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Burning my negatives

Jean-Baptiste Avril , Oct 20, 2009; 08:01 a.m.

Moved from the Philosophy forum because it's not the Rant forum.

By the beginning of 2010, I'll burn one of my latest work negatives, about 20 BW films (36 exposures).
I know it's a bit harsh, but there is a sort of logic behind it (at least for me).
Here is the story: I worked more or less for a year on an architecture project on the centennial of Tel-Aviv, at the demand of one of the best contemporary art gallery in Israel. Came out with a serie of about 80 pictures, twelve of them being printed on silver gelatin (60x90 cm). The exibition, six weeks early 2009 was a success with a huge press coverage, and incidently a very large frequentation of the gallery. A book was also published by the gallery with 80 pics, and text.
The bad side now: Never, absolutly never in my 20 years carrer as a photographer, I had to face such a vampirism. I had of course positive or negative answers to previous works around the workd, sometime with important delays, but there, every single approach I had wanted my work to be... just for free!
- El Al (israel airline) inflight magazine loved publishing my work and text on five pages, but were not willing to even give a courtesy ticket in exchange. I was even told that "some people were paying to be published in their magazine".
- The most important insurance compagny in the country which has a cultural dpt and a large exibition room at the headquater, wanted (and had) the exibition for two months, but no money for the artist. I was told that it was due to the financial crisis.
- The curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Tel-Aviv requested my gallery to have two of the prints displayed at the museum for three months, as part as an important exibition "Tel-Aviv by international photographers", but paid nothing to help.
- Various gvt institutions contacted me to use my work to illustrate various brochures and catalogues on Tel-Aviv centennial but "had absolutly no budget to pay for the photographs"
- Many communities in France, Luxembourg and Geneva would have loved to have the prints and set up an exibition to celebrate the centennial of the city, but had also no money to participate to the needs of the artist.
- A french magazine published me on six pages to celebrate in their portfolio section the event of the centennial, but of course no money...

And so on...
Of course, every single time I had the usual "you know, that will be such a good publicity for you!"
With more than 40 pages of press on that work, plus web articles etc... I could live then on publicity till the end of my life!!!
So I just got fed up.
I believe that public and private institutions don't play their role into supporting the artistic life through the artists essential needs: money, grants, whatever you want to call it.
So my work has to be for free! All right! As it has no value I don't see the need for it to physically exist much longer.
I'll wait for the end of the centennial year and then burn the entire serie. Of course, I'll keep the set of these 12 large format silver gelatin prints, hoping they might (then) start to represent "something" on the market.
Of course, the destruction of the negs will be done in public, filmed, displayed on medias like YouTube. I will even sent an invitation card to all these people and structures involved in such a fiasco. Don't think they'll come, don't even think they'll learn something about it :(


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Monika Epsefass , Oct 20, 2009; 08:06 a.m.

Luxembourg has no money? I don't believe it. I work there, and they were cultural capital when? Two years ago? They have such huge culture budgets that other cities start to cry when you even just mention it... apart from that, in Luxembourg, everything is established through personal contacts, so if you're an outsider, they really want you or someone else gets you in. Sad sad story.

Don't burn your films, though. Negatives are like your children, so don't treat them badly.

Zoe Wiseman , Oct 20, 2009; 08:20 a.m.

I understand you Jean.
Vampires... yep!

Let me know when you post the video... I'll publish it everywhere.

Howard Vrankin , Oct 20, 2009; 08:29 a.m.

It would be a tragedy for valuable negatives to be destroyed. You have no way of knowing what value they might have in some future application beyond your lifetime.

Luis G , Oct 20, 2009; 08:40 a.m.

If El Al had no money, why did you let them publish your pictures? You could have said no.

Why did you give the insurance company your work to exhibit if you weren't happy with the arrangements?

You did not agree for Israeli government institutions to use your work w/o compensation, right?

Why did your pictures appear in a French magazine if you weren't happy with the deal?

How were the book sales? Print sales? Do you think all this exposure help with the sales?

Museums normally do not pay artists for exhibitions, though they help find sponsors to defray printing/framing costs.

Steve Smith , Oct 20, 2009; 08:44 a.m.

Do what you like. They're your negatives.

Jean-Baptiste Avril , Oct 20, 2009; 08:44 a.m.

I'll be honnest, I will keep the digital files from scanned pictures. Nevertheless, the original files will be destroyed. For me, it will be like making a statement on how this "artistic" world is ridiculous...
I had university scholars asking for my work, of course for free, to illustrate catalogues after seminars. They were surprised when I say I needed to make a living form my work!
I has to remind them that at their bloody seminars and workshops, they had their fees to attempt. event the taxi driver taking them from the airport to the location of the congress didn't work for free. Even the waiter offering champagne at the opening ceremony was getting paid. For the photographer who's work will illustrate the object of their work: Nothing !

Jean-Baptiste Avril , Oct 20, 2009; 08:47 a.m.

To Luis G,
I "played" the game till I realized how systematic the "use for free" was.
I agreed I said yes a reasonnable amount of time, till it appeared that it had to be a rule :(

B.J. Scharp , Oct 20, 2009; 08:48 a.m.

As Luis G said, make arrangements for payment before giving the images. If you don't agree with the terms, don't give them the images. If they take them anyway, sue them for copyright infringement.

Clearly, your pictures are wanted.. Destroying them won't benefit anyone. Store them in a bank vault until clients are willing to pay you for them. If that day doesn't come, safe them for future generations.

William Kahn , Oct 20, 2009; 08:49 a.m.

Howard is right. Burning your negatives, as dramatic as that might be in the short term, would be a mistake that you would regret in the long term.

But, you have uncovered one crucial difference between film and digital photography: The drama. Imagine a digital photographer announcing a public file deletion...

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