Jim Colburn
Don't Ask

Oh, Those Wild and Crazy Frogs

You have got to love the French. Just when it seems that the world is going to hell in a handbasket they do something that's just so darn.... French...... that it brings a smile to your face.

I don't know if this story is true (Who cares? It's a great story) but reports from a couple of well-respected French papers say that Corbis has tried to lay off all of their French (or Paris based) photographers and just sell what they've got in the files (the computer files any way since they've stuck most of their real pictures in a hole-in-the-ground in Pennsylvania.) The story goes that upon hearing of their pending dismissal (and the dismissal of 20 or so office staff) the photographers went on strike! And supposedly photographers from another French agency came out in support of their brothers and sisters at Corbis Sygma!

Imagine it. A group of khaki-clad photographers in need of a shower standing at the gates of Kanduhar with their arms folded and cameras unloaded. Paparazzi refusing to board their scooters to chase Nicole Kidman and her new date. A hearty one-fingered salute to the assignment editor that asks for, no... demands, coverage of the Prime Minister's visit to a horse show.

Sorry. We're on strike.

I don't know if anyone remembers but a few years ago the photographers of Paris were pissed off at the treatment being accorded them by the press staff at the Elysee Palace (the French White House) so they downed their cameras and went on strike. At an important photo-op the President of the Republic escorted his important guest down a red carpet and on either side of the carpet were photographers, their cameras on the ground and their backs to the stars of the show. How do we know this? They had one designated photographer record their protest for historical purposes...

At least they're doing something. When photographers were presented with an appalling contract by a wire service (you know the one, "We'll give you $100, take all the rights and YOU have to pay for the film and parking") they rolled over and took it. When a few brave souls formed an association for freelance photographers they were ignored for the most part and faded away. I've heard that some photographers in Boston are fighting a newspaper's attempts at a rights grab but since there's always a few people that will work for minimum wage and a chance to see their photos in print I don't hold out much hope for them.

If you're a photographer, the next time you're at an event, try making contact with a few of the shooters around you. Swap cards and email addresses. Go out for drinks once in a while. Stop thinking of absolutely EVERYONE as "the competition" because you might need each other some day.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt and Solidarity ain't just a bunch of Polish shipyard workers.

James Colburn
Contributing Writer

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