An Irish photographer has defended her $63,000 (€60,000) salary after a senator compared the job to taking photos on a smartphone.
Last week, Ireland’s public service broadcaster RTÉ began inviting applicants for a job as an on-set photographer on the popular television series Fair City.
The photographer was required to deliver a minimum of 16 approved photograph stills in both high and low resolution to Fair City for 50 weeks per year. They were also needed on the television show’s set or on location an average of 20 hours per week over three days.
RTÉ, which is partly financed by the television licence fee, said the on-set photographer would be paid a salary of $63,000 (€60,000) per year — which amounted to $255,600 (€240,000) over a four-year contract.
A National Scandal Over a Photographer’s $63,000 Salary
The $63k-per-year photographer’s salary caused a national scandal. RTÉ is currently facing a financial funding crisis and the photography job was condemned as another example of the public service broadcaster’s “overspending.”
At a hearing about RTÉ at Ireland’s national parliament Oireachtas last Wednesday, Fine Gael Senator Micheál Carrigy expressed his shock about the supposedly excessive salary.
At the hearing, Carrigy compared a professional photographer’s job to taking pictures on a smartphone. According to The Irish Times, Carrigy said that his assistant was able to take photos on his phone for free.
“I’ve asked my assistant to take a picture of me speaking here and I’ll show it to you in about two minutes’ time and it won’t cost anything to be able to do that,” Carrigy says.
Following the hearing, RTÉ stopped the search for the on-set photographer and suspended applications for the Fair City job.
‘Photography is Not Just a Matter of Pressing a Button’
Now, Beta Bajgart, the photographer who currently holds the on-set Fair City photographer contract, has spoken out and condemned Carrigy’s “insulting and derogatory” remarks about the profession.
In an open letter posted on Instagram, Bajgart says that a photographer’s work is “not just a matter of pressing a button on a smartphone”.
“Firstly, not that I should have to, but your ignorant comment of reducing a photographer’s work to such a level astounded me so much that perhaps I do need to explain,” Bajgart writes.
The photographer explained that the average time she spends on the set of Fair City is 30 hours per week, over three full days, in addition to time editing, postproduction enhancement, prepping packs as well as emails and meetings.
“The photographer on RTÉ’s Fair City is an independent contractor who does not receive any benefits that you and your colleague are more familiar with for example,” Bajgart says.
“There is no pension, no paid holidays, and no sick leave,” she says, adding that the photographer must buy and update their own equipment and have their own transport.
“The utter disregard that the photography profession received in the press in the past week, compounded by your derogatory remarks, feeds into the damaging stereotype that art and creative professions don’t deserve the same respect and financial benefits as any other profession.”
Bajgart demanded that Carrigy apologize for his remarks which insulted not only photographers, but also the entire creative industry.