that counts.
for the talents, which have to be considerable to even get your
attention, are not enough to support life. Those day rates need
to come up - a lot!
that make you and your magazine look good are made with lights
and lenses that cost a fortune - used by people with children
that need health insurance that costs a fortune, and all for,
get this, day rates that are declining at Newsweek.
that really trouble me led to my turning down that Newsweek assignment
last week. Over money. Over a grossly unfair day rate. (and Newsweek
is not the only culprit)
it made me feel really terrible, and angry.
because it was you, I know you to be an exceptional person and
picture editor. We had a great relationship when you were at the
New York Sunday Times Magazine. I know how hard you try, and how
good you are, and how deeply you care about things. And boy, have
you paid your dues. You richly deserve to be where you are.
because of all the stuff that's going on in our world today that
has put me into a position of turning down an important assignment
because of money. We're having to lose sight of the stuff that
really counts in life, being forced to decline meaningful assignments
out of a seething, internal outrage at being treated unfairly.
come to the point where I personally believe I'm being had. It's
hard for me to look at what's happening and not conclude that
your bosses have decided to systematically screw the photographers.
What is the value standard that is at work here? How can this
not lead to a progressively more shallow magazine? How can I want
to go the extra mile for such people?
don't want to go along with it any more. I want to be paid fairly
for my work. Just as I bring honor to your pages by investing
my talents, and experience, and caring - I feel it is only right
that you should fairly honor my abilities and commitment to fine
And I really
don't like having to conclude that management people, thinking
only with their calculators, are taking advantage of the vulnerability
of young, naive photographers that have not figured out that they
and their careers are being sold down the river.
get through this bad time, and start growing again.
there Sarah, you can make a difference in a lot of lives.