Photographer Calls Out Taylor Swift Over Hypocritical Rant

Photographer Calls Out Taylor Swift Over Hypocritical Rant

While Taylor Swift has continued her tirade against all things music streaming, a concert photographer, Jason Sheldon, has himself written an open letter to her. Jason calls her a hypocrite for her stance on musical artistry, given her stance on the art of photography. 

Mr. Sheldon posted a contract he was recently given upon shooting a concert of hers. Right off the bat, let's be clear: it's highly unlikely Taylor Swift has any knowledge of this contract or it's stipulations. That's just not on a teen sensations to do list; she has guitars to weep on. The main problem Jason has with the contract come from the stipulations seen in paragraph 2 and 3 seen below.

Contract copy provided by Jason Sheldon of Juction10 Photography

The contract states that Jason, the photographer, is not allowed to use any of the images in his own marketing, nor is he allowed to sell the photo to another publication use. And second, that Taylor and her team are allowed to use any of his photos anywhere, for any reason, for... well for forever. 

Now..  forgive me if I’m wrong, but if you take points 2 and 3 in that contract (which is provided to Photographers who need to agree to those terms before they are allowed to do their job in photographing you for editorial outlets), it appears to be a complete rights grab, and demands that you are granted free and unlimited use of our work, worldwide, in perpetuity.  You say in your letter to Apple that “Three months is a long time to go unpaid”.  But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity….

Mr. Sheldon goes onto explain how this negatively impacts him as a freelance photographer.

As a freelance photographer, I am asked to photograph concerts by publications.  I get paid IF and when the photos are used, not for turning up to a show and shooting it.  Therefore, if the newspaper has a bigger story to run and doesn’t have enough room to use my photo, I don’t get paid.

When I’m not allowed to do anything else with the photos, that means I’ve incurred expenses to work, which I can’t recover.  Therefore preventing me from licensing my photos to more than one publication, or even (as later versions of this contract stipulate) preventing me from using the images for my own self-promotion in a portfolio etc while they can use them without licensing the usage is highly unfair and unjustified.

What do you think? Personally, I would be most upset about not being able to use said photos in my portfolio. I could quite easily understand them not wanting a photo which reflected poorly on Taylor to show up in the tabloids, but those aren't the kind of photos a photographer puts in their portfolio. And I don't know about you, but having one of, if not the, biggest name in music in your portfolio would be pretty validating to other potential customers. 

Jason's full letter can be found on his website.

UPDATE: A spokesperson from Taylor Swift's camp has responded to Jason's letter. While he doesn't deny some of the accusations, he attempts to soften them. 

The standard photography agreement has been misrepresented in that it clearly states that any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management's approval," the spokesperson said. "Another distinct misrepresentation is the claim that the copyright of the photographs will be with anyone other than the photographer — this agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer.

A certain level of fame does seem to afford a celebrity more control over images. Reportedly, Beyonce had any "unflattering" images removed from Getty after the 2013 Super Bowl (mashable).

Stephen Atohi's picture

Stephen Atohi is a film and fine art digital photographer based in Charleston, SC. His specialities are in portraits, weddings, and travel photography.

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Spot on argument but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that she didn't write these photographer agreements herself and that it's the Label/Legal team behind her campaign. So I kinda see her point of view but I think shes pointing an awfully large finger when her own brand does the same thing to other artists.

She needs to reign in her team! and Make sure that her professional image isnt tainted by bad choices made by her marketing people!

To be fair, Taylor Swift didn't write her little essay on music either.

And then this project of a singer ranted back. She's owning the music industry by the balls and they seem to like. I hate just to see her face on my facebook everytime, crazy woman...errrr

Hello Taylor swifts team.... You say this.... "Team Taylor went on to say "another distinct misrepresentation is the claim that the copyright of the photographs will be with anyone other than the photographer -- this agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer. Every artist has the right to and should protect the use of their name and likeness."

Yes you do have the right to protect your image.... that's why you higher a PRO.... and pay the pro usage for those images and you should also pay the exclusive rights usage to close any gaps..... You make billions on art and then scam other artists! How is that ethical or legit in your eyes????? Especially as a role model asking the rest of the world to bow to your claims of misused art?

We await your reply.


Why would any photographer want to work within these restraints? Photographers should stand together and not work these situations. Then what will the clients do?

Incentive to "cheat". Their will always be one that's willing, driving the rest of the crowd down.

If good photographers refuse then only the low quality people will be left.

Not really.

If NO pro shows up, the single one that "cheats" will get a HELL of an exclusive...

The less players there are, the more the reward is interesting. At some point, the reward level with hit a pro's level of satisfaction and they will do it.

I see this as apples to oranges. Apple trying to screw potentially thousands of artists who already get ripped off by nearly everyone is not the same as a very restrictive contract for work that hasn't been created yet.

The worst part of the deal is that he actually had to go to one of her concerts to do the shoot.

"with approval" meaning the contract makes the images a shared copyright ownership deal of some kind. i.e. I cannot use X images on X usage, without approval from said all other copyright owners permission, since they (Swift's management company) is being the daddy for the images. The Photographer own the full rights is a complete lie.

If she doesn't like what Apple is doing, she doesn't have to sell her music on iTunes...

Everyone misses the point... The hypocritical part is that while the photographer cannot use the images for anything without "permission" (which, by the way is French for "you have to pay us to use your own images), they get to use the images any way they want without further compensation to the photographer, forever

Photographer retains the copyright. My left foot.

I don't see what the problem is.
Nobody is forcing him to sign the contract.
I've shot Bon Jovi, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Whitesnake none of them came up with such contract and if they did I would for sure not shoot the show!

No one is forcing Swift to sell her albums through Itunes but she blows a lot of smoke about the money she's not making. The point you missed was that she's complaining about treatment and then turning around to do it to someone else. It's called being a hypocrite.

This article and his sense of entitlement are a little tough to swallow.

Swift and her organization own the rights to their performance and allow how much of that can be documented. She's not a hypocrite for controlling what fans have to pay to see, and much like models or actors her image and likeness are something she has made a multimillion-dollar business out of selling.

If you don't like the terms of that agreement, don't sign it, don't write a passive aggressive (open) letter comparing your image rights to pictures taken of a performance she created, to her fighting to be paid for people listening to music she created.

Renegotiate the terms with someone before the concert, or don't photograph it.

The reserved right to use the images in their marketing should be the real focus here, but instagram, Facebook, social media sites, and even commerce sites like eBay and 1stdibs have the same or similar language in their contracts.

Make sure you get paid upfront and paid well if your images are being used on any of these sites - or if you enter into an agreement like this.

If you can't do that, then do it because you love it with open eyes. Know that you are not going to support yourself that way. Or make the choice to spend your time on more financially beneficial ventures.

Lets start acting like businessmen and women and take responsibility for our decisions, rather than complain about it on the internet after the fact.

Also, Stephen, referring to multi-million-dollar 24 year old business mogul as a "teen-sensation" seems a little inappropriate.

Great thoughts!

Except the last part. Haha. You didn't laugh? She has guitars to weep on? It's, you know... a joke.

lol - maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed. My point was not to underestimate her, she's wildly successful and thats not accident.

Some of the other commenters tried to absolve her from responsibility for the content of that agreement. If she didn't write it, you better believe she hired the lawyers that did and it reads and functions exactly how she and her organization want it to.

Aside for their music, photography helps push and promote these artists' image. Why not just not bother with her? The whole photographic community just dont bother taking her picture anymore.

Two things to take away from Ms. Swift's open letter:
1.) She accuses Apple of not paying artists but in fact the music that will be on Apple music (at least prior to their reversal) has all been cleared for use via contracts and agreements with the labels. Without those agreements Apple is not allowed to use the music, so be mad at the labels if you happen to fall under one that signed for not looking after your rights, and if you have no label pull your music off of Apple Music for the 3 months. Just don't allow them to use your art.

2.) Ms. Swift has to accept that if you are going to use your current caché to criticize the workings of some other entity you have to expect people to turn to you and examine your organizations workings to see if you have any moral standing in the argument. In my opinion she should follow up and explain how she will address the photographer's issues here just as Apple did, Eddy Cue responded, not some faceless legal team with meaningless legal jargon you'd have to be brain insured to accept.

Come on Taylor, lets hear it from you, how are you going to change your dealings with artists to reflect your apparent beliefs??