Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The real enemy?

Here's an article I've written for the Editorial Photographers UK website challenging some of the perception that the NUJ "obviously doesn’t care about their [photographers'] concerns”.

There has been some hugely inaccurate reporting and some laughable comment pieces about the NUJ in a few places in recent weeks.

For example did you know that I broke off from my holiday to write a strongly worded letter that forced the closure of an NUJ-funded email discussion list. No neither did I. Because I didn't. But the British Journal of Photography seems to know better and despite writing to the editor some time ago pointing this out they haven't even acknowledged the inaccuracy.

So I'm the enemy of free speech and I didn't even know. This NUJ leadership in control freakery storm theme is taken up by Pete Jenkins an NEC member on this very blog (yes that's right I'm the enemy of free speech who enables those who want to say that to post on my blog).

Anyway I hope the article sets out just some of the hard work the NUJ does do with and on behalf of photographers as it does for members in all sectors.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Jeremy for taking my words well out of context. If you can't deal with the issue - then make it personal! Wonderful tactics...

My comment about control freakery was not aimed at the General Secretary, far from it, I appreciate the efforts you are making.

"That the NEC made clear that as a body it endorsed the openness of NEC and the rights that members have, enshrined in the rules to attend meetings, is good, however it was disturbing to hear some of the poor arguments put by members of the Emergency committee themselves to justify the actions they took at the eNEC meeting. These are important members of the union and include the current President and the next President, the Hon Treasurer etc – the people who are the makers and shakers of the NUJ. The desire to put out an aura of ‘control freakery’ is unhelpful and totally counter productive."

Nope, no mention of the esteemed General Secretary there - read my comments first hand to be sure. (I can't access them from Jeremys' blog any more but I will be happy to send you a copy petej@petejenkins.co.uk )

I for one welcome the General Secretary coming out of the closet and making clear (again) that he and the NUJ support the photographer membership – both chapel and freelance.

As has already been stated though, the problem is not ‘Drogheda’. The whole Drogheda issue was just a boil that burst, and symptomatic of a more critical underlying issue.

The membership of the NUJ both, lay, activist and management – and I include some officials (there some very notable exceptions) has a perception of both freelances in general and photographers in particular which is based in some parallel universe, and has nothing to do with reality – not the reality that photographers and freelances in general have to inhabit anyway.

One union officer has allegedly been quoted as not dealing with freelances because they are ‘small businesses’. Another accuses photographers of being bullies, and one member of the Emergency Committee when referring to freelance photographers said,

“…getting a big whack and then presumably as small minded smal business people were getting other people to do the work for clearly less money an demanding a corporate byline, where is the TU element in this?”

And went on to accuse another photographer activist:

“XXXX has run a nefarious operation and apparently still does using now NVJ and bringing our Dutch sister union into disrepute in my view…”

When senior members of the union’s management say things like this with no knowledge, and of course no hint of comeback allowed to the members that are so slandered, is it any wonder that the Photographers in the union are somewhat cynical?

Even non-photographer members of the NUJ seem to believe that photography is simple and no more than a hobby. Shows how a little knowledge goes a long way doesn’t it? And of course none of the people who say this have had to photograph a football match under flood-lights, when it is raining and with no access to shelter in which to use their very expensive laptop computers, or photograph people coming out of a court when everyone is moving and there is a scrum of other photographers, or photograph at a bomb explosion or a fire where liaison with the emergency services is absolutely critical to ensure that the photographer is out of the way, yet has access to the picture.

No generally when people are telling us photography is simple they mean taking a non-descript headshot with perfect light, where the subject is co-operating. I can’t remember the last time I was asked to do a job like that for a newspaper – how about you?

In order to be able to educate anybody as to the real world out there they have to be prepared to listen. Words are easy, look even I can write – I have a computer/word processor – does that make me a reporter? Of course not, and I would dream of describing myself as such.

How do we educate the un-educatable? How do we convince people who are insistent that we are “small minded small business people that we are equal members of the union? How are activists supposed to feel when NEC members describe them as bringing fellow unions into disrepute?

I for one, and I work hard as an activist, long for the time when photographers and freelances really are treated equal members. Jeremy Dear talks the talk and I believe is dedicated to working with photographers to better their lot, but what of the rest of the union? Does the rest of the NUJ walk the walk? Some one show me please – I want to believe, I really do.

Pete Jenkins
Trade Union activist and photographer

Anonymous said...

"So I'm the enemy of free speech and I didn't even know. This NUJ leadership in control freakery storm theme is taken up by Pete Jenkins an NEC member on this very blog (yes that's right I'm the enemy of free speech who enables those who want to say that to post on my blog). "

- No-one has accused Jeremy Dear of being the enemy of free speech. He was on holiday during the row over Drogheda, and when the NUJ's Stand Up For Journalism discussion board mysteriously stopped working the moment a photographer dared to raise that subject there. And was that because of the NUJ leadership's control freakery? - perish the thought. Gremlins in the works. Those same gremlins are now hard at work in Burma.

Andrew Wiard

Anonymous said...

But you did write a strongly worded letter about NUJPhoto BEFORE you went on holiday, did you not Jeremy? See below for a copy of your letter.

You referred the matter of the NUJPhoto email list to the NEC at Seamus Dooley's request, and recommended that the NEC take action. So I think your letter set the stage for what followed while you were away on holiday. The Emergency Committee decided that NUJPhoto must not be restarted and withdrew permission for use of the NUJ identity.

You can pull the BJP up on their mistake over the timing of your letter, but was their reporting so "hugely inaccurate"? Mistakes should be acknowledged, but not used as an excuse to rubbish the rest of the story. That is what the Government did with Andrew Gilligan and his dodgy dossier report.

The NUJ has done some great things for photographers, otherwise there would be no point in us being members. But Drogheda was not one of them, and both the NEC and you seem incapable of acknowledging the damage and extent of its implications.

Simon Chapman
NUJ Photographer

From: Jeremy Dear [-------------------]
Sent: Friday, July 27, 2007 4:12 PM
To: Tim Dawson -----------------
Cc: ----------------------------
Subject: NUJPhoto

Dear Tim
I am writing to you as chair of the Freelance Industrial Council in respect of the issues raised in the email below. I have also been asked
by Seamus Dooley to refer this matter to the NEC. Since it is likely the NEC Emergency Committee will meet next week it is probable they will discuss it then.

As I will be away any response should be copied to John Fray and/or Michelle Stanistreet.

It is simply unacceptable for a member to bar another member in good standing from being part of an official NUJ discussion group. It is also unacceptable for a member to prevent another member from being able to access and respond to derogatory comments being written about them.

It is also unacceptable for someone to seek to censor the views of another member in good standing.

It is also unacceptable that someone given a position of responsibility by the union should seek to use a union-financed facility which is there for all members to pursue a personal agenda against another member in good standing

It does not matter whether that member is an official or not - this is an abuse of authority and an abuse of union facilities. The FIC may like to consider in light of this whether the current moderator is a fit and proper person to serve in such an important role.

Unless FIC acts to resolve this problem I will recommend the NEC acts to rectify the situation.

I hope you will use your good offices to avoid the need for such action by the NEC.

Yours sincerely

Jeremy Dear
General Secretary