Father knows best.

10 12 2009

This is an e-mail I received from my father in reference to my posting, “A photo credit doesn’t pay the rent (much less buy me a measly 99 cent Taco Bell caramel apple empanada).” You can read that original posting here. Below is my father’s e-mail response to me:

I considered making this a comment to your posting, but decided to send it as an e-mail. Please read it carefully, ’cause I spent a lot of time on it. Don’t cast it aside like an ol’ shoe or a used Kleenex. Of course if you decide you would like it as a posting, I offer its use freely, either as your posting or mine. I only require digitally recorded recognition for the use of my time and talents, and will sue your socks off if said recognition is not given.

So there!

The following dialogue is from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”:

Player Queen:
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If once I be a widow, ever I be a wife!

Player King:
‘Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here a while,
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.

Player Queen:
Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain!

Hamlet:
Madam, how like you this play?

Queen:
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 222–230

Almost always misquoted as “Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” Queen Gertrude’s line is both drier than the misquotation (thanks to the delayed “methinks”) and much more ironic. Prince Hamlet’s question is intended to smoke out his mother, to whom, as he intended, this Player Queen bears some striking resemblances [see THE PLAY’S THE THING]. The queen in the play, like Gertrude, seems too deeply attached to her first husband to ever even consider remarrying; Gertrude, however, after the death of Hamlet’s father, has remarried. We don’t know whether Gertrude ever made the same sorts of promises to Hamlet’s father that the Player Queen makes to the Player King (who will soon be murdered)—but the irony of her response should be clear.

By “protest,” Gertrude doesn’t mean “object” or “deny”—these meanings postdate Hamlet. The principal meaning of “protest” in Shakespeare’s day was “vow” or “declare solemnly,” a meaning preserved in our use of “protestation.” When we smugly declare that, “the lady doth protest too much,” we almost always mean that the lady objects so much as to lose credibility. Gertrude says that Player Queen affirms so much as to lose credibility. Her vows are too elaborate, too artful, too insistent. More cynically, the queen may also imply that such vows are silly in the first place, and thus may indirectly defend her own remarriage.

Hamlet:
I’ll have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 603–605

The plot is intricate and bizarre, but Hamlet is relying on good, solid Renaissance psychology. Playwrights often claimed that their work encouraged virtue in upstanding citizens and caught the conscience of malefactors. About ten years after the first production of Hamlet, playwright Thomas Heywood edified the reading public with this real-life tale: During the performance of a particularly gruesome tragedy, in which the actors staged the murder of a man by driving a nail through his temple, a woman in the audience rose up distractedly. She “oft sighed out these words: Oh my husband, my husband!” The woman subsequently confessed all and was burned for having murdered her spouse with “a great nail” through “the brainpan.”

All the above came from the Internet—the following thoughts are mine—all mine!

Every photograph you take is an original, a piece of art you have created through years of study, an original just as surely as Da Vinci’s creation of “The Last Supper.” I have long thought that you are far too free with your originals. Consider an original painting—the artist offers the painting to the public as a signed and numbered limited edition copy, as an open edition copy, and as an original, all with specific costs—neither the original nor a copy if freely offered, other than to a dear friend or to a non-profit organization.

Every photograph you make is an original, and should be treated as an original. When Hamlet says, “the play’s the thing,” he is using Renaissance psychology. From Hamlet: In Shakespeare’s time, playwrights often claimed that their work encouraged virtue in upstanding citizens and caught the conscience of malefactors. That may have been true then, but it plays false today. One cannot depend on virtue in citizens or conscience in malefactors in the quest for adequate compensation for the use of one’s time and talents. Rarely in our time is anyone willing to pay for something that is freely given by its owner, with no restrictions on its use other than a request that the gift be recognized—recognition will not pay the bills.

You should place restrictions of the use of your creations—since you are not being compensated monetarily for their use now, you won’t lose anything by insisting on monetary compensation. Respond to requests for their use with a graduated price list for one-time use, continuous use, etc., and offer the item as open edition, limited edition or original. Offer the item with specific terms and enter into a contract with the user, either digitally or as a hard-copy. Express your intention to stand by the provisions of the contract, and promise to sue the socks off any user that violates the terms of the contract.

I reluctantly use the following analogy: Your response to requests for the use of your originals is comparable to soft-core porn—-your friend Cammie’s response is hard-core. She tells a potential customer (read “user”) that she is the best, and unless that potential user is willing to pay for the best they should settle for something less than best at a lower cost. In the words of The King of Texas, “One must toot one’s own whistle—one cannot depend on others to do it.”

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4 responses

10 12 2009
hankinslawrenceimages

Yeah for Cindy’s Dad for seeing and understanding the value of your daughter’s wonderful work 🙂

11 12 2009
edvatza

Dad is ABSOLUTELY right you know. Father knows best! And think about this for a moment. Not only do you devalue your own work by giving it away but you are indirectly devaluing the work of other photographers who rely on their work for their living. I asked $50 the first time someone wanted to use one of my images in advertising. The second time it was nearly $1000.

11 12 2009
Scott Thomas Photography

Your Dad is one intelligent fellow.

13 12 2009
Red Headed Woman

LISTEN TO YOUR DAD…and for your Dad !!! 😉

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