This is the hardest post I’ve ever made. Depressing, uplifting, terrifying, reassuring. It’s hard to explain how I feel.
As some of you know, I’ve had some issues for past two years. Those matters, along with the financial consequences of them, have caused me to reach a difficult decision. I’m afraid I’m no longer able to do all the things I’ve loved to do in my life and career. So I’m putting away my hiking boots and camera gear for good.
But life is such an interesting thing. While I’m sad to be giving up making photos and hiking, I’m excited about the next chapter in my life. As some of you may remember from previous blog posts, my brother-in-law is a government official. He has secured a job for me in the Trump administration. As part of President Trump’s efforts to roll back job-hurting regulations, my job is to help rewrite the regulations for still and video photography so they are more business friendly.
I know how this sounds and for those of you who know me well you must think I’ve lost my mind. But I want you to know that this has nothing to do with politics. Besides the fact that this is a great opportunity for me, I think we all can agree that there is room for improvement with some of the regulations photographers have to deal with.
As for it being good for me, if I’m giving up hiking and making photos, what could be better than having a cushy office and still working in the photography field? The American people will pay my salary, so I won’t have to worry about being accountable for anything. I’ll finally have a retirement to look forward to, since I’ll be added to the government’s entitlement roles. And best of all, I’ll be able to get on the same insurance policy that other lawmakers enjoy, rather than that expensive crap everyone else is stuck with. What’s not to love?
Of course, I expect to work hard on the two or three days of the week that I’ll be in the office. I’ve been given a wish list to get started with, and I’ve already been working on it. (I won’t be moving to Washington until mid-April.) As I work on the regulations, I’ll be talking with other photographers and getting their feedback. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years, but that doesn’t mean I know everything. I need your help.
So, to that end, I’ve listed some of the major items we’ll be working on. Please read them over and give me your feedback on how best to implement them or anything else you might think of.
The current laws for editorial use are reasonable, but we definitely need to work on the laws for commercial use. As it stands now, photographers must obtain a model release for any commercial use. This is time consuming, costly, and just plain stupid. We want to do away with this law completely so that a photographer can use any photo he or she takes for any purpose whatsoever without having to obtain a model release or compensate the model. This would apply to property as well.
This is a real sore spot for me and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work on these laws. As it stands now, in some circumstances photographers must take the welfare of animals into consideration when making images. This is particularly troublesome for motion-picture productions. There have been some cases where a movie production had to shut down for an hour or more, just because some animal got killed or broke its legs or something. And some of the game farms, whose business it is to display animals for photographers to make photos, have to deal with state or local animal welfare departments that are overbearing. I heard one case where a game farm was reprimanded because it didn’t feed its animals for a few days. Well, how do you think photographers are supposed to get those killer shots of the animals tearing up a carcass if the animals aren’t hungry? All of this nonsense is killing jobs.
Now, before anyone accuses me of being anti-animal, let me say that I do think we must use common sense with our regulations. I’m going to propose that we set guidelines as to how many days an animal can go without food or water, how many bones can be broken before a production has to stop, and in what circumstances is it okay for animals to die while being photographed.
United States copyright laws state that a photograph is copyrighted at the moment of capture and no one can use the photo without permission of the photographer. On the surface, this may seem like a good law, but when you dig deeper you can see that it really is a hindrance for photographers. It requires all photographers to expend time and money for capturing their own images. Well, what if we could simply use photos from other photographers? Don’t have a good shot of the Statue of Liberty? Take one from another photographer.
Now, before you get all bent out of shape, let me elaborate. I don’t think we should allow anyone to grab images from another photographer’s computer or phone. There may be privacy and personal property issues with that approach. What we’re thinking is that any photos posted online would be up for grabs. So if you find a nice photo on someone’s website, Facebook page, Instagram, or anywhere else in cyber world, it’s yours for the taking.
Ah, the bane of the commercial photographer. There’s nothing worse than some city or park thinking they know more about how you should work as a photographer than you do. Car chases scenes are a great example. Presently, you have to get a mountain of permits and pay the local police force and fire department to block off the streets where the chase is going to occur. Besides all the time and money that requires, it also means that you then have pay stunt drivers for all of the extra cars. Wouldn’t it be great if you could film your chase on a street that already had cars on it? It would cost less, take less time, and would look much more realistic.
Another example is the law requiring permits to photograph commercially in the national parks. Supposedly, the law exists to allow park officials to make sure that park resources are not impacted and visitor experience is not impaired. This is ridiculous. When someone is trying to make money (the photographer, in this case), he or she should not have to worry about silly little rules like this. They should be allowed to do whatever they want and everyone else should adapt himself or herself to it. A few ruined vacations from foreign travelers or a little structural damage is a small price to pay for advancing the business interests of photographers.
If you really want to experience how crazy our government has been regarding regulations, look no farther than drones. The crazy thing is that no one will take responsibly for them. Supposedly, it’s the FAA’s job to set and enforce regulations, but they haven’t done so. So we have local, state, and sometimes even federal agencies getting involved, each with their own take. We’re going to change that. We’re going to write rules that apply to everyone, all the time, and supersede anything the FAA may come up with in the future.
One of our concerns is about what constitutes a person’s private airspace, which determines how close a drone can get to someone or their property. This doesn’t even need to be debated. It’s the air; nobody owns it. So our regulations will state that as long as the drone is hovering, it’s perfectly legal to be anywhere at any time. It can be inches off the ground, but if it’s hovering, it’s legal. This should help photographers immensely with getting those shots of people sunbathing naked in their back yards.
Again, I’d love to get your feedback on these issues and how best to implement them. And I don’t want anyone having any sad feelings for me. No, I won’t be doing any more hiking with my cameras, but I’m sure the next chapter in my life will be filled with rewarding activities. I understand some of those Capitol Hill parties can get pretty wild, especially the ones with interns and no press.