The bruhaha that stirred up over the past 36 hours regarding Jesh de Rox’s “Beloved” webinar is a testament to what is both great and terrible about this industry. The passion and love people have for this craft is great. The desire to want to defend and stand up for someone or something you believe in is great. But some of the level of hate and disdain seems way over the top. In a world where tens of thousands of people are dying, dead or missing in Japan; in a world where people are fighting and dying to attain civil liberties in countries like Libya; in a world where atrocities against women and children in some African countries hearken back to the days of Caligula and the Roman Empire; that some people would get this infuriated over an empirically ridiculous price for a 1on1 is, well, disturbing.
Sometimes I do wonder about where photographers and filmmakers put their passionate causes. One well known photographer posted on his blog the promo video for the MTV show “Skins”. Not to discuss the moral implications of it, but just to point out how cool it was. A video that shows under-aged kids engaged in reckless drinking, drug use and overtly sexual conduct. Because it was “cool,” then it’s okay? No uproar over that.
I see extremely talented photographers take and post photos of teenagers that are on par with Calvin Klein’s controversial “kiddie porn” style ads. No big deal. Why? Because their photography is great. Why is there no firestorm of controversy over that?
I’m not saying don’t speak up for something if you believe it is “hurting” the industry (whatever that really means). But let’s keep a perspective people. On one forum someone referred to Jesh as the Anti-Christ. (Are you kidding me? The freaking “Anti-Christ”?) The level of venom just seems a tad much.
With regard to the crazy 1on1 price tag and the comments about it’s worth, or whether he should charge that, consider this: no one in their right mind is going to pay $16,500 for that workshop. Why get so worked up over something which IMHO is laughable?
Here are just a few things to ponder:
Nothing Personal, It’s Business
With regards to the frustrations over meteoric rises of mediocre talent, or the surge in workshops by people with 1/10 the amount of experience of most veterans, you have to remember this is a business. Love it or hate it, the ability for a relatively new photographer to become a wild success in a short period of time is what makes this country great. In short, the business of photography is not just about the pictures. I know that may be anathema to some of you, but it’s the cold hard truth. Starbucks doesn’t make the best coffee. McDonald’s doesn’t make the best hamburgers. The “Transformers” franchise is not cinematic art that will stand the test of time. We have to accept that when you turn your craft into a business, part of the “art” side may be sacrificed. If that bothers you to such a degree, then you should consider taking down your framed business license and just do this for the love of it so as not to get worked up over those who are more focused on the business side.
How Much Do You Charge for an 8×10?
I know for a fact that there are some of you out there who charge $50, $75, $100 maybe even $150 for an 8×10. An EIGHT BY TEN! That means if a family wants to buy ten of those for other family members, they would have to spend $500 to $1500 for ten 8×10 sheets of paper they can get at Walgreens for $0.19 a pop! Now, don’t bother commenting about why your 8×10 is worth whatever price you deem. To the hard working family of five down the street trying to make ends meet, that $100 for your one 8×10 can mean the difference between food on the table that week or paying the rent. Who are you to charge them $100 for such a special memory. (Note: I am not saying this because I don’t think your craft is worth it. I’m just trying to put the whole, “$16,500 price” debate into a new light. Your $100 price tag for an 8×10 is as ludicrous to some of your prospects as Jesh’s $16,500 1on1 is to you. In many ways worse. Jesh’s workshop is only 8x more expensive than other 1on1’s I’ve seen. My 8×10 examples are higher by a magnitude of 500x and more.)
Of Splinters and Logs
I also know some of your are charging and getting $5,000 or more for your weddings. There are people going into debt to pay for you. In many ways, one could make the argument that what you’re doing is worse than what Jesh is doing. As I mentioned, no one is going to pay him that insane amount of money for a 1-day workshop. But people ARE going into debt, spending money they don’t have to pay for YOU. Again, I’m not saying you’re not worth it. But, if you knew someone who really couldn’t afford you was putting your $5,000 package on a credit card they can’t afford to pay off, would you still take their money? What’s worse? A guy who charges a ridiculous fee for something no sane person would even remotely consider? Or someone who takes money from a family that can’t really afford their services. (I’m not passing judgment here, these are just thoughts. You know, things that make you go, hmmm? 🙂 )
Bad Press Is Not Always Good Press
Lots of people are calling Jesh a marketing genius for this. Really? About 98% of the tweets, forum posts, and comments I’ve seen are skewering him. For someone selling to that market, I’d say that pretty much sucks. Bad press is usually only good if the thing getting the bad press gets a benefit from the increased number of eyeballs (i.e. A show gets bad press so more people tune in to see what’s the fuss.) I saw one photographer make a great point on Twitter. “If 4,000 people are calling you an idiot, that’s not good.” So true. Personally, I think it was a bad business and branding move to put that “whopper” package on his site. But, only time will tell.
I’m sure some of you may be perturbed by this blog post. That is not my intent. I care about what happens in this industry. I wouldn’t spend the time on this blog if I didn’t. I just want to offer some perspective on all of this in hopes that we can learn to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Or to just chill out and relax. Or to maybe, as Scott Bourne commented last night, spend less time attacking one another and more time actually improving our craft.
What say you?