For photographers who sell microstock, or who sell a photo every once in a blue moon, getting serious pay-outs for a single photo may sound as a dream. For those of us who deal in licenced photography, however, serious levels of payment aren’t unheard of. Personally, my best-selling set of photos have netted me a fair sum of cash: They’re very specific, and get sold again and again.
Today, I stumbled across the work of Thomas E. Witte, in a brilliant article over on Sports Shooter. Witte managed to snap a couple of photos that turned out to be pure gold dust: A high school football player who doesn’t have any feet. The photos netted him $12K.
What makes me wonder, though: Could it be argued that the photographers have an obligation to their subjects directly? Should Witte give the football player some of the money he earned in this case? Or does the opposite apply — like for photographers who cover conflict zones — that if you get involved, you are immediately unable to do your job properly?
It could be argued, of course, that the photos of Bobby Martin – the football player in the photos – are exploitative. After all, the only thing he is doing is what he loves: To play Football. In the grand scheme of things, Martin is probably unlikely to make any money of his passion: The big bucks are in the NFL, but a legless NFL player is probably not going to happen in our time. The alternative is the Paralympics, which is at least partially sponsorship-driven, and has made stars of a few games (like Wheelchair Rugby, as shown in the highly recommended film Murderball).
So, as fellow photographers, how should we feel? Personally, I am torn. On one hand, I want to say “Good work, Witte, for creating a motivational icon of Bobby Martin”, I mean, hell – there aren’t a lot of people who would have the guts to face the big burly opponents on the football pitch if you’re half their size, and especially if you lack legs. Without Witte’s work, chances of anyone finding out about Martin are slim. By showing his strength to the world, Witte’s photos could be a motivation to a generation of less-abled people.
On the other hand, I’m tempted to say “jeez, Witte, this is just a bit harsh. You’ve made a lot more money out of these photos than you expected. How about you split the cash with Martin? Keep $6K for yourself, and give $6K to him. It’s only polite.”
And finally, the cynic and paparazzi photographer in me goes, “Sod it, it’s a white-hot photo, and you deserve every penny you can get. What happens to a photo after you’ve taken it isn’t your problem, congrats on making a nice pile of cash out of it”.
How do you feel about these photos? Do photographers have a responsibility to their subject? Vote above, and let me know your opinions in the comments, below!
The photo in this article is a thumbnail taken from the Sports Shooter website, used under UK Fair Dealing law. The photograph is © Thomas E. Witte. To see the full version and more photos by the same photographer, please check out the source article
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