Rock and roll era royalties
A FREELANCE photographer and NUJ member with "a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, although "entrepreneurial in a punk 'start a fanzine' sort of way," Jill Furmanovsky is "inundated with work now in my mid-sixties." She founded agency www.rockarchive.com, 20 years old next year. Jill appeared at September's LFB meeting with copywriter Jackie Berry: see here.
Back "when there was a music press" Jill worked for Sounds, NME and Melody Maker. She and her colleagues were influenced by the Magnum photo agency and by Don McCullin, who "taught me photojournalism when I was at Central [School of Art]".
Jill and her colleagues "couldn't do wars - we don't have the temperament for it. We went onto the frontline of rock and roll instead. In those days we were the worst-paid photographers... we didn't even get a fee". They were paid by the square inch for each published photo.
Jill, with "only a two-week training course" behind her, was "up against freelance photographers trained on local papers." She "worked with bands like Pink Floyd in the 1970s; this young band called The Police; this crazy woman called Chrissie Hynde who became The Pretenders; and in the 1990s these hooligans called Oasis." Initially fuelled by "just the enthusiasm, the passion and the willingness, enough to pay your expenses," Jill was pleasantly surprised to "wake up one day and find that you're well paid and things have actually worked out."
Badly paid they may have been to start with, but many rock photographers of the 1970s and 1980s kept their copyright. Now "I make my money from royalties," says Jill, "I get wined and dined by the Victoria and Albert museum" for their "exhibitions like the Pink Floyd one" there - that's "bigger the Bowie one."
About 50 photographers contribute to Rockarchive. "All we do is license a few rock images - only rock images" by the great rock photographers. Rockarchive's products include sales of limited-edition art prints from the rock and roll years, with a range of prices from £150 to £2200 and more.
What about photographing today's music acts? Jill says "no one wants to buy a picture of them, not for over £100. We do our best to encourage new stuff to come in, but we can't sell it". She hopes Rockarchive will "last long enough" to absorb whatever "spark of creativity" will allow it to "monetise grime." Meanwhile, she advises "having faith that the passion and integrity will come right."