About three years ago in December, I posted an opportunity on here that was sent to me advertising for a free internship. I had posted the same job three months earlier and not a word was spoken about it. Somehow, someway though, word got out and it went viral. It started a completely unexpected firestorm in a matter of two days that got over 13,000 hits, hundreds of comments and blog posts and a wave of vitriolic jabs at successful photographers who hire free labor.
It was a HUGE learning experience for me. First and foremost, I learned how to turn off comments until they’d been approved! I also learned even the most respected professionals in our career are not immune to criticism by a disgruntled industry, no matter how misguided. But mostly, I learned we as an industry need to consider this issue more closely and must decide what using free interns says about us.
After carefully culling the vicious/curse word filled comments, the discussion turned for the better. The follow up posts created a very interesting series of thought-provoking commentary on the world of free interns. This discussion still rages on on other blogs, newsletters and articles. Now, it seems the issue has moved in the courts as you’ll read below.
The following article by NPR should make us all in the photographic industry consider what it means to be an intern, why we hire interns and what are the risks and benefits of free labor. Do we continue to allow each other “eat our young” as many suggest free internships do? Or will we try to find the best ways to foster the next generation of storytellers?
I don’t have an answer and I don’t think there is a simple one to this issue. However, the choice of using interns, made by all who employ or use free labor, needs to be made not for personal gain but to help support the industry’s long term success.
I very rarely write personal thoughts on this blog as you all know. However, this is one of those few days where I wanted to reach out to you all to encourage us all to act in the best interests of the industry for the future of photojournalism and photographers everywhere.
I encourage you to read the article, comment on this post if you want or simply share the article with others. Let us strive to the other industries know: we in all avenues of photography will try to act a shining example of the best treatment of the youth in our career field. Let’s begin a dialogue about our future.