Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Tale of Two eMails: Do Photographers Deserve Credit and/or Money?

I was a weaver before a photographer. This looong blog will make sense if go w/flow and reach the end. I’m discussing issues in response to what people write to me. I receive a lot of questions about being a photographer, then and now. About the scene. People see my photos everywhere (I don’t wanna hear about it for two months. I can’t take more grief). They are saddened to hear my photos used without credit, permission or payment.

Do you think photographers deserve credit and payment? How long can one person do so much gratis/pro bon fucking free work? Why is it so hard to find/raise payment for photos? So many people LOVE MY PHOTOS, often far MORE THAN the TEXT. So why so little money? So little credit? Can you explain that to me? It’s my daily struggle.

From the editor of an upcoming rock doc (check back for details):
“Your pictures are absolutely fabulous, and I can't tell you how excited I am to have the pleasure of working with them. Really awesome stuff.”

That reaction is the fuel that flames my work. He is referring to a gratis project (hours and hours of work but no money, and not just me). It is an important piece. It's a wonderful chance to for me to see a few of my photos used in project created by people who know and love the subject matter. The people who've seen these photos are taken aback. They are transported to a magical time, whether or not they were there.

This particular project is a labor of love of all involved, and I volunteered -- not the first time, not the last. But I wish it were the last free project! What do you do if it's a quality product that needs to be done? I do it. But what if some are paid and others are not?

Currently, there’s a healthy discussion between some photographers concerning a photo-heavy book. We’ve been told no money for photos. Some won’t contribute, others are gonna fight for something, others wait-and-see and others don't care. Why should everyone make money from the book except the photographers?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Food doesn't fuel me -- I am waaaay too broke (but if I don’t make some money soon . . ). It’s, as Ramones Art Director/Merchandising genius Arturo Vega told me after I defended Los Angeles being omitted from End of the Century (EOTC),” because I argued quite furiously and ferociously about this wrong:

“Jenny, you still have the fire in your belly for the Ramones. I thought about what you said. And that’s why we’re having the Ramones Tribute in LA.”

What did I say to entice Arturo to hold this historic event in my hometown?

I had drawn my sword and firmly informed New Yorkers and Angelinos alike (and everywhere else), I’m out to set some records straight, with the support/input from people who were there or those who know more than some were.

Privileged few were witness to a momentous event after the American Cinematheque rough-cut EOTC showing. Some thought me a loud outta-my-mind whack job. But those who know it was JENNY LENS (many knew me first as fans, now friends):

They knew I EARNED the right to say what I said, LOVED the FACT I LITERALLY STOOD UP AND TOLD IT LIKE IT ‘TIS! I spoke truths that others have worked hard to cover up and eradicate. I actually EARNED the RESPECT of the directors and others involved.

So why don’t more people from the past speak out?! I know so many are still in the pain I carried for too-many years. Many repressed those times. Let it out! It's so healing and wonderful to read/meet so many who appreciate what we ALL did.

MORAL: STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE! I get emails from people complaining about their young lives. So do something, get on the net, get out in the streets and take a stand on the direction this country is sinking. Cos one reason there's LITTLE MONEY FOR the ARTS has to do with WAR.

But we could afford to make art and go to movies even in the "Great" Depression (my mother lived through that and constantly tells me it's worse now!) and World War II. The government, led by FDR, my hero, paid artists to make art during the depression. I can barely do that, can you? For God's sake, DO SOMETHING!!

Back to EOTC: during my logical but loud, fast rant, I kept leaning over the balcony railing -- amazing I didn’t fall over -- but I’m used to holding onto the railing and going wild, like when I danced, especially at the Starwood and the Go-Go’s or other fast bands played. I am very physical, I’m hyper. I kept pointing to Arturo waaay downstairs in the front, when I was relaying stories and dropping names, and saying “Arturo, you know, we had so much FUN! The Ramones had fun, we gave them parties . . . tell them, you remember what I’m saying!”

Arturo DID remember how beloved they were from the get-go. LA gave the Ramones an early response they needed and never let up. I was driving Arturo from Long Beach Airport to West Hollywood.

I dropped him off at Indie 103.1 DJ/ [my fucking fave. You want the BEST punk rock in the universe?! He needs a 4 hour slot, twice a week (at least once!). Will someone please archive him! If I knew how to do it, I would!]/Side One Dummy Records Co-President (w/Bill Armstrong), the one, the only Joe Sib, the only person I’ve ever met who talks like I do! Really fast, all these great stories pouring out. He is amazing, he inspires me.

We have to remind people LA gave as good as she got because we know unknown/forgotten stories about the bands people love! They wanna know: the fans and yes, some performers! We provided a lot of memories and support to many early punk bands from the seventies, not just punk. They needed our support, but few remember and fewer post/distribute photos or write as much as I do about it.

Hey, Joan Jett (oh watch her website! She’s gonna make a lot of good, needed NOISE REAL SOON.) wore a Cheap Trick t-shirt spring, 1977. CT opened for the ladies. That’s where I shot my infamous Cherie Currie in a merry widow corset and fishnets, and garter belt -- years before Madonna.

Cheap Trick’s manager, Ken Adamany, missappropriated a few of my shots. And then he banned me from ever seeing them again. The band felt helpless, but sweet Robin helped me get in. CT wrote a song about one of my best friends, then and now. Barbie, a nice Jewish Canadian Princess (she, unlike me, had some money). Barbie had a close relationship with one of the band members. She never talked to me about it, but I sent her the lyrics. We laughed about that!

I loved Cheap Trick. I talked about them to everyone, I was in touch with writers and publicists. I always yapped on and on about my fave bands. I could have helped them a lot. I took some great shots. I found the best backstage shots of Runaways and Cheap Trick. CT with other bands too. We had so much fun til that asshole did that to me. I only wanted to help. And no, I’m not afraid of defamation/libel action. I have witnesses. People saw it happen and I’ve moaned and complained about that for years.

I received two emails today that are related because one wouldn’t post my photo because I “stamped” my name on it (I had to dig it up, scan, make the size he wanted and for free and now I find out he won’t post “as is”? He’s got a terrific site, and I won’t name it, I wish him continued growth with it . . .), the other wondered if my photos opened the first Tom Snyder Tomorrow Punk shows, DVD from Shout! Factory [buy it!]. She wondered because: NO PHOTO CREDIT. Hmm, and people are surprised I put them on . . .

YES, MY PHOTOS WERE THE FIRST THING PEOPLE SAW WHEN THEY WATCHED ONE OF THE FIRST NATIONAL, certainly the most important early West Coast PUNK broadcast! OPENED WITH MY PHOTOS.

And I never capitalized on it. That's one point of this rant. That should answer some questions why I didn't become more famous and make LOTS of money. I was on the ground floor, but I didn't know what the hell I was doing with my life. And I got ripped off and went broke. Hmm, there's a pattern there.

I never realized my photos were in the same context as Bill [talk about godhead!] Graham, Robert Hilburn, Joan Jett and others. I had no concept. I really fucked up my life. I blew so many opportunities. And that is why I am literally starving.

I’ve been through HELL and back in my life. I thank the universe every day I can work on my photos. But I can’t do it alone and can’t do it without money. I’m asking the universe, and all you readers, to do something! You like the photos! Buy some. Spread the word, and lemme know what you think.

It disheartens me that people think it’s fine to use photos without asking or credit on them. I’ve been very generous, give away waaaay too many photos, but when someone asks me for shots online, what are they thinking that it’s fine to post without ANY photo credits on the image, no watermarks? Or object to where I place my credits on MY photos?

Don’t they realize OR CARE that’s how photographers SURVIVE – that people can track them down to LEGALLY use their photos? To buy them to put on their walls or license rare shots for projects. This person knows my site. You think I’d put up photos on my site with my credit, but give them to someone else without my credit?

The first email is just lovely, typical of what people write me. Believe me, in the middle of trying to juggle all these projects, under what I call “house arrest,” wishing I could take a longer walk than the one this morning to mail my rent, it’s literally a breathe of fresh air to receive such wonderful emails, especially after dealing with issues of credit and money that just drag me down.

So why do I do it? Cos of the following email:

Jenny,
Been enjoying the site since its first days and it is really a treat to see that you actually documented a lot of historic events that I have only read about such as the Weirdos/Germs/Nerves show at the Orpheum, the early in-stores at Bomp Records etc, etc. I even seem to recall you posting photos in the earliest days of the net that were subsequently taken down. I love the fans shots as much as those of the musicians.

The reason I was inspired to write is because I recently watched the new 2 dvd set of punk/new wave acts on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow Show and the great first episode that is on the set. It is from a 1977 broadcast (filmed in Burbank) and the guests are Kim Fowley, Bill Graham, Robert Hilburn, Joan Jett and Paul Weller all talking about this new phenom called punk rock. Too many great sound bites to quote you and it is such an amazing time capsule on par with your photos or the amazing must see video performances that are floating around of the Weirdos at the Masque or the infamous Bags at the Troubadour.

Anyway, as the title credits roll as well as between breaks are a montage of photos including live Weirdos shots as well as a great portrait of Tomata Duplenty and Tommy Gear. Fowley shows another photographer’s portraits during the show but the ones I write about sure look a lot like they may be yours. Are they and any recollection of the circumstances of the broadcast?
All the best,
JB

JB,
Yes, indeed, not only are those shots mine, but one is me! I think it’s the second shot, the first being local boys Weirdos. I forgot I had those color slides til someone sent screen shots from the DVD, which Shout! Factory sent me Wow! Color Weirdos at the Orpheum? April, 1977. Holy shit! I always tell people I have no idea what's in my drawers. I've learned I am the ONLY person able to make sense of it all, but it's great to find hidden/forgotten photos.

I’m holding a gun to Tony the Tiger, written about in “Lexicon Devil.” My makeup is smearing, as earlier shots [not in the show] showed Pleasant making me up, then Tony and I were in the shower/tub and someone turned on the water.

The software doesn’t have a fast-forward button?! Hello Apple, are you outta-yer-fucking-minds? I can’t fast forward through a CD to find out if MY photos are used again?! You think I have 1.5 hours to watch this? If anyone does have time or knows how to fast-forward (I've already been online twice today to solve s/w issues), please lemme know if you see the beginning shots again. I plan on posting all of them, but next month.

Unfortunately, NO ONE involved in that package even thought that the photos might belong to someone. These are people who have spent YEARS research rights and clearances as part of ANY packaging or release of archival material. They didn’t even conduct a mere quick search on the net, cos they would have found me. I found them, got a little bit of money, but too late for credit. They sent DVD to me, but I’m too busy to even look at it.

Yes, I hand-coded a small website circa 1995 or so (maybe earlier). I labored to post a website with my photos and liner notes for the “Live at the Masque” CDs that came out around 1996 or so, with link to Exene's company, "Year One." [Records?] Exene produced them, but she wasn’t into the net yet and ignored my hard work. She's an artist, maybe she didn't like it. I don't take it personally cos that’s not new, not from her or so many performers. Doesn’t stop me, cos of people like you. But performers are discovering my work and like you, appreciate the fact I took them and am getting them out there.

Please read my blog as I write about what I’m doing, what projects. I plan on redoing my website next month, bigger photos, lots more stories, better design. I’ll post pix from a ton of docs, books, DVDS, Cds that my pix are appearing. And my book, deadline now, I have a solid contract and gotta get it done.

Memory: I remember getting a phone call to get over to NBC in Burbank, I lived in West Hollywood, across from Tower Records [on Sunset, 2 blocks east of Whisky]. I grabbed a few slides, dropped them off, can’t remember if I had to drive back or they mailed them back to me. I got $100 and still have a copy of the check and invoice, which surprised the dude at Shout! Factory [a TRUE gentleman, by the way!], who packaged and released it w/NBC Universal. I saw it once, that was it, no re-runs, no video tapes in those days.

But you are one of the few people to make the connection: these are my pix. Thank you!! I love the Ramones shot under the title credit — someone sent me screen shots -- wait, maybe that's the lead back from a commercial. Yeah, I gotta watch this!

You are very kind, I appreciate your words. I am up against a ton of deadlines. Please stay in touch.

NEXT EMAIL:

Hi Jenny
Yes I got the images you sent me. I didn't use them as they have a big Jenny Lens stamped across them and I didn't want to bother you again as you said you were really busy.
A person w/punk website

A person w/punk website,
I've experienced many email problems and hate to bother people and ask them if they received the email [cos I had trouble sending to him]. Many times I don't get an alert to let me know something has bounced back. I also know just cos I send something, doesn't mean it will be used.

I can't begin to tell you the heartbreak seeing my photos online and in print without a credit. I've even asked people to go to my sites or if within myspace, to copy and replace what they have with a photo with my credit. And many give me a hard time! They are using MY work and hassle me!

Imagine spending 30 years of your life, and constantly hearing from people they love your work but had no idea it was yours.

So I have a very firm position, which OTHER photographers and concerned people told me: never send out anything without credits. If someone is going to use in a book, CD, DVD, doc, etc, then after they've chosen which photo(s), I'll send them without watermark.

But not online. Those don't appear without my credit. And if that means I won't have photos on your site, so be it. I can't handle the heartbreak of seeing my work without my name. I am beyond broke, you have no idea how much time and money I put into this. I am SO hungry -- I don't even know what it's like to eat dinner, pay my bills on time, even just hang w/friends, and always living on the edge.

I'm working on some very high profile projects, have photos in major docs at film fests, my books, other books, etc. I need to be sure my name is out there, so people start connecting the dots and realize who took some of their fave shots. Many mention me on their blogs/sites and add links. Which I can't do yet, I'm redoing my site next month, and not touching it til then.

When people realize I took certain shots, they check me out, write great emails, and some buy them (or use in projects), so I can keep this going!

Final thought: there are unions and laws preventing people from using songs without payment and credit, or lifting text from authors, credited or not. So what's wrong with photographers being treated as equal to writers, musicians and painters?

Why must photographers be anonymous? It's not enough to put a credit in a corner, too easily cropped out. I am tired of giving away my work. I deliberately put text there so if they want a clean copy, pay me. It's that simple.

Why should I give away everything with NO credit, while freezing, unable to afford heat?? I drink a gallon of hot herbal tea every day, and my timer just went off, a cup to clear my lungs, damaged by the damp cold. The tea warms me for a few minutes.

I remain a fan of your site. I know it's a labor of love, and sorry I won't be able to participate. But keep up the good work!!
jenny

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