Archive for the ‘Picture Calls’ Category

Bigotry Or Pragmatism?

November 5th, 2012

One of fotoLibra‘s unique features is the Picture Call sent out to all members, listing the photographs our clients are actively searching for. If you’ve been a member for a while, you know that it would be hard to create a more diverse and random set of image requests. There’s something for everyone, from landscape photographers to people pix.

And because Britain is home to the world’s most internationally-minded book publishers, we have requests to supply images in books produced for every market, every culture. In multicultural Britain we are inured to butchers selling kosher or halal meat; in monocultural societies any deviation from the prescribed pattern is seldom tolerated.

So when a large and well-established publisher comes to us with a big picture call on to which is bolted a few strange (to our British eyes) conditions, we shrug and send it out. We don’t condone the request by doing so; we are agnostic as far as our clients’ requests go (although we will exclude pornography).

One recent request asked that in the images there should be:

  • • no women and men together
  • • no women looking at the camera
  • • no bare arms, legs or chests

for images to be used in a textbook designed for the Middle Eastern market.

This doesn’t trouble me unduly, although personally I do find it sad that there are people who still think like this in the twenty-first century.

But one fotoLibra member found it too much to bear. He wrote to Jacqui Norman, who had sent out the Picture Call:

Hello Jacqui,
I have been thinking about your picture calls and really do not have a polite way of responding to some of them. I am Jewish, Israeli, liberal minded, not bigoted, and strangely professional. I do not understand or want to understand your requests for what are bigoted, probably Moslem countries. I may be the only one who finds them ridiculous but I would appreciate not being part of this stupidity. I do not remember ever refusing work to anyone with such or under such conditions. Having such requests is insulting and I prefer not to play the bigot’s game.

Colour or gender or religion cannot be a part of my metier or behavior. Please refrain from sending me any more such requests. I would not mind at all if you review my request, find it lacking or maybe even agree and publish it on your blog. All the racial insinuations on the list of requests are not a figment of my imagination. After many years in the business I can read between the lines as can so many others.

Jacqui replied:

Thank you for your message and for sharing your thoughts with us. One of our major customers is a very large European educational publisher which supplies text books and learning materials to countries throughout the world. We feel that helping them to produce reference and teaching tools for Middle Eastern students may ultimately improve their understanding of different cultures and peoples in other parts of the globe.
Through our picture calls we seek only to tell photographers what images are being sought at the moment, not to judge or express our own opinions. We regret that you consider a few of these requests insulting or racially inappropriate; they are most definitely not intended to be.

Our member responded:

Dear Jacqui,
I have no intention of educating the world or making anyone amenable to my point of view. I do not “doctor” photographs or “stage” them in order to please the bias of a customer. I have found that loss of credibility is infinitely more important than a few cents in my bank account. Your customer is, I doubt, as naive as you make them out to be. Doctored or staged images will only confirm a biased view of the world to those asking for such and will be found out.

Please exclude me from such requests. People’s bias or their points of view are their own concern. I have no intention or presumption improving my customers’ understanding.

I have no problem in ending whatever relationship I have with your company. I cannot afford to be included and find my credibility to be more important. Please refrain from offering any of my work to any of your customers.

Jacqui answered:

I apologise that our picture call and my subsequent email seem to have given you the wrong impression. Of course we are not asking you or any of our photographers to doctor or stage images, nor would a respected publisher consider using such images in an educational book. At the beginning of the picture call, we simply mentioned things that photographers should avoid when selecting images for submission to this particular project.
We can exclude your images for sale to or for use in the Middle Eastern market if you wish us to do so. If you prefer to cancel your membership of fotoLibra and remove all your images from our archive as a direct result of this, then we should be extremely sorry.

The photographer replied:

Hello Jacqui,
Maybe you did not understand me. I do sell a great deal of my work in the Middle East, even to countries which do not allow me to visit them. But my relationships are not only cordial but very correct. They know that my images are not staged or doctored in any way, even if the subject does not flatter my country. I cannot understand losing this credibility. They have never asked me to enhance or change the truth of the images I send them, knowing full well that would be the end of our relationship. When my images are different to their expectations they always acknowledge and thank me for showing a different point of view, which they do not usually expect.
I would prefer to cancel my membership and please remove all my images from Fotolibra. I have never qualified my work with any sort of exclusion zone and do sell and present my work without and preconditions.

And there it rests. I thought Jacqui expressed the situation well. And before I posted this blog, I showed the text in its entirety to our photographer, to solicit his comments. They are included as the first comment to this blog, posted by me to preserve the member’s anonymity.

I think that a request such as

  • • no women and men together
  • • no women looking at the camera
  • • no bare arms, legs or chests

does not require staging or doctoring in any way, nor does it breach many peoples’ view of human rights. Like most of these requests, it’s just a cultural thing, and seldom has any basis in the scriptures of the adherents.

What do we do? fotoLibra has over 20,000 registered photographers, and this Picture Call has provoked one complaint. We don’t want to lose him, but we can’t forego the possibility of making 300+ picture sales for our members because one person is offended by the terms and conditions in a Picture Call.

I don’t think these conditions are particularly onerous or indeed unacceptably bigoted. I may be wrong. I’m sure there could be some requests where Jacqui would draw the line, but I can’t imagine any valued client ever asking us for such things.

What do you think?


Guitar Porn

May 26th, 2010

Three male members wrote in to complain about Jacqui’s “sexist” depiction of male readers in the GUITAR PORN Picture Call (read it here) sent out earlier this week. She was prepared to stand her ground, but on my advice she unreservedly apologises for any upset she may have caused. It was clearly an improbable assertion; the story was meant to be funny, and she is sorry people were unable to read it as such. What amuses some will offend others.

The fault lies with me. I told Jacqui about Guitar Porn, saying there was a sector of the book publishing market which aimed books at people who preferred to look at pictures rather than read too many words. This sector is overwhelmingly male, and subjects they enjoy are big breasts, Harley-Davidsons, guitars, farm machinery and so on. More granular market research reveals that these books are generally bought by women for their menfolk. What Jacqui wrote was based on what I said, and I fully approved it.

Despite some confusion about my name in foreign parts, I am a man, and I know the markets these books reach. I feel it’s perfectly reasonable to poke fun at them — unless we can’t poke fun at anybody ever again for fear they’ll take offence.

Nevertheless my comments as interpreted by Jacqui were seen as sufficiently offensive for three people to complain. That means there were at least thirty who felt the same way but couldn’t be bothered to write in. I’m sorry that I (for it was my doing) upset these people, but it was meant to be light-hearted. A flat announcement for photographs of guitars is too dull for fotoLibra.

That said, another three people wrote in to say how much they enjoyed Jacqui’s sense of humour.

That argues at least another 30 do too.

You, I thank.


What can we do?

May 21st, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I’ve just had Jacqui Norman almost in tears.

Jacqui sends out our Picture Calls. She tries to be as precise and as accurate as possible.

On May 12th she sent out a call for aerial portrait format photographs of the North York Moors. This is what she wrote:

The TOUR series are all oblique aerial shots. You will need access to an aeroplane or helicopter. Even if you don’t have one, this is not impossible if you have enough chutzpah. Yvonne Seeley blogged about how you can do this yesterday on the fotoLibra Pro Blog.

The next image needed is a TOUR map series image of North York Moors, wanted by Monday, May 25th.

The images that have been submitted so far? Every single one of the 22 images submitted so far (4 days still to go to the deadline) has been taken with the photographers’ feet solidly planted on terra firma. And four of them are even landscape, not portrait.

None of these images will be shown to the client. They’re not what she asked for. We might as well send her pictures of the Great Pyramid At Giza for all the relevance they have to the precise requirements Jacqui laid out.

What can Jacqui do? How can she make the brief any clearer?

Our photographers aren’t stupid, so clearly Jacqui is, or we are, doing something wrong. I asked Nick Jenkins what he suggested and he came up with the idea of colour-coding these OS calls. So we’ve tried that, and it hasn’t worked.

Any more ideas?

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We’ve just added a new tab to the fotoLibra members’ Control Centre which helps photographers organise and assess their responses to Jacqui Norman’s Picture Calls. This is what it does:

• supplies the complete original Picture Call brief
• shows a sample line of images submitted to the Picture Call
• shows which images the member has submitted to the Picture Call
• allows members to add images directly to the Picture Call from their Portfolios
• allows members to remove images or swap them from one Picture Call to another
• shows all the images offered for each Picture Call so members can see what’s needed and what’s not

We think it’s a major improvement on the old system, and offers far more transparency which we were unable to provide until we created this interface. And from what we’ve heard so far, all our members agree with us. After the screen shots come a few sample comments. I know I’ve been accused (by Jacqui) of running a Dear Leader-style ‘democracy’, but I can honestly say the reactions have been 100% favourable.

Hold on to your seats, because there’s more to come!

Jacqui and all at fotoLibra — impressed. Superbly done! A great visual concept — I love it. —Keith Erskine

The new Picture Call tab — I think it is superb. —Philippa Wood

Yep, love the Picture Call tab. Very clever to split out all my entries above all the rest and incorporating the brief makes it entirely user friendly. Well done. —Phil Dickson

I liked the additions to the site — well done. —Peter Vallance

The new Picture Call tab looks and feels excellent. —Nick Jenkins

The new Picture Call tab is great. This was a great addition to the fotoLibra web site. Thanks for a great site that helps us market our work. —Jim Walker


Picture Calls

February 16th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

This was sent to Jacqui Norman:

I just wanted to thank you and Yvonne and everyone else involved for hosting this important service. I sell my images on several sites, and while I am just getting started on fotoLibra and haven’t made any sales yet, I am very excited about our new “relationship”. The reason?

Photo Calls.

No other agency that I work with has provided a service as thorough as this for the photographers. It not only gives us a clear opportunity to get shots into the system BEFORE a buyer makes choices, but also provides a wealth of shooting ideas for enhancing our portfolios. I submitted my first shots for picture calls this weekend, and hope that they bear fruit. Even if they don’t, though, I look forward to participating in many more.

— Al Wasserberger, Chicago

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

You know what? This works, and this is not a scam. Because I’m running it.

If you’re not already a fotoLibra member, this is what to do. You have to have a digital camera, a computer and an internet connection to begin with.

Go to and sign up as a Seller. It’s free, because you can only upload so many photographs.

Thousands of people do this, upload a dozen photos, and wait for them to sell.


This is how to make it work for you. Upload only one picture, just to try out the routine.

Then sit back and wait for fotoLibra to email you with their Picture Calls — lists of the pictures that pro buyers are looking for.

There are Picture Calls on every subject and for every place under the sun. They are usually quite specific, so you will know exactly what’s wanted.

There are two or three Picture Calls a week. Just keep an eye on them. It costs you nothing at all.

All you have to do is upload the pictures they’re asking for. The average picture sells for around $100, and you get half. That’s about $50 for you each time your pictures sell. They can sell again and again.

I really think this is a no-brainer, a win-win situation. So tell your friends!


Ugly as a Picture

May 19th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

A picture buyer stopped by our stand at the BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair the other day.

With pride I showed her samples of our members’ finest, as good as if not better than any of the images the other picture libraries had on display.

“Isn’t this stunning?” I enthused.

“Of course,” she replied. “All the pictures I’ve seen on every stand have been absolutely stunning. And you know what? I’m looking for practical, unfussy, clear, everyday pictures of everyday things. I need to see pictures of wheelie bins, bus shelters, street furniture, Japanese knotweed, chewing gum on pavements, that sort of thing. And not one stand has them on display.”

I gulped and swallowed. “We can get them for you!” I offered bravely.

She smiled sadly and moved on.

I vowed we really could do something. So when you get Jacqui Norman’s next Newsletter, please read about the IPSV — the Integrated Public Service Vocabulary. It’s a big project, and fotoLibra is ideally placed to handle it.

Next time you see a fantastic sunset, turn your back and look at the litter bin.


Picture Calls

May 14th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

fotoLibra’s Picture Calls are unique, a wonderful way for buyers to see our range and quality, and for our members to see what’s selling right at this moment.

Jacqui Norman has just sent out a Picture Call for people and places in

  • Peterborough
  • Wisbech
  • Boston
  • Grantham

So far we’ve had 25 entries.

Two are photographs of Lincoln.

Two are of colleges in Cambridge.

Two more are captioned “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA”.

Five images are marked as Royalty Free.

Jacqui wrote in her circular email “Royalty Free images are not put forward to the client for Picture Calls.”

That’s 15 out of 25 that are eligible for the Picture Call, and that we can show to the client.

Jacqui has asked me how she can make the requirements any clearer.

I have no answer. Can anyone help?


Educational images

April 3rd, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Every day we talk to picture buyers from all disciplines. It makes me smile when I remember how we started fotoLibra, trawling round banks and venture capitalists to try and raise money. “People buy pictures?” they asked in disbelief.

There are a lot of buyers out there, and we have to try and connect to them. Recently we’ve been targeting education book publishers, a massive market, especially in the UK where the vestiges of an empire (and the hegemony of the world’s greatest and most functional language) mean that those faceless rectangular office blocks on the outskirts of former county towns are now filled with solemn young people searching for images of happy, healthy African schoolchildren to feed the ceaseless demand for schoolbooks.

Actually, what they all want are images of people undergoing instruction. Groups with teachers. People learning. Black, white, multi-racial — it doesn’t matter, as long as the photograph comes with clearances and it is located precisely. “School” won’t do, but “Merton House School, Penmaenmawr, North Wales” will do very well.

Here’s a typical request:

1) Young group of musicians in jazz band with T-shirts that share same logo or band name printed on drum kit for example, or similar picture to suggest the usefulness of establishing a team identity.
2) A school council team at work — a mix of students and teachers around table
3) Group of teens (or adults) being taught survival or bushcraft skills on a bushcraft course, i.e. learning to build a shelter.
4) Pic of family meeting of two siblings with an aunt-type figure (adult younger than parent) acting as mediator — or — as near to this as you can possibly find! -— must look like a serious family discussion involving a group of more than 3 people
5) Pic of teens talking in a support/therapy group, i.e. children of divorced parents, discussing how the situation has left them very angry? OR teen talking to a therapist.
6) One teen shouting at another teen friend, looking angry (not screaming in a ‘cool’ way)
7) Group debate in a school – showing a team, or debate in a hall or classroom

Please don’t go out and take these exact photographs; this was in the past, and is just an example to show the sort of thing these educational publishers are looking for. They all want PEOPLE INTERACTING WITH EACH OTHER. The joy for fotoLibra members is that scenes like this can be taken anywhere in the world, from Penmaenmawr to Phetchaburi, from Pretoria to Peoria.

If you have a spare child of school age, why not get it and its friends to set up some of these scenarios? You can buy them pop and buns while you pocket your new-found wealth from all the pix you’ll sell.


More excitement than we need

March 25th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

You had a Picture Call from Jacqui last week, for the tomb of Gertrude Bell in Baghdad. Here’s what one fotoLibra member wrote to us on Easter Sunday:

I’m in Baghdad now – and the cemetery is on our list of places to re-visit, but it’s in a difficult part of town, with a risk of being stopped and kidnapped at fake checkpoints.
It’s also rather noisy here today – lots of explooding Easter eggs (mortars and rockets aikmed at the Green zone), so we’re keeping a low (indoor) profile out here in the city for a few hours.
But I will keep trying – however it’s unlikely in time for this deadline.

The deadline (perhaps too literal in this case) has passed, and this time we have disappointed the client.

But hey, did our fotoLibra members try, or what?