First published on Livemag.co.za
Two recent pictures taken backstage at the SAMAs caused a bit of an uproar among photographers on social media. One is of Pearl Thusi looking down, and the other of AKA and Bonang holding hands while walking away from the camera. Both pictures were taken by 25-year-old photographer Austin Malema. He tweeted his displeasure under #CreditThePhotographer because celebs shared his image without crediting him.
This is an issue that comes up often, and Austin seems to have been one of a few to challenge big names for using his work without credit. For example, he says the picture that Pearl posted without crediting him got about 3000 likes while the same picture on his Instagram got just over 1000.
“What people don’t understand is that out of that 3000 likes, one or two, if not more people would like to find out who took that picture. That’s possible jobs that I lost out on because there was no credit on the picture. Most of my jobs I get through my Instagram.” He says the biggest jobs he has gotten have been through people seeing his work credited on a famous person’s page and received between R10 000 and R16 000 per job. “I’ve had people say ‘I saw a pic you took of so and so and I’d love you to come to do this and that’. Social media is a marketing tool for those of us who are not there yet.”
Austin says not crediting people is like taking food out of their mouths. “It’s like bootlegging, because if you support an artist, you will buy their music. It’s like they’re taking food out of your mouth. It’s even worse if they didn’t pay for the pictures.”
According to Austin, it’s different if an artist has hired you because you would have already been paid for your part, and them sharing the images with your name on would just be a bonus. “But if you’re not the one paying me and you’re just going to use my work like it’s your own or like it magically appeared, it’s a bit of a problem because you know someone took the photos.”
Other celebs Austin has worked with have credited him whenever they shared their work, so he knows it’s possible for others to do it, too. He understands when people tweet or Instagram in the moment and forget. But when the person is asked to rectify the mistake, then they must respect the photographers by crediting them for their work. “It’s that simple. Credit the photographer, then we can get away from this thing of having to call people out on social media.”
All pictures by Austin Malema