Boris the culture commie?

Are free photos evil? I’m going to stick my neck out and defend the Greater London Authority for setting up a Flickr group where Londoners can submit photos to be used on the GLA web site. A few photographers are upset that anyone can now get decent photos for free from citizens who donate them. Shocker. These photographers want the GLA to use our taxes to pay them for their hard work.

I’m sorry, but that’s just plain ridiculous. Should we condemn the GLA for using free software for their web site, instead of paying for a proprietary content management system? Dearie me. Look, the web has changed many creative industries and bust the business models of those few who were charging for stuff that lots of us will happily share quite freely. Get over it.

This storm-in-a-lens-pouch has been picked up by the venerable Boris Watch and the Telegraph, who both seem to sympathise with the photographers. They echo the photographers and conflate this issue with the way that the police and the More London security guards act stupidly towards photographers, as though this has anything to do with the GLA (a different organisation) inviting its 7.56 million citizens to contribute their lovely photos to the GLA web site.

The great collection of photos in the group – including a few of mine – suggest that most people are quite happy donating their work.

One Comment

  1. Rob Myers said:

    If a professional photographer feels threatened by the free availability of amateur snapshots they probably aren’t as professional as they think.

    Professional photography is a matter of being able to get to the right place at the right time to fulfil the right brief for the right client. Random photos of London by random punters won’t fulfil any of those criteria unless they are photographs of unexpected newsworthy events that a professional photographer wouldn’t want or be able to get to (the phone camera photographs from inside of tube carriages after the suicide bomber attacks in 2005 being a case in point).

    Greater exposure of amateur photography of London will inform potential clients of what it is possible to hire a professional photographer to improve on. And thereby create demand for their services. Professionals are better than amateurs, that’s what makes them professionals. Differentiating their offerings from those of amateurs should be easy.

    That said, the public should not be prevented from sharing amateur works in order to allay the fears of (soi disant) professionals. Even where doing so will not increase demand for the professionals’ services. This is because photography is speech in the free speech sense, and suppressing an outlet for photographic works is suppressing free speech.

    I’m not surprised that a few photographers are freaked out by this (my father was a photographer, it’s not the most secure of professions) or that a *watch blog and a newspaper have picked up on the non-story. “Get over it” sums it up. But there should be a dummies guide, cookbook or design pattern book for people who feel threatened by other people’s freedom. They are an opportunity…

    22nd February 2010

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