I’ve been playing at this club photography lark for over four years now, and it’s not getting any easier.
A member of the old Press Photographer guard spoke to me about this issue a couple of years ago after they had become collectively angered about the influx of people willing to work for peanuts and do the same job as they were doing. He asked me how I would feel if somebody would come in and undercut me in my ‘club photography niche’.
My response was simple: It won’t happen, at least not in the nightclubs that I’m familiar with. They appreciate what I do, and that it’s more than just hitting the shutter button.
Sadly, his question has more relevance today than ever.
Instead of valuing quality, reliability and professionalism, many nightclubs are now seemingly happy to accept low-quality, badly exposed and out-of-focus pictures from people that don’t really understand light, in order to only pay out what is mimum wage (or effectively less).
Whilst this infuriates me, I also believe that this is just an unhappy product of capitalism: if people aren’t prepared to pay for quality, and there are others who will work (albeit to a lower standard) for less money, then that’s just the way it goes.
However, the way that people are being used and treated within the world of nightlife photography is becoming increasingly more disgusting, and those who are relatively new to the field must sit up and take notice.
Forgetting issues of employment law, taxation, reliability (e.g. having more than one camera body incase of failure), and insurance, there are groups operating within Glasgow (and other cities) that claim to be the homes of nightclub photography, whilst simultaneously exploiting those who are naive enough to affiliate with them; hiring out anybody with an SLR under a generic banner of loose credibility for a fixed rate, and paying them around a third of what they should be getting for a night’s work.
I have worked for nightclubs who have since moved on to using these outfits for their photography needs in order to avoid paying for a proper service, and I have to say that the whole business is one that is shoddy and underhand.
I call upon all nightclubs that value their staff and ethics to cease dealing with ad-hoc, suspect nightclub photography organisations, and pay their photographers directly, at a fair wage. I call upon these establishments to ensure that those they hire are suitably able to deal with equipment failures and other malfunctions, with a proven track record.
I simultaneously call upon all current and aspiring nightclub photographers to smarten up; to develop a sense of comradery rather than competition between each other; to ensure that they are professional in every sense, as well as being insured and backed up with the proper equipment; to stop accepting mediocre pay for work that is supposed to be valuable, and to demand to be treated as more than just another expendable resource.
If you really are a photographer, stop fucking yourself and everyone else over by working for people that don’t give a shit about who you are or what you do. Stop selling your soul for money that wouldn’t even cover a decent night out at the same establishment. Have you any idea how much DJs get paid? Door staff? Managers?
If photography really is an art and a passion, then stop devaluing it with your acceptance of less than you would spend on filling up a car’s tank with petrol.