I don’t think there’s a photographer anywhere in the world who hasn’t been asked to work for a miserable sum, or even for free, ‘for the exposure’. According to recent research, there’s a reason why photographers and other artists are often exploited. The answer lies in your passion for photography. In other words: if you love your job, you are more likely to get lowballed.
In their paper, researchers from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business have explored “passionate exploitation.” They found that people think it’s legit to make passionate employees work extra, unpaid, or complete more demeaning work than employees without the same passion.
The team conducted eight studies with more than 2,400 participants, who included students, managers, and random online candidates. One of the studies showed that, if an artist was strongly passionate about his job, people would find it more legitimate for the boss to exploit him. Similarly, people who are exploited in their jobs are often more likely to be seen as passionate about their work.
Another study showed that people found it more legitimate to exploit workers in jobs “more traditionally associated with passion,” Fuqua Insight writes. These jobs include artists or social workers, and as you can guess – you fall within this category as a photographer. On the contrary, people who do jobs that are not generally seen as a labor of love are less likely to be exploited. This explains why nobody asks plumbers to work “for exposure.”
According to researchers, the tendency for “passion exploitation” arises from two beliefs. First, people see work as its own reward. And second, they assume that passionate employees would have volunteered anyway.
Lead author of the paper, Jay Kim, said that the research is “not anti-passion.”
“There is excellent evidence that passionate workers benefit in many ways. It’s simply a warning that we should not let the current cultural emphasis on finding passion in our work be co-opted by the human tendency to legitimize or ignore exploitation.”
This problem can be tricky to tackle, but it’s not impossible. I believe that we should start from educating our clients or employers that photography is a job like any other, no matter how passionate we are about it. It’s a plus if we love what we do, but it doesn’t mean we’ll do it for free.
[via Fuqua Insight]