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Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Scam towards Photographers

A couple weeks ago I was invited to an organized group shoot by a model, named Alexandra Courson. She is listed on Model Mayhem as a model, & I had not had the opportunity to meet or work with her prior. She informed me of a group of people getting shoots together in Kansas City. They call themselves The Muse Project ( Alexandra was asked by this organization to put on one of these shoots here in Orlando ( She was told she could invite three photographers for free to this shoot, so I became one of her invites.

Here is her message to me: "[I] wanted to invite you to the Muse Project: Orlando. I only have one more free spot to give out so if you want it you can have it. I just ask that you not tell other photographers that you got a deal :-) normally it's $110.00 and the Ladies of the muse project said that I could invite 3 photographers for free. Want the spot?"

I read through The Muse Project's website & discovered they charge models and photographers $110 to attend their shoots. If a photographer wants to bring an assistant, they have to pay $220. Since I was invited for free I figured no big deal. I had a long list of questions which the website didn't cover (should have been a clue!). There was no information about what the theme for the shoot would be (since all of their shoots have themes), how many models normally attend a shoot, where the shoot would be held, what time we were supposed to meet, if I had to give away images to the models, what happened after the shoot, and definitely nothing written about releases or a contract.

I sent her all of my questions, but she didn’t get back to me until a day before the shoot. Her response: "Absolutely! I'm so sorry! I thought you were included in the email! Be at Vintage Lounge on 114 South Orange Avenue with your camera and any lights you might need at 8.45 a.m. We don't ask you to bring a backdrop to this one because the location has some GREAT backgrounds but if you would like to use one you may. The models will be there at that time to get hair and make-up done. The theme for this one is club fashion. after this they will be every month on the last Sunday. The photographers are to submit 4 complete photos of each of the models directly to Phase 2 Marketing who will then distribute the pictures to the MUAs, Hairstylists, and models." She didn't answer all of my questions, and I wasn't too sure about the "club fashion" thing. I figured I could find a good location there (even if it was outside the club) and have the model pose naturally so it would still fit in with my style...

The shoot was yesterday, a Sunday. I try not to work on the weekends since I push myself so hard all week, but I figured I would just go. It might turn out to be something neat. I rolled out of bed and arrived around 10am. I left my equipment in the car. I had to park about 2 blocks away & I wanted to just go check in with everyone, let them know I was there, then I would go back to get all my gear. I walked in the door to the lounge and there were only three people there. I thought I had the wrong place. I asked the guy that greeted me, Johan, if Alex was around. She was busy, so he offered to help. I informed him I was one of the photographers she had invited. The very first thing he did was grab a contract, hand it to me, & tell me to sign it. I hesitated & his response was that I could read it if I wanted to. I guess he assumed that I wouldn't. I still felt like I didn't know a lot about what was going to happen during the shoot so I had some questions for him. I asked if we were restricted to the downstairs section of the lounge, & he went on the elaborate that the shots were going to happen in 3 specific areas, one of them already staked out by the only photographer who was there. He also said that all the shots needed to have a "Miami-club" feel to them. I was really starting to feel irked at this point. Not only did they want me to sign something, but now they are art directing my images? I guess I didn't get all of the info because I thought this was going to be an open shoot. I finished asking my questions & Johan said he had to step out for a minute.

I took the time to read through the contract, only because I was curious what it said. I discovered while reading the contract the extent that Phase 2, a marketing agency, was in on this shoot. (They don't have a valid website, only a MySpace account: The contract gave Phase 2 the rights to use the photographer's images however they wanted for however long they desired, & that included in whole, in part, distorted, or anything you can imagine basically. They also included a section to cover themselves legally. It said that the photographer accepts full responsibility for their imagery and doesn’t hold Phase 2 accountable for anything. Basically saying that if Phase 2 does something with the imagery & someone sues them for it, that legality then slides off of Phase 2 and onto the photographer. I have a house to pay for and I would like to retire eventually, so taking on someone else's legal responsibilities is not in my list of things to do at the moment. My realization at this point: the photographers and models who attended this event paid Phase 2 to use their imagery and talent! This is ass-backwards in my book & I don't think I need to say why.

I lightly set the contract back down on the table & started the walk back to my car. It is so hard to believe that there are so many people out there trying to take advantage of photographers. If someone loves your imagery enough that they want to use it or have a copy of it, that means there is value & you should be getting paid for it. That is why all I can say about this incident is try to be as knowledgeable as you can about what you are doing & don't assume that everyone has your best interest in mind.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really apologize that that is the experience you had and ho.w you felt about the incident all those years ago. I just saw this post when a friend emailed it to me and the event in no way was to take advantage of photographers. The events were designed to change look and feel every month as the events were previously held in Kansas City very successfully. We had a bunch of great shots from the event that day after the other photographers showed up, but you were sorely missed and the marketing company was hoping to just use the best photos to promote future events. The form to what you were referring to was an exact copy of the one that they used in the Midwest and not meant to take advantage of photographers but to protect them. I say that because the event was created by a photographer and a make up artist up there and they had asked me to try to expand it.

Again. I apologize that this is the experience you had and was not my or the companie's intention.

Hope you are well and your work is stunning.

Alexandra Courson