Festival and club photography is the lifeblood of the dance blog-o-sphere. Those moments captured in time, often in a surrealist high-definition, are how people connect and reconnect with the raving experience. Good photography is art, surely, but in the internet age, photographers aren't treated as artists. It's common practice for fans, blogs, media outlets, even performers themselves to blatantly re-appropriate images without crediting the photographers who shot and edited them.
If an individual remixes a song, it goes without saying that they credit the musician who made the original. This is a golden rule of dance music. However, this stringent culture of attribution does not seem to apply to photographers and their work.
"Like a musician owns his music and a painter own his paintings, we own what we photograph," Toronto transplant and club photographer Elif Rey explains. "When a photographer does a great job taking a great photo, he or she should get the credit for it - like any other artist does for their work."
Rey went on to list a number of instances in which artists used her photographs without permission, let alone payment. One record label (name withheld) cropped out her watermark and added their own in its place, acting as if she didn't exist and her watermark was just a stain on the corner of the lens.
In this instance, the label assumed that because the photo was taken of their artist, they had the right to repurpose it as their own. This is based on the misconception that a performer has a right to an image taken of them. In fact, a photographer's right to capture an individual in a public location is protected by laws across the globe and by the First Amendment in the USA - especially at a concert or festival.
Beyond artists - individuals, blogs, and internet media outlets are often worst culprits of sloppy crediting. People assume that because an image is on the internet, it's free to use. Just because something is easy to pilfer doesn't make it fair game. Most often, a simple crediting is all a photographer is after. Two words, maybe a hyperlink.
"Most photographers generate new business from exposure and/or word of mouth," Washington photographer, Doug Van Sant tells us. "In using a photograph without crediting the photographer, not only have you eliminated paying the photographer for the image, you've now just taken away any chance they'll get more work in the future."
When it comes to photographer horror stories, Denver based photog Jordan Loyd has the winner. "I was shooting a large festival in New York a couple years ago," he begins. "And a then up-and-coming media outlet used my images as the cover, and inside cover spread, of their premier issue announcement. I don't know how many thousands of copies were printed, but I never even had a heads up."
This instance is an egregious violation from an established and international print organization that profits from the use of the photograph and definitely knows better. That said, it's no longer okay to think that blogs, artists, and everyday people shouldn't also be held accountable when they re-purpose photography on the internet. Think of crediting photographs as quoting a writer. It's often as simple as that.
At the breakneck pace at which internet media operates, it's often very easy to be neglectful of a photographer's rights. Nobody's perfect, but it's time for outlets and individuals, big and small, to assume an accountability when crediting photographers, at least in intention and attention if not 100 per cent compliance.
"I think a lot of the problem comes down to the people's sense of entitlement towards content," says Loyd. "We live in the age of social media where someone can take a photo, post the photo, and have that photo featured in a news article or blog within minutes." This is true. In the internet age, content is a luxury we're overwhelmed with, but that doesn't undercut it's value.
Toronto photographer Tobias Wang (Visualbass) says it best: "Photographers are the historians of this culture." They capture the culture, subculture, and lifestyle of a generation. If that isn't worth a quick Instagram shout-out, we don't know what is.
Ziad Ramley is on Twitter
Connie Chan is on Twitter
Header image courtesy of Jordan Loyd