Jim Colburn - Don't Ask

An Amazing Month

June 2001 turned out to be a pretty amazing month. Mel Brooks put on a satirical three hour Broadway musical about Nazis and won twelve Tony Awards. I wrote a satirical 500 word piece about the "sex lives" of photographers and twelve guys named Tony wanted to kick my ass.

I was amazed to see that so many photographers didn't "get it." What ever happened to that interesting sense of humor that photographers once had?

Doesn't anyone remember the three biggest reasons to get into photography?
1) It's harder to make a living playing rock guitar and your fingers won't bleed so much
2) Unlike painting you won't get criticized if you can only draw stick figures
3) It's FUN.

I received slightly more mail than usual praising the piece and a normal amount of mail condemning it. I was amazed to find out that many of those that didn't appreciate the piece couldn't actually be bothered to write to me about their displeasure.

They felt free to cut, copy and forward my work all over the world via email but couldn't take the time to drop me a line. In a business that lives and dies through the holding and respect for a creator's copyright this is disturbing.

To those of you (photographers, editors and agents) that took part in this orgy of "free" distribution: Don't bother complaining if some day someone rips off one of your photographs and publishes it without payment or permission because you've lost all moral authority to do so. For future reference if you must refer to something on a web site in an email to a friend, consider putting a link to the site or page in your message so that those that read it can see it in context.

Some of the negative comments were interesting, some nasty and some down right funny. The indignant comment from the now-happily-married photographer who, in his youth was a notorious rake, was funny. The "photo editor" that railed against me but used a sig showing off his military background seemed to prove the old adage that when you join the military the first thing they remove is your hair, the second is your sense of humor.

I think the basis for the negativity was summed up by the person that told me, "Jim, you're giving away all our secrets."

In closing for this month I'll answer a few questions from readers:

- Yes, I have gone overseas on my own dime to take pictures of things that concern me. Lost a bucketload of money, deducted the cost of the trip on a Schedule C.

- No, the column wasn't degrading to women although it was pretty damn degrading to some guys that prey on women.

- If you didn't see the point in what I wrote the fault could well be with you.

- I consider pride and a sense of adventure to be good things, not questionable motives.

- Yes, I do know who I am and unlike some people I have never accepted money from any political candidate that I've covered.

BTW. If you missed the original piece and want to know what all the fuss was about send me an email and I'll send you a copy.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed are barely my own much less my employer's so don't blame Time Magazine, Time Inc. or AOL-Time-Warner for anything written here. Honest. Straight up. No kidding. If you've got a complaint or a problem send ME a note.

Jim Colburn