Kenneth Jarecke/Contact Press Images
Jim Nachtwey, a PFJ of the first order, is taking an undeserved beating over an offer for an unpaid internship.
The controversy started here, on a blog called Jamie's List.
Personally, I think interns should be paid, for a couple of reasons.
One, the overhead saved on having unpaid interns is passed along to the photographer's clients and serves to lower what customers expect to pay for photography. To put it another way, if I have to hire someone to help me print, I'm going to have to raise the price of each print to pay for that expense. If I have an unpaid intern, I don't raise my prices and the customer gets a discount on the true cost of that image.
Two, people that get paid usually work better and stay around longer than unpaid interns. In the long run, it's probably cheaper to just pay somebody in the first place.
Three, it's the right thing to do.
However, people are free to make their own decisions. Would you rather have a government agency tell Jim and his potential intern what kind of a relationship they could agree to?
Unlike many, I'd have no problem saying any of this to Jim in person.
That should be the end of the story, but no, the interesting part is how the comments aimed towards Jim turned real nasty, real quick.
The only way I can explain it is, well sure there's probably some jealousy factored in, but it has to be a manifestation of the overall desperation that has the photography world in a death grip.
I mean, there are people out there that are displaying a real level of contempt for both Jim and his work, which is not only uncool, but must point to something else. Something a whole lot deeper than just not liking a certain photographer.
Jim has, for the permanent record, been an extremely positive influence in both my life and my work. His work has forced me, and every other photographer working today to produce better images, not just images of conflict, but in all branches of the photojournalism tree. Furthermore, You can not work with a camera today (regardless of your field) without somehow being influenced by Jim Nachtwey.
Let me say that again, Jim's influence has made you, and any working photographer you admire, better.
There are a few misconceptions floating around this controversy.
Time Magazine did not create Jim Nachtwey. You can argue that Jim had a couple of editors that helped him along, but who doesn't? If anything, Jim's work has given Time a level of gravitas and credibility that it doesn't deserve.
Originally Jim either had only one, or no images (I don't remember which) in the now famous, black-bordered, post 9-11 issue of Time. The entire issue was rebuilt around Jim's images on the insistence of one editor. Today, those images are what everyone remembers. That's just one example, there are others. Jim's work (and that of other great photographers, great editors, and maybe a writer or two) is what allows Time to enjoy a certain level of respect.
Having a contract with a big magazine is not what makes a photographer great. Magazines (at one point, long ago) sought out great talent and put them under contract to ensure that they would have great work to publish. The fact that this no longer happens is ( I think) a clue to why this anger has been directed towards Jim.
By the way, when was the last time you saw a picture of Natchwey's in Time?
If quality doesn't matter (and the magazines have decided that it doesn't) then what hope do any of us have? Isn't that what we're really asking here? Jim's not the problem. Yes, the ad was poorly worded, and yes interns should be paid, but do you really think Jim had much to do with placing that ad?
It was a small mistake. Let it drop.
Personally, I don't think Jim should have tried to rebrand himself as an "anti-war" photographer. That didn't make sense to me, but still he's earned a pass.
It doesn't pay much, but we do offer an internship out here in the wilds of Montana. It's cold, zero degrees right now, and along with some basic Photoshop and filing skills, you need to have some advanced fencing skills (the kind that uses barb-wire, not those sissy swords). Being comfortable in Carhartts is a must.
We also serve lunch. Today we had pie... cherry, slightly over-sharpened.