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Don't make more photos

On August 28, 2010; I was invited to the corporate picnic, in Grajewo, a small town, East of Warsaw, Poland. I was there, on a personal invitation from a friend
. I was introduced to a small group of friendly people, as a photo-journalist from India and it was my pleasure indeed, when a group of students, requested me to make some photos of their favorite band ZAKOPOWER. 

I am a photographer by profession and, freelance with the media & press. The last 10 years, I have lived and worked in more than 12 countries, some being USA, UK, countries in The Caribbean, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany etc. and since the last year or so, I live and work from Poland. 

My work keeps me on my toes and, I travel often. I must admit that, never before I had made photos in a live music show. I did however, made several photos of singers, film stars and models as part of my advertising photography. I may not be well versed with the laws of each individual country and any special laws for making photos during a live concert for that matter. However, I do know that, success for any individual, be it a successful model, actor and or actress and singers too depend a lot on the love and affection from their fans or, People Of Our World, as I often love to call and not only on their own hard work and creativity. I personally know artists, who are very creative, but they do not have a huge support from their fans and on the contrary, I know very popular ones, who are not as creative as they could be! These fans or as I like to say, People Of Our World can make and or break any individual. 

That evening, I was preparing myself to make photos of the live music show. I was, for the first time in my career, working for free, for a group of young, enthusiasts and crazy fans, simply because it reminded me of my past, how crazy I was together with my friends, just to get a glimpse of my favorite actor or actress or model. Those days, we used our traditional 35mm film camera to make photos and it often costed us a fortune to make photos during the live band, because, no one photographer can ever guarantee the success of photos made, during a live show, especially, if he or she is working with natural light. However, times have changed now. We have the finest digital full frame cameras, which are just fine for test and trails. I am also a visiting faculty in photography and always tell my students that, 'thanks to the digital era, we can test and try our works, therefore, shoot as many photos as you can. Because, you will know your success only at the editing desk'. 

I was stopped at the entrance of the stage area. I showed my press card and was allowed an entry, which made my work half easy. Now, it was all the skill, creativity and my experience which I could make use of, in making the photos of the band. I started working and it seemed all was going well. I made some 20 GB of photos, in raw format and, after every second or third photo, I would check the LCD of my camera making sure that, I am justifying my works. Once the music ended and I saw some of the musicians packing off, I too packed off my bags and came out of the stage area, went straight to the beer counter and got me a large beer, since I was working non-stop for almost 2 hours and needed just that chilled beer to quench me.

I walked towards the ladies who were waiting for me, I suppose, and I could already see the excitement in their faces! One of them hugged me and thanked me, saying she saw me making photos and, wanted to see them on the LCD of my camera. While I was showing her the photos, all I could hear her say was 'wadney' 'bardjo finey' etc. from her smile and body language, I could make out, that she liked my work. I gave all of them my business card with my email and asked them to email me, so that, I could email them the photos. And, was about to walk to the beer counter to get me another beer when one of them told me 'the real show begins in few minutes'. I was surprised, because, I though it was over! 

It was only then, that I got to know that, I was making photos of the live music show, of a band called SAMI, while ZAKOPOWER was yet to begin. Which simply meant that, I have to get back to work again. Entering back into the stage area wasn't difficult this time, since almost all the security there had seen me earlier. So even before I reached the security gates, one of them politely opened the gates for me. 

I un-packed my gear while the band had just started performing and, within minutes, I was in action. I might have photographed for around an hour or so, when I felt someone was knocking on my right shoulder. I turned around to see a woman, somewhat my age group, talking to me in Polish. I smiled at her and said 'przepraszam, jestem nie po polsku' which I guess in my broken Polish language meant, 'I am sorry, I do not speak Polish'. She immediately told me in an arrogant tone 'No photo, no photo'. I showed her my press card and before I knew or could make out what was happening, I could feel her arm behind on my back and pushing me to walk with her, towards the rear side of the stage. I started to walk with her and, asked her to introduce herself. She said her name was Joanna (sorry I could not remember her last name, both because of the loud music and also because it was hard to pronounce, as it was a very traditional Polish name). She took me to the corner to a place, where there were more members of her team and once again, said, 'No more photos. You make many photos why?' I could not understand why she was asking me those questions though! However, I showed her my press card again and, she asked me 'Are you invited here?' I answered her 'Yes I am' and showed her the invitation ribbon on my left arm. 'Who invited you?' I told her my friend and her friends are fan of the singer, so that wanted me to make some photos for him. I was absolutely stunned to hear her say once again, this time with even more attitude 'no, no, no, no photos. You make many photo, no more. You make more, you give royalty'. 

Now that really surprised me. I may not know the Polish laws, that is if they are any, special laws, for photographers, making photos in live concerts, however, I do know that, the question of royalty comes, ONLY when I am selling the photo commercially and making money or profit out of the sale. Thats when I need to share a percentage of royalty. Or, if some one client, makes a deal with the band, to produce their photos and or videos, for commercial use, then there is a situation for royalty etc. but, as long as I am making photos for my personal use, how does this royalty matter come into consideration? 

And surprisingly, I was right there making photos when the band SAMI was performing and in fact had made ever more photos but no one from their group said a word! In fact the lead singer from the group, actually walked down from the stage and went up to his fans, made some photos with them and shook his hands with many! And I was almost 1 feet away from him at one time, making photos and he gave me a big smile and walked away! While here was one, telling me to pack off!

However, I apologized myself and asked her if I could leave and she showed me the gates. I returned to my friends and on my way picked up another beer for myself. And told them all what had happened. All of us were surprised! How rude was it for the band manager or publicists or who-so-ever was that Joanna, to tell me not to make anymore photos. Did she or her band forget that, the success of any individual or the whole band as such, depends not only on their creativity and music skills but also or rather a lot on the love and affection they get from their fans? Fans who were jumping, screaming and dancing, in the rain, to be there for their loved band! Fans, who wanted some photos made professionally, so that, they could cherish those forever! But instead, what they get in-return were words 'Don't make more photos'.

Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh 
City: Kolkata
Country: India
Date: September 10, 2010