The Union (National Union of Journalists) at large is a strange beast. Where like minded members communicate, like this blogging thing; usually some constructive stuff is done. Did you know that the Guardian petition is now up to 730 names? Slowly but surely, there are more names every time I look. It would be a great achievement to get this above 1000 in time for the demonstration outside the Guardian on the 1st September.
So whereas photographers are fairly active and organise different events, protests, campaigns, some areas of the union need Union organisers holding their hands and doing it all for them, and even then occasionally no one else turns up. I have attended a number of events where I have been asked to become involved because I am a regional representative, or the NEC member, I give up my time, make the effort, and find that it is just me and the organiser that turn up.
I am travelling down from Nottingham on 1st September to demonstrate outside
the Guardian and I know that there will be a large number of photographers in attendance, and some (many) will have travelled further than me. That is because so many of us care about what we do, and are passionate about our work.
I have been very lucky in my life. Most of it I have worked in newspapers, and most of that in sport. It has been fantastic. I have met people, seen events, and been a part of things happening that I could never have, had I just been an ordinary member of the public. And yes I have also got huge kicks out of seeing my pictures in double page spreads and stuff, and bigger kicks out of some of the cheques I have had (in the distant past). But I have really enjoyed my job, and I hate to see how so many publishers are making it all turn sour.
Back to NUJ stuff.
Most of the staffers in the union have their chapels, and so many of them are going through difficult times, with redundancies etc, that the members seem little interested in the wider picture, or often in many cases freelances, even those working close to chapel members. A classic example of that was at Drogheda, where the freelance contract photographer was frozen out of chapel publisher discussions and meetings and ended up being forced out of her job and replaced with someone working for 20% less.
Branches with very few exceptions are made up of chapel members who feel no need to attend branch meetings. The exception here is the freelances. The most vibrant well-attended branches in the union are often the freelance branches - London Freelance is a good example, or largely attended by Freelances (Nottingham). But even with LFB, the turn out is still only around 1% of membership on average (so I am told).
There are branches that do better. My own branch Nottingham has just over 150 members, but regularly has in excess of 15 members turning up at meetings. Few union branches can boast a regular 10%+ turnout. But there are other branches that do as well. In Nottingham there is a good support network for members, and it is rare for a week to go by without my helping some member out in some way, even if on occasion it is only to direct them elsewhere :-)
The Union is only its members. Members, who do stuff. All the photo initiatives that we have seen over the past year have all been initiated and done largely by ordinary members. Yes, of course, there has been a lot of help in certain areas by the Organisers, and Pam and John at the Freelance Office are invaluable and punch well over their own weight, and work tirelessly, but never the less without the members doing things few of our initiatives that fall under the NUJ umbrella would get off the ground.
Nottingham is a vibrant branch because we make it so, same for LFB.
EPUK, that most excellent of resources, came as a result of NUJ photographer
members motivating themselves and doing it, same with Alan Murphy’s ‘Irish Photographers’ list - he did that himself – he didn’t have to. Going back in the past, 1988 Copyright Act, UK Press Card all came about because members got up off their
Nobody does it for us - we do it. The union is simply the organisation that
binds us together and on occasion assists with knowledge and expertise in
We do need to support those who are shouting on our behalf, because if they
stop, who will do it for us?
Things we can support today:
Guardian Rights Grabbing petition
'Guardian protest' on
'I am a Photographer not a
terrorist' - I sense a bit of Jess Hurd there :-)
So sign the petition, write to the Guardian, take that picture and send it
Our industry is on its arse, maybe, just maybe, we can get it back onto its
Member of: The National Union of Journalists