My name is Benoit Florençon, and I’m a photographer based in Paris. I was recently approached by Kodakit, an entity of Kodak, which promises photographers regular jobs with big companies in exchange for extremely low pay.
I agreed to meet with their CEO and their photographer community manager a few days ago to discuss what they had to offer.
I ended up deciding to decline the offer and wrote them an email I’d like to share here, to both warn unaware photographers of such practices and to spark the debate on how to protect ourselves better.
Below is my email response to them:
Dear [PERSON ONE], dear [PERSON TWO]
I’m choosing to email you back in English so that you can share my thoughts with whoever you think is relevant.
First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me over to the Kodakit presentation. It was an interesting experience to meet you both. I will, however, have to decline your offer to be part of the Kodakit adventure for the following reasons.
I believe that client communication is as important as a brief and a budget, and it is what makes a relation trustworthy, an assignment successful, and a business partnership grow forward. Photographers are not just trigger fingers, clients are not just bank transfers, and reducing all that to a text message sent by an algorithm is not the best way to value anyone’s work.
[PERSON ONE], [PERSON TWO], both of you mentioned Uber during the meeting, saying that your model was based on the same concept. I would like to correct this notion: Uber, as well as Airbnb, invite folks of all walks of life to become “taxi drivers” or “hosts”. Both those models are based on extremely common set of skills, all of us here could be Uber drivers if we wanted to. Kodakit on the other hand, invites professionals to work on jobs that require a decent amount of skills and gear, but still drives low wages, loss of copyrights, and disproportionate assignments in the name of recurring work.
No, [PERSON TWO], I cannot lower the quality of my work to meet lower expectations. I haven’t practiced for years, invested thousands of euros in gear, and sharpened my skills over hundreds of hours of shooting and editing to be able to simply “forget” how to take a good photo when I start shooting. Ask [PERSON ONE] if on a job, he could forget his years of experience to wilfully, say, create an unsuccessful company, or knowingly release an app that is sub-standards; I don’t think such a switch exists.
The issue I have is that you are asking for a lot, and giving very little in return. You are asking pros to work in very non professional conditions. I’m not worried for Kodakit though, a lot of photographers will happily sign up and make money in the short term, not seeing the big picture (no pun intended). In the long run though, I’m afraid you will be a threat to the survival my industry, and the very job I cherish. I’m still impressed by the numbers about the photography market you quoted during the meeting. Out of all of this money, you can really only negotiate with [THE CLIENT] $250 USD per shoot for your photographers?
You want to be beneficial to the photography industry? You want to be respected by professional photographers and give hope to beginners? You really want to do something to make photographers’ and their clients’ lives a better one? Let’s talk. I have plenty of ideas who would make a lot of sense, shine your household name all over the industry and make everyone happy. So far you’re not helping the industry, you’re leeching off it and giving minuscule drops to the very people your survival depends on.
Thank you for taking the time to read me. My short answer would have been: my gear and skills are not adapted to your needs. Looking forward to an answer if you deem it necessary. But either way please delete my account from Kodakit as I couldn’t find the option to do it myself in the interface.
I have plenty more arguments that I didn’t include in this email because I didn’t think they would be pertinent to them. What motivated me to share it here is the answer I got from them, when I had left some room for dialogue:
Thanks for taking the time to giving us feedback . Fully appreciate your perspective and understand your point of view.
We will remove you from the list.
About the author: Benoit Florençon is a French photographer based in Paris who spent a decade in Shanghai. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find his work on his website, Behance, Instagram, and Facebook.