How do you make representational painting in the digital age, when bodies no longer have to be near each other to interact? Pieter Schoolwerth ponders this in a multi-step process that involves photographing figures and shadows, drawing them, altering them in the computer, creating them in foam core or wood and printing and painting on canvas. The resulting images are convincingly attractive but unsatisfying - in this enigmatic relief sculpture depicting a student center, various figures are together but don’t connect. (At Migeul Abreu Gallery on the Lower East Side through June 28th).
Pieter Schoolwerth, Model for “Student Center,” enamel on wood, 54 3/8 x 47 ¼ x 7 ½ inches, 2017.
A picture is worth... nothing in the digital age, apparently.
I suppose at this point, with this whole RedJumpsuit mess, there’s no use in pulling punches anymore with my own reasoning for stopping my little run as a music photographer. I’ve touched on it before in past blogs, but with this new situation, I may as well go into more detail… let’s take a ride.
(and just for the record before I get started: all band names & other photographers names will not be mentioned in this, as to not drag them into anything, since these are my opinions)
Music photographers, with the rare exceptions out there, get no respect from bands, crew, venue staff, fans, and so on. This isn’t really something up for debate, so much as it’s a fact, as proven by thousands of music photographers yearly. We catch abuse in many different forms to get ‘the shot’ that not only we, as professionals, will be proud of, but also one the band will be stoked on having to represent them to their fans; photographers have JUST as much of an opportunity to make you look like an absolute jackass as they do to make you look iconic. Iconic, that’s something you DO want your band to be, right? That’s a little bit better than 'world wide known’, I’d safely assume.
Now getting back to my reasoning for leaving: I was sick of it. I was sick of the disrespect, sick of the theft, sick of the 'friends’ that would try to take advantage of our friendship for their personal gain, and REALLY sick of management/labels/publications trying to strongarm myself, and others, for our images. It was outrageous the stuff I put up with.
On one occasion, I received word that a management group that I was to meet with about images of their client passed an email from their label around the office that said something along the lines of 'do everything in your power to get him to sign over the rights to all of the images, but under no circumstances do you pay him’. That was the last straw that really showed me where on the totem pole I was as a photographer, and there was no way I was going to continue to bust my ass to get nowhere.
While I was involved in the music industry, I had the following happen:
An artist purposely walking over and kicking my lens while I was tucked away in the photo pit, not in anyone’s way.
Bands using my images on merchandise without my consent and then giving me the run around when I asked for payment.
Magazines running my photos for months at a time with no credit, no payment, no response to any emails/phone calls.
A record label hiring me for several shoots back to back that were 'needed super last minute’ and delivering everything on time only to never receive pay.
Being dragged out of venues by my camera strap by pissed off security for no reason.
And the list can go on and on and on.
The unfortunate truth of the music industry for photographers was told to me by a very popular manager of several high profile bands. We were speaking on a friendly level, and he said to me straight up 'you need to get out of the music industry. We, as management and the teams behind the bands, we LOVE all the great images we get of our artists, both as press and live shots, but we never pay for them and we are never going to pay for them. We know how much it’s worth, but we just have other places to spend our money and so many people offering to do it for the exposure.’
It’s awful that it’s gotten to this point, but if you ask just about any music photographer out there that I am friends with on a very personal basis, I have told ALL of them to get out of the music industry as quick as possible. Get into fashion, get into commercial/advertising, get into ANYTHING other than the music industry. I know, I know, you want all the super cool sticky passes and you want to go on tour and etc etc… I get it. I was the same way for the better part of a decade. I didn’t care about anything but getting on the road, and believe me I am paying for it now.
Life on the road is definitely fun IF you’re making money, but when you’re going into debt to help line other peoples pockets, it’s time to realize you’re making a huge mistake that you’re absolutely going to regret.
With all of that negativity about the music industry having just been said:
There are a FEW bands out there who know the value of good photography and employ photographers to document their lives. They understand that a visual representation of the band is as important, if not MORE important, than the audio representation of them in the digital age. I understand that without the music, there would be know band, but without the photographs, the bands would have no 'image’. That image comes from different press photos at the beginning of their rise. The dark, moody lighting represents a certain style of band. The bright, sunny, bubbly photos represent a certain genre of music. The in between lighting with girls in bikinis and bottles being popped and girls named Molly dancing around in their Twerk jeans and their Apples with the Fur Boots or whathaveyou, are also there to represent a specific genre of music. All of these images (the good ones, at least) are created using light to shape the scene. Using light to direct the viewer to know what mood they should be in when they see an image. (< sorry about that rant) Anywho, there are a few bands out there that understand that, and those are the bands that are absolutely thriving right now, because the images bring their fans THAT MUCH CLOSER to the 'action’, so they say.
As for music photographers, there are a few out there doing extremely big things right now and doing an INCREDIBLE job at documenting stuff for their employers as well as the fans. The stuff that a few people out there are doing is mind blowing and very exciting to watch. It’s great to see the heights to which certain photographers are taking things to get these absolutely iconic images.
And in conclusion to this disaster of a blog, I will address, directly, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, as well as the TM from Three Days Grace:
There’s a reason your bands are irrelevant now. There’s a reason that your 15 seconds of fame weren’t very relevant in the first place: you have the attitudes of entitled little kids that didn’t get their way. Music photographers understand that without the bands, they’d have no job. What you, as bands/crew need to know, is that without the photographers/videographers/graphic designers, YOU WOULD HAVE NO JOB. How much money are you making without merch to sell? How much money are you making on VIP with no photographs to autograph? What’s the artwork on your latest album? Not everyone can put out an album with artwork like 'Smell The Glove’, so you need the OTHER ARTISTS that are WORKING in your industry to assist you in sustaining your career. It’s ok, boys, you’ll grow up some day and understand the way the real world works. You know, the real world, the one you are known 'world wide’ in. The one where you don’t have yes men shoveling cocaine into your nose, the one where you don’t have a TM waking you up in the morning to wipe your little tushy for you, and the one where working professionals need to be compensated for their hard work.
Red Jumpsuit, don’t bother putting your new record or your discography out for free, or for any price, on July 4th because absolutely no one is interested in hearing the absolute garbage that you unfortunately recorded for your 22 fans to hear. Get bent, forever.
As for all the aspiring music photographers out there: If you’re staying on your grind and pushing as hard as you can, good for you, respect. Just know it’s a mess out there and you’re throwing yourself to the wolves if you’re just getting started in this age.
Know your rights, and stop letting people take advantage of you; do it for me!
Cucumber Quest fan art! Here is one of my favorite characters ( This is the last one for a while.) Cucumber Quest is an amazing web comic, and everyone should read it. I love seeing representation of LGBT+ characters in media, especially when it’s for all ages.
“The highly mediated selfie (online self‐portrait) is our digital‐age representation on the online stage. However, once it is uploaded to the internet, we relinquish control over our self‐image. Enabled and encouraged by the devices of the ruling modes of production, others can photograph, tag, download, edit, surveil or trade our image. The carefully constructed online identity becomes subject to any manner of manipulation. Its trace remains forever, vulnerable to appropriation.”