In my time at Mount Allison, I have been an event photographer for the Mount Allison Students’ Union, photo contributor to this paper, photo editor for The Argosy, as well as an event and sports photographer for Sue Seaborn of the Marketing Office, all of which I have done on a largely volunteer basis.
Last week, the Mt. A Student Alumni Association sent out e-mails promoting a new set-up of a network of volunteer photographers, which various members of our university community could call upon to document their events. Given my background, I was thrilled that a centralized network which would help Mt. A collect and preserve memories was taking off. But later that week, their call for applicants went out, and my appreciation turned sour faster than milk left out on a hot day.
Knowing the challenges of event photography at Mt. A, boiling down their description, what they are seeking is professional equipment, professional skills, and next-day-turnaround—a premium service in photography—all for free. In addition, not only is Mt. A to be granted universal rights (understandable), there is no guarantee of photo credit.
That last bit is what really irks me in this whole debacle. If you are going to go through the trouble of setting up a bank of volunteer photographers, how difficult would it be to figure out to whom the credit goes? Probably the result of some administrative and legal ‘CYA,’ it is nevertheless disrespectful to the greatest degree. Whether you are a professional with $4,000 gear, or a hobbyist who received a DSLR as a present last Christmas, we all are people—and students with loaded schedules, at that. When we produce work, we should be credited. It shocks me that in a university setting, this fundamental notion can be thrown out of the window so casually.
No self-respecting photographer—no self-respecting person—would go for this deal.
So who is left to fill these positions? Someone who’d like to feel the exclusivity of wearing a shirt that says photographer at events? I also find it laughable that “up to a full day of training” would somehow render all applicants adept at photographing in the myriad of challenging photo conditions found at Mt. A events. The time-old saying of ‘you get what you pay for’ comes to mind. In my most recent position, Sue Seaborn went out of her way to credit me, and show me where my contributions were being used. So despite a time commitment which amounted to what a course itself would require at times, I felt good about doing it.
My friend Ian Chew is a photographer who administers the popular Humans of Sackville Facebook page. Like myself, Chew found the idea unwise saying that not guaranteeing photo credit is unfair to those students who volunteer their limited free time.
Talent abounds at Mt. A, but if you treat people like dirt, all you will get is dirt. I think memories made at Mt. A deserves better. If this idea of the Alumni Office is to succeed, some serious revisions need to be made, especially to where it relates to credit due.