Artwork: “Logo by Martin Colyer of the Stop Working For Free Group.

Pat Pope : My Final Word.

Please allow me to introduce myself: I’m Pat Pope and I’m addicted to reading negative comments and abuse hurled at me on the internet. For the sake of my own sanity, this is me going cold turkey.

Last week I made the mistake of writing one of those Open Letters you hear about. I wrote it in response to a request from Garbage’s management company that they’d like my permission to use a photo that I took and I own in a book they intend to publish and sell for money. But they’d like to not pay me. Since it went out on the internet it’s caused a huge debate, and within that debate I’ve been called a “whiney weener”, a “shitty douchebag”, and an “egomaniac”, and I’ve been encouraged to “watch your back” because “we will find you”. I found it quite hard to read those comments, not least because I’m English and I’m not sure what two of them actually mean. For the sake of balance, I’ve also been described as an “internet warrior” and someone who is “standing up for the little guy”, so it wasn’t all terrifying, some of it was just a bit mad. But I need to get back to my life now, so I’m turning it all off. This is my final and only comment on the whole debacle, and I just want to use it to clear up some misconceptions.

Why did I write an Open Letter?

There’s been a lot of criticism of me making this public, with some saying I should just have quietly refused permission. There’s three reasons why I didn’t do that.

1. People think this is a one off request for special dispensation from one particular group of artists just trying to make one specific project happen. It isn’t. I receive hundreds of these requests a year, as does every other photographer I know. This is the new normal – writing down a budget in which you’ll get the photographic content for free by making the photographer give it to you. How will you make them give it to you? By quietly abusing the power relationship.

2. The Power Relationship. Garbage stated in their response that they “humbly requested” the use of my work for an “artistic collaboration”. To be clear, Garbage didn’t contact me at all. Garbage paid someone at their management company to send me a pro-forma request for free usage of my work. When you receive a request like that, the power relationship is that a gigantic branded entity with huge reach and backing is asking a lone freelancer to accept that the value of their work is zero. Your two choices are to give them the permission, valuing your work at zero, or to refuse permission, in which case they will quietly remove you from the list of freelancers they work with so you won’t get any future work. This has happened to me time and again when refusing or granting permission. If Garbage don’t understand that this is the nature of these requests then they need to spend less time reading Amanda Palmer and slightly more time investigating how power and control work.

3. When writing the original Open Letter I honestly believed that Garbage probably didn’t know that this was happening in their name. I’ve met and socialised with the members of the band on several occasions. I remain a fan, not just of the band but of the artists as people. When I wrote the letter I genuinely expected that this would be an opportunity for them to step forward and stand up for artists. I know hundreds of people working in the creative industries would have stood alongside them had they chosen to do that. To be honest, I sort of regret choosing them for the Open Letter format because of their response. It wasn’t my intention to embarrass them or accuse them of anything; they’re great people, we just disagree on this which I’m disappointed and surprised by.
Why does any of this matter?

We are living in an age where content service providers and the public have unwittingly collaborated to reduce the value of creative content to zero. Companies are happy to sell you an expensive shiny device that sits in your pocket giving you access to limitless creative content. They conspire with other companies to create services that will deliver that content to you for free. The public unwittingly colluding with those companies to ensure the service providers and the device makers are getting paid while the artists are not. Take your device out of your pocket and go on to Google, Facebook, YouTube or Spotify right now. You can see dozens of photos I own accompanying thousands of pieces of music played by your favourite artists, and none of us are getting paid. The creative community has become used to these companies’ complete disregard for the content creators. I wrote the Open Letter to Garbage because the very least we can do, as an artistic community, is to refuse to adopt their methods to undervalue our own work, artist to artist.

What can we do?

I’m no “internet warrior”, and I’m certainly not applying for the job as figurehead for any campaign demanding this or that. But I do know that all of us in the creative community have to Stop Working For Free. Musicians, photographers, videomakers, illustrators, animators, writers, journalists, filmmakers, actors, dancers and composers; these people have to be able to make a living doing what they do, and all of us have to support each other to Stop Working For Free. There’s a Facebook group for that run by people who know more about it than me. Join it. The next request you receive for some free content, write your own Open Letter. Let’s get this practice out in the open. When the budget for your next project gets put in front of you, ask where the money is for the artists. All the artists.

I’m Pat Pope, and I’m a professional photographer. In my career I’ve been fortunate to work with Bowie, Lou Reed, Radiohead, Oasis and Garbage. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to use my skills, training and the time and money I have invested in something I love doing around people I respect, but this is my career.

Like Garbage, I sometime choose to collaborate with artists who don’t have a budget to work with me; in the last two years those bands have included Joeyfat, Ugly Love, Slaves, House On Fire, and Tom Williams. You should check them out.

Like Garbage, I sometimes choose to donate my time to charities; my two personal choices are Rhythmix (their Wishing Well project puts music into hospitals for sick children, it’s amazing) and Taylor Made Dreams (who enable life limited children to achieve their dreams, again, incredible). You should definitely donate to them.

Unlike Garbage, I think the work of artists, including my own work, has a value that is at least equal to everything else being done in a commercial project, and I’m not prepared to reduce the value of it to zero by giving it away.

Stop Working For Free. That’s my final word.

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  1. Amen. You’re a damned fine photographer and if your work is good enough to go into a book it’s good enough to command a price.
    Respect for standing up against shameless exploitation.

  2. As a fan & photog I’m extremely disappointed at the bands cavalier attitude to copyright law and the privileged attitude they exhibited. Sadly the genie cannot be returned to the bottle.

  3. Hi Pat
    I read this from the post of a friend on FB and was curious to how much it would have cost them to include your work?

  4. I’d be interested to know whether the artists who want to use your work for free have ever whined about Spotify etc robbing them of income. But anyway. I support you wholeheartedly.

  5. Well said Pat. I’ve been following this with interest and have also been disappointed at the way Garbage have devalued your work. Sadly, it isn’t only in the arts that people are expected to work for free. As a therapist I, too, have been asked to work for free on several occasions. A ‘thank you’ is very nice but it doesn’t pay the bills.

  6. Thanks for being brave enough to take this stance. It’s sad to see the backlash from so many people who disagree (mainly band fans I noticed), and who genuinely don’t see the harm in what was being asked.

    It won’t be too long before their shiny little devices or their newspaper are filled with sub standard, barely even mediocre morsels of content (I daren’t call it creative) because there will be no creative content providers able to afford basic living costs any more.
    “Creative” content is disappearing, replaced by “User Generated Content”, or as it should be known, dross.

    Newspapers and magazines are just as bad, digging their own graves… Rather than paying for professional images they prefer to fill the space next to the valuable advertising slots with anything they can get their hands on, provided it’s free. People stop buying it… Advertisers won’t pay for space that no-one will see, newspaper cuts costs even further.. Vicious circle.

    We need people to stop believing that they will benefit from the “kudos” that supposedly comes from being asked to make someone get even richer and help give them even greater exposure.

    Kudos? Yeah great… In which country is that legal tender? I’d like to cash some in.

  7. Great cogent response. Thanks for making this public Pat. Btw I’m doing a single cover shoot soon, don’t know if you’re interested, not sure if there’s much budget for the actual photographer but you know how it is….

  8. Well, the photographer has done well now and got lot’s of free publicity, I can see a few issues on both sides of this argument. The band probably should have just approached it as normal and paid for the photos while the photographer has been a little public about it and could have just been a little more pleased their work was going to be well publicized. I mean, many photographers would love a chance like that.

    • Well done Pat! It’s about time these practices were out in the open on a public forum. I too work in the creative industry and have been asked numerous times to work for free, to be honest it really pi$$es me off. Unless it’s for charity and completely non profit I’m not interested! I’ve spent the last twenty years working to get where I am and don’t think my talents are worthless. Tell me which restaurant, car showroom, plumber etc, that will accept a credit as payment and I’ll be straight round.

      One of the responders to this thread mentioned that it was great PR for Pat??? I think they need to go and read what’s being said because they have obviously misunderstood completely.

      In my industry big conglomerate companies producing content regularly through smaller agencies and production companies demand work to be produced for budgets that are a fraction of what they should be. There’s been a gradual erosion of budgets and rates for creative services over the last fifteen years or so. Being expected to work for free or very low rates is unfortunately the norm. When demand for content for so many platforms is so high, the creative industries should be awash with cash and not struggling.

    • “[he] could have just been a little more pleased [his] work was going to be well publicized”

      Huh? To what end? This is what the guy does – takes portraits, band shots etc. If he gives those away for free (to multi-millionaire bands creating vanity projects), how does he make money?!

    • Believe it or not though, exposure isn’t high on the priority list for many photographers, and pat pope being around for a career length is hardly the newcomer needing to get his work out there. I believe the quality of his work and reputation built over the years is worth well more than exposure

    • “…the photographer has been a little public about it and could have just been a little more pleased their work was going to be well publicized. I mean, many photographers would love a chance like that.”

      Even photographers need to eat at some point. And you can’t pay bills with “exposure.”

    • @N Border

      I haven’t seen Pat for years but I know him well – I used to process his film back in the day. First time I saw his work it was obvious he was a top photographer – I used to love processing his stuff, I got to see great pictures of all the latest and best bands. He never ‘needed the publicity’ back then and I’m betting he sure as hell doesn’t need it now.

    • The idea that publicity is a fair exchange for work is exactly the kind of misconception that Pat is rightly trying to tackle. No amount of publicity will help a creative professional if their work is not remunerated.

    • “I mean, many photographers would love a chance like that.”

      THAT is a huge part of the problem! WAY too many photographers devalue photography as a whole by buying into the hype of “being published” in an “important publication” with the only pay-off being that they will be given “credit” for the photos.

      Everyone needs to make a living. Would you do whatever it is that you do for free when asked to do it by someone who is, not only capable of paying you but also a staunch supporter of the people in THEIR industry getting paid? And not just once, but often. Often enough that people begin to look at what you do as something they can get without having to pay for it. If you give that some serious and honest thought then it should send a chill up your spine (because you would see your career going down the toilet), and you would understand the plight of today’s professional photographers!

  9. Thank you so much for standing up, as an artist and a mother of a photographer and an artist and actor/ singer , I totally agree… the whole industry has moved to a position whereby we are supposed to be grateful if our work is chosen and give it willingly…. or work for free as an intern or in profit share production ( badly named as there is no profit just an excuse to get talented people to work for free and be “showcased”) it’s important to pay for art and music…. i never ask to go on the guest list etc….. I want the artists to feel valued for their work . Its such an important issue, we all enjoy art and music and really must apprieciate the people that bring that to us are struggling to make ends meet quite often in order to pursue their work…….. yet imagine a world without it!!!! we’d soon all be paying loads because it’s food for the soul!

  10. Well done for making a stand and I have to agree with you 100%
    I am disappointed that Garbage do not see it that way too which only shows their level of integrity

  11. Pat I been reading your open letter and the Garbage response.

    I just want to say thank you for taking the time and clarify all this battle between artist vs artist.

    Fans will be in the support of Garbage side but as a photographer like you I’m by your side.

  12. “If Garbage don’t understand that this is the nature of these requests then they need to spend less time reading Amanda Palmer and slightly more time investigating how power and control work.”

    You’re awesome! Please, yes, let’s talk about how Power works. And fuck Amanda Palmer & her fucking people over with her bullshit.

  13. Thank you for bringing this important matter into the open. I was disappointed in the response your received from Garbage who I had hoped would have sided with you as a fellow artist. Perhaps they have changed from artists into businessmen and women with only their eyes on the monetary prize. I have rather gone off them.

  14. You had me up until the Amanda Palmer part. Never heard of Garbage, but am a Palmer fan and don’t think you know what the Kickstarter deal was that you are apparently slamming. She did a break even CD production that featured amateur musicians who were fans and we’re delighted to volunteer to play with her and her band on stage. They weren’t complaining or agitating to be paid. That was some other sourpuss that inserted himself into the debate and stirred up the sh*t.

    I respect your right to be paid for commercial work as a professional, but that has nothing to do with musicians who wanted the chance to play a gig with a well regarded artist and were willing to do it for free.

  15. Thank you, Pat. Well done! The same situation is here, in Croatia. And once you refuse to let them publish your work for free they never work again with you.

  16. Pat…
    thanks for all of this…you’ve put my frustration into perfect descriptive words. I’ve experienced time and again, this dilemma of saying “no” as a way of not buying into this BS system vs. the implied power threat of “being blackballed” by the art buyer, the art directors, or the event coordinators, etc. It’s driven me to the point of simply quitting my attempts at having a business from photography and going back to simply creating for my own enjoyment…it’s a race to the bottom for the most part. Nevertheless, I applaud your voice and your strength. Thanks for fighting this one for all of us as well.

  17. So many people expect me to just give them photos as they have the belief anyone can do it and that it takes no skill or effort! So much so that so many photographer who have trained can not make a living! I have to work part time in minimum wage to suppliment any photography projects and all this after 5 years of University to learn my craft! As the quote goes “but john down the road has a good camera and he can do it for half what you are asking”! Plus the advent of so many royalTy free images has made photography as a profession very difficult – answer – regulate our industry. I can’t work on site as a labourer without the right certificate in Britain but I can light a wedding in the rain with a strobe

  18. Do Louder Than War pay their photographers/writers? I know that most music blogs don’t these days. Seeing as this debate centers around payment for services, it would be good to know.

    • We can’t afford to pay anyone. We can’t even pay ourselves. We would if people who read the site could pay for the content. If people want to pay to read Pat’s blog we would be happy to set up a pay button and send all the money to him. The money we make on the ads all goes on upkeep on the site and paying for the server. That’s what makes this debate interesting. It’s Pat’s debate. We are not taking sides just providing an (unpaid) platform for debate.

  19. Brilliant and eloquent piece Pat. More power to your elbow and to everyone like you, myself included, who is sick and tired of being taken the piss out of. Sadly things aren’t getting better for any of us and that is due to the fact that photography, so called, is ubiquitous thereby feeding the idea that it has little monetary value. Too bad that playing a musical instrument well isn’t just a click away for the masses. The shoe would quickly be on the other foot!

  20. Well done Pat, i’m 100% behind your claim. More than a simple fee matter i see it as a respect reason. I quited doing freelance work a long time ago and no long work photography as job. Somehow people assumed that potographers would be willing to work without pay for the sake of a mere mention of their name and sometimes not even so.
    I ‘ve provided photo work for several institutions although none of it was used for commercial purposes. I wouldn’t mind doing so as long as I have the time to spare and that doesn’t implies incurring on any expenses, if it is done in my view as a way of benefitting the comunity, but what you’ve been asked is completely different and clearly shows a lack of respect for the work and the personality of someone. Respect is the last thing we can afford to lose or to give away.

  21. Pat, this could make a great movie and would love to discuss rights. Im thinking action adventure. Maybe the band is pulling heists in the cities where they tour. Catch phrase from the crime fighting photographer: “time to take out the trash! (c) 2015 Jason all rights reserved.

    Seriously, don’t let the haters get you down. They have never known the joy in creating something that exists solely through their own abilities. Keep on rocking.

  22. This is an important topic that needs to be dragged into the light of day for everyone to see. You performed a great public service by writing that open letter, and you did with eloquence and tact. Good job fighting for all creative types!

  23. You may not have anticipated this level or variety of response, Pat. But, let’s be clear, you did the right thing, expressed your points with class and eloquence and the rest of us thank you. You are a rock star in my book.

    Good on ya’!

    • Are you asking Pat that question? I think Martin Colyer gave his artwork to the people running a campaign to give to websites to use for the story.

  24. I’m not an an artist, but I’m a crafter. It annoys me when I invest time in a project and somebody demands it for free. Working for free not only means you don’t value your work, you also don’t value your time.
    I think what you did is a fine thing and an example for the creatives masses. So let’s raise one for taking a stand!

  25. i totaly agree Pat, demand respect and recognition for yours/our skills and efforts and I’ve had my rants about this issue many times. No one would ask a dentist to just ‘do it for free, but I’ll tell people how good you were.’ It’s a curse of our industry but we gotta stay strong n saying ‘no’ may puss some off but it’s for the greater good and integrity!

  26. Even when a fee has been agreed there are some PR companies that don’t pay the photographer until their client has settled the invoice. When the agency’s client doesn’t pay, the photographer doesn’t get paid either and making a fuss or taking legal action is the best way to get blacklisted.

    Is Pat planning to retire soon? Good luck to him!

  27. Bravo, Pat, just bravo. Creative people need to be paid a living wage. All the bottom feeders who think that they can hire a photographer for their 12 hour wedding for $50 and a meal deserve no responses at all. All the news media outlets that invite TV viewers to send in their cell phone videos of spot news instead of actually hiring some video crews deserve to receive — NOTHING. And all the people who complain when you try to charge a fair price for your work — they all expect to be paid, so when someone tries to stiff you, WALK AWAY.

  28. I have an idea. Imagine if every creative joined together as “Artists United”. With the goal of working professionally at all times, and never for free.

    And imagine if we would only work for businesses that were signatories to the ArtistsUnited work ethic. – It’s just a logo and an idea at this point.

    I need help making it so the signatory badge is in every bar that uses musicians, every magazine that publishes photographs, etc.

  29. Great point! Artists shouldn’t ever do work for free, ever.

    Incidentally, how much did Martin Colyer get paid for the awesome logo he designed?

    Wouldn’t it be amazingly ironic if the “stop working for free” logo was designed and created for free.

    Here’s an idea: if someone asks to use your work for free and you don’t feel like letting them use your work, tell them no thank you.

    While making that choice for yourself, you could also allow for the possibility that there are lots of valid reasons why people would lend their artistic voice and vision to a cause they believe in, even if that cause is just to get noticed.

    You do you. Everyone else gets to do everyone else.

    • Ben…we were given that logo by someone else. I guess it’s people’s choice what they charge for their art and writing – ina sense even leaving a comment on here is creative and take time and should be paid for – this whole debate is about how do we draw a line and where do we draw this line…!

      • Hey Mick,

        Yeah — I play music for a living so I definitely get that it can be frustrating when people request free performances “for the publicity.”

        I would say about 60% of the inquiries I get are for performances that they don’t want to pay for.

        The majority of those get a polite, “Sorry, I’m not available, but I’m flattered and grateful for your interest.”

        The part I don’t get is the desire of some artists to make other artists feel guilty for saying yes to free requests for their work.

        You were given that awesome logo because a talented artist believed in the cause enough to donate their talent. That’s their choice. No need for them to feel guilty about doing that work for free.

        My thing I’d that rather than trying to convince other artists to say no to free, how bout if we all just refuse to ever use free work.

        Rather thank have your friend take some photos of you for promo — hire them! Website? Pay for one! Logo? Pay for one!

        If other people want to give their work away, they should be celebrated for their generosity. If they choose not to give their art away, they should be celebrated for their decision to protect the rarity and exclusivity of their art. Either way, it’s their decision!

  30. Garbage have so much dosh it is quite irresponsible of Pat to ask them to risk serious wrist injuries dragging some of it from their bulging pockets. This could seriously affect their ability to create yet another album that will be a pale imitation of their earlier records.

  31. As someone who commissioned Pat to shoot bands I worked with on more than one occasion I can vouch for his integrity and also support his stance on this issue . Too often the creatives who work on a project are the last to get paid . This has to stop . Without creativity there is no creative industry . Without musicians , photographers and other artists it will all stop . Who wants that ? Not me ….let’s show some respect here and reward creators on the same level we reward everyone else who works on a creative project …

  32. Thank you Pat for standing up to this issue. It happens all to often. N. Border made the comment- “I mean, many photographers would love a chance like that.” If photographers jumped at the chance to get their images used this way, that just condones the free use of images for other photographers down the road. I’ve heard many times “Joe Schmoe gave us photographs for free, why don’t you.” That is all wrong. It devalues our work as a whole. Jason Sheldon said it right, that Pat does not need free publicity. He needs to be paid for his work.

  33. Very well said, all artists go through this and you are 100% right, If anyone else complaints point them towards your fine open letter, If they still cant see it give up on them, they never will.

    Very well put for all of us.


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