Snap, Capture, Crack – words, photography and rights

Illegal Dance, Tony Adigun. (c) Carole Edrich 2011

Illegal Dance, Tony Adigun. (c) Carole Edrich 2011

When people (who I assume are all professional photographers) took umbrage at a comment I made on Facebook (‘nice capture’) on a gorgeous shot of two sparrows at a feeder, I was forced to consider whether the word capture was an appropriate compliment for a pro-photographer. From the context of their comments it seemed they considered it to be at the same low-level as ‘snap’ (unless used in very precise contexts, ‘snap’ is as insulting to many* professional photographers as it’s possible to get).

I’ve never considered ‘capture’ to be derogatory at all. Light is captured by the camera, I try to capture the spirit and characters of dance and dancers, a great photograph captures peoples’ minds and hearts. A good capture takes hard work, good planning, skill and timing and probably a whole lot of back-breaking hanging around (because the best angles always require us to wait in uncomfortable positions or stay scrunched in a horrendously unhealthy crouch).

Partly due to my writerly pleasure in pedantry, but mostly to make sure that I hadn’t inadvertently insulted a man who I view with considerable respect, I decided to make sure I hadn’t got it wrong and searched the internet to find out if other pro-photographers, or those who respect them, use the word capture when describing their work.

I was reassured. Andy Rouse ‘captures’ moments. The Daily Mail speaks with awe about how Jonathan Griffiths does the same and in his biography on he uses the word himself in praise of Joel Sartore. The NUJ Fees Guide uses the word digital capture too. So, why did the facebookers take such exception?

I think the reason is that they’re feeling threatened. Threatened by the apparent democratisation of photography, by the way that so many publications are sacking skilled photographers and replacing the results of their hard-won skills with snapshots taken by staff on iPhones. While their actions in my opinion are misdirected, they’re right to feel threatened and right to work together to defend their photographic turf.

The only way to continue taking photos for money – something that we all love – is to change the business paradigm within which we operate whilst fighting tooth and nail to retain fair rights to our images. Make no mistake, our moral rights, our right to retain our own copyright and our right to royalties for our work (whether photographic or written) are all under siege.

To that end please join us in campaigning to maintain these rights. Lend us your humour, your invective, your passion, your voice. If you’re in the NUJ join the facebook page the Photographers’ Council has recently created, if you’re not, join an organisation appropriate to you. Be counted. Defend yourself, your income, your lifestyle. Do so now, before it’s too late.

This is important. If we don’t succeed, the choice of words people use to describe any photos will be the least of our problems.

I chose the image above because it shows people doing nothing but watching while the main protagonists battle it out. Who knows but that the results of this fight could be very different if the silent majority joined with those who are demonstrating how very much they care.