Oct 16, 2009

Little big crimes, or plain anecdotes? The decision is up to you...(Part 1)


Sometimes, more often than I could possibly wish, I feel rageful and frustrated about the way that some people mistreat me and my creative rights.

Respect and fairness are just meaningless words for some humans and institutions! They don't really give a damn!

So I decided that it was about time to entertain you with some deplorable professional experiences.
I was a little reluctant at first as I didn't want to bring "bad vibes" over here, but chance had it so, that yesterday I felt that the right moment had come...

Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona 2001
(Tugendhat House, Brno, Czech Republic)

So, here I am bothering you again with more Mies van der Rohe.
In fact, if you remember a former post about some published books that bear my photographs, you will presumably remember the cover above.
If you could pick up the book, and start turning over the pages, you would be informed on page 3 about the following: "Texts by Yehuda E. Safran. Edited by Luiz Trigueiros and Paulo Martins Barata. Updated photos by Rui Morais de Sousa and Thorsten Hümpel".
You could also see that the book is 216 pages long and 29x29 cm large. It is well documented and well printed. You can get it in soft or hard cover. It is heavy and voluminous.
I am sure that the texts are well informed and well written, as Mr. Safran is not only a well regarded architectural and art critic, but he also is a Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University.

It is a high quality book, and is not cheap!

I tell you all this, so that you can better understand my point of view.

I guess that I have already mentioned before, on another post, that I drove 27.000Km (16.000 km in USA and Canada) to make the photographs that grace the pages of this worthy publication.
Maybe I also said that I spent six weeks in the USA and Canada, plus some more weeks on the road in Europe.
I think that I also told you that I bought the Horseman SW 612 and a couple of lenses (expensive lenses!) to better fullfill my duties on this assignment. Maybe I also told you that I even carried my 8x10 inches Gandolfi (also with 5x7 inches reducing back) to shoot in Germany and Spain.
(The Tugendhat House, on the picture above, was photographed with the Corfield WA 67, because I feared customs problems if I brought along too much photo gear).
I could go on and on...

Did I mention the days after days that I spent (with my kids Jorge and Luis, who helped in America and Europe respectively) eating McDonald's (or even worse...), because I was running out of money with all the extended travelling and unexpected burocratic costs? Photo fees and insurances?
Did I mention the nights that I slept in very cheap, and sometimes dirty, motels?
Or the nights that I slept in my van while travelling in Europe?
And so on, and so on...

Why did I do all that?

Because I accepted the assignment and I understood the importance of this book. And first of all because I have pride on my job!

Commonwealth Promenade Apartments, Chicago, USA.
(do you see any similarity with the photograph on the next book?)

Now, if you open the book on page 121, you can admire the photograph that I show above these lines. You also should already know it from a former post...

Why do I repeat it here? No, I don't have the intention of really bothering you... Please, read on!

The story gets a little complicated to explain. I will try...

The book by Gustavo Gili was not the original edition. The original (?) edition was by Editorial Blau, Lisbon 2000. That was the company that actually gave me the assignment.
The cover of that (portuguese/english) original edition shows the German Pavilion in Barcelona. Although I also photographed that work (as I said, also with the Gandolfi), the publisher decided to use a photograph by Thorsten Hümpel on the cover of that edition. So far, so good.

Now, the trouble really starts!

I only became aware of the Gustavo Gili (spanish/english) edition a couple of years later and absolutely by chance: GG sent me a fax asking permission to use the photograph on the cover of Mies' book on any other publication. I answered saying that I couldn't give permission because it was not my photograph...

How wrong I was! Their edition had my photograph on the cover, and I had never seen it or even know about it...
They apologized stating that they had thought that everything had been clear about my copyrights, and sent me two copies.

Yes, that's it! Who sold them MY rights? Who got the money from it?

Gingko Press, USA, 2000

You can order today the book shown above at Amazon.com.
Hardcover, 216 pages, new.
Publisher: Gingko Press (October 15, 2000).
Language: english.
Price: $340,52
Shipping weight: 4,1 pounds.

No, I am not advertising for Amazon.com! This is the drop over the glass that made me do this and the future similar posts.

Surfing the Internet for Mies' photographs, I had the surprise to find out that there is still a third edition for the american market (who knows, maybe even some more? What about Asia? Australia?).

One more edition that I was never informed about.
One more edition abroad that didn't bring me a single coin in copyrights!

So what do we have here?

Three reputable publishing companies (at least two of them internationally highly acclaimed), with three different editions (who knows how many copies each?) bringing them money and prestige.
On the other side we have a stupid-dumb-exploited photographer who only got badly paid once!

One more situation where I feel hurt and mishandled. One more situation where I didn't have a written contract, because after all we were "friends" and worked together for some years...

And friends only should need gentlemen's agreements... Or so I thought...

(As usual some information for the photo freaks: the Chicago image was shot with the Gandolfi Variant 4x5", using the Horseman 6x12 roll film back. If I remember correctly, the lens used was a Symmar-S 210mm from Schneider-Kreuznach. Film by Kodak: the then new VS emulsion.
The difference in color between the two images is simple to explain: the complete image was scanned by me on the Epson 4990; the book cover was scanned by someone else years ago, printed, etc. (I got it via Internet). It should not be hard to make it have a similar color in Photoshop...

By the way: I bet that the rest of the image covers the back of the book).


1 comment:

  1. I emphatise with you, Rui. I really do. I have learnt even in my work - never to take boss' words without having it put down in writing. I got burnt a few times because of that and now I insists - all instructions have to be written. Here we have a saying "We all have the same black hair but the contents of our hearts are different." (Of course, nowadays, even Asians can have coloured hair!) I sincerely hope you get what you deserve for your work, Rui. Nor are you stupid or dumb - you trusted. You had faith. And that is never stupid or dumb. Those companies are the ones who deserve those names.