In Australia it is likely that about 95% of the photographers in the pit at any given gig are working for free, for the love of it.

It’s true that we in exchange for our efforts we get to see lots of amazing gigs – but the work we put in extends far beyond what punters or the musicians see. We get to gigs early to get a good position, to shoot up and provide exposure to the support bands, we don’t always get to watch the show – sometimes we get escorted in and out of venues and have to wait outside in between sets, we work for hours after we get home, editing shots and getting them online as soon as possible after the show – all of this often without pay, because we love photography and we love live music.

While I do it for the love of it, I would also love to make a career from it. A paid career.

Photographers are often asked to shoot “for exposure” or “for credit”, the intention being that people will then see the shots and offer paid work. But paid photography work in this industry in rare, and it is becoming more commonplace for a photographer to be required to sign away the ownership of their images, or their ability to use the images for any other purpose beyond a singular editorial use.

I have signed contracts that have specifically prevented me from using images in my own portfolio, that have stated I must hand over the “negatives” of my images to the band if requested to do so, and even that a band “shall have the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations as [they] determine, without obtaining my consent and without any payment or consideration therefor”. Yep, it gets pretty intense!

I understand that there may be some people out there who do the wrong thing, who try and profit from photos they have taken of an artist, maybe selling shots to be used on t-shirts, or posters etc. And I assume that this is, at least in part, the reason why there are such tight conditions on some of these contracts. It’s completely understandable that an artist wants to protect their image.

For a live music photographer there is no bigger compliment than seeing one of your shots being chosen/shared/used by the musician you have photographed. It means that out of all of the available images, they thought your shot captured something special and they liked it enough to share it with their fans. For me, personally, live music photography is my passion and my artistic expression. This is why it is so heartbreaking to see images being shared without crediting the photographer. Sometimes the photographer’s name wont be tagged/mentioned in the post, sometimes the watermark will be removed, I have even seen an artist crop, flip and convert and image to B&W before sharing – totally changing the photographers image. These sort of actions take away the ability for the photographer to be appreciated for their work, for their skill (especially when the musician has edited the image), and without crediting the image it takes away the opportunity for potential work via any exposure.

So what I am hoping to do with this project is better understand all perspectives on the relationship between a live performance and images of the performance, the art of the musician and the art of the photographer,  and the businesses surrounding music and photography.

To open up a conversation that will allow us ALL to better understand the value in this dynamic, and how musicians and photographers can come together to help each other, and our industries!