So, what do you do when you have a problem ? Burn everything ? Apparently , that is the new solution.
A year ago, French photographer, Jean Batiste ( sorry, couldn’t find his last name), decided that, in order to protest the harsh financial conditions some photographers face, he would burn his images. You can see the dramatic video here :
The result ? A lot of sympathetic press coverage on a slow news day and not much more. After all, if his images don’t sell, why would any care what he does with it ? Furthermore, he might have scanned all of them, making the burning of negatives ( remember those ?) barely symbolic.
He wanted to bring the attention of the French government on the fact that he was making little less than minimum wage with his pictures due to the financial mistreatment of photography. The French Government did not particularly react as they had to deal, like so many others, to a global meltdown of the economy. The financial trouble of a lonely photographer was no match to the global collapse of our banking system.So what does this Jean Batiste do ?
He is at it again. This time, he wants all photographers to join him in burning their negatives at the footsteps of a statue of Nicephore Niepce, the inventor of photography. Located in the remote town of Chalon sur Saône, somewhere in France, the event is schedule for January 11, 2011.
Surely, this is no Koran burning and it is doubtful that it will receive any of the obscene amount of coverage that we have recently seen. It is neither the self immolation of a monk, as we had dramatically witnessed during the Vietnam war. This is the tantrum of a unknown french photographer who like many of his fellow citizen cannot think of anything better than blame the government for his hard time and demand that they hold his hand.
We are aware of at least two photographers currently about to be evicted from their houses because they cannot pay their bills anymore. Do you think they are burning their hard drives in their back yard hoping Obama will notice ? No. They are hard at work trying to reinvent themselves in an extremely difficult time. Do they complain, bitch, cry, and kick. Sure.
But they certainly have no attention to walking in Washington demanding their rights to make a decent living. You know why ? Because they feel extremely fortunate to have been a living on a trade they love. Because they knew from day one of embracing this life that they would hit bumps and roadblocks.
Because they love photography too much to burn it.
About the author
This business has too many Surveyors and not enough Bohemians” Roger Therond , legendary photo man, once said to a good friend of mine, Eliane Laffont. This blog is about restoring the balance and letting the Bohemians talk.
Paul Melcher has been named one of the “50 most influential individuals in American photography” by American Photo. He is currently senior vice president of the PictureGroup. He writes the Thoughts of a Bohemian blog