On compensation and holistics

I had an interesting email this morning. A member of an on-line health website promoting holistic nutrition, cleanses, etc. asked me if they could use a photo of mine (which they found on Flickr) in an upcoming blog post about laundry detergent. Oddly, they already have a post about laundry detergent that was posted today, at about the same time I got the email.

This request brought up two issues: letting people use my creative endeavours for free and “supporting” holistic nutrition (or, any other cause/practise/etc. that you may not support 100%)  by letting them use your work to promote themselves.

Let’s start with the issue of free work. I am not a photographer and I don’t plan on trying to make money off any pictures I post any time in the near future. But, I do know photographers, I want to support their work, and I am very aware of the issues they face with people under valuing the work they do. I also know that this is a problem in many (all?) other creative fields. People are constantly asking artists to share their images, designs, etc. for free – sometimes with proper credit and the claim of “exposure”, and sometimes with no promises at all.

Why am I so worried about these things when I’m not trying to make money off of them in the first place? Devaluation. Photographers work hard for their living. They don’t just show up at an event, snap a few pictures, and run away with a wad of cash in their hands (not the good ones, anyway). There’s a lot of pre- and post-event work that gets done behind the scenes (see #5 regarding costs). They meet with clients, prep gear, process pictures (editing, sorting, etc. several hundred pictures for events like weddings), and even put together packages (DVDs of pictures, photo books, etc.). In addition to this, the good ones spend a lot of time and money on education (new or improved techniques) and practise. They do this because (a) they understand that their clients deserve good work and (b) they know that their credibility and new business depends on doing a good job. (Note: Contrary to popular belief, enjoying photography or having expensive gear does not make you a good photographer.)

When photographers (professional or not) do work for free or let people use their pictures for free, they devalue the photography business for everyone. People start expecting freebies or cheaper rates. As one (of many) blog posts about the issue points out, would you expect a friend who’s an accountant to do your taxes for free? (If your answer is yes, that’s unfair – pay people for their work, either with money or a mutually agreed upon reciprocal freebie of equal value.)

With regards to the actual content of the website, I do believe in alternative treatments that have been shown to work and in the value of the general concept of holistic health. But, I also believe in science – real science with real hard facts, not derived science (“facts” based on mere potential causation) or “science” based on anecdotal evidence (“this happened to me, so it must be true for everyone”). Yes, the proper way to treat an ailment or to promote a healthy life style should be based on good science, but the circumstances of the patient need to be taken into consideration, as well. Essentially, their physical, psychological, and social state needs to be taken into consideration, where possible. This is true for a lot of things. For example, if you are stressed out, depressed, or not sleeping well, maybe diet, exercise, or light therapy should be tried before going on prescription pills. But, again, you can’t ignore the science. There is science to back these non-prescription alternatives.

Some things I see included in holistic health that I don’t fully agree with:

  1. Supplements: If you are eating a well balanced diet and don’t have any physiological abnormalities, than you probably don’t need to take fancy herbal supplements. Many of herbal remedies and supplements don’t even have good science to back them up. This is especially true of anything labelled “homeopathic”
  2. Cleanses: Your body has built in filters (kidneys, liver) and you do not need to do “cleanses”. If food is making you ill, you need to figure out which foods are causing problems as you may have allergies or sensitivities. If you are eating a lot of toxic foods (processed foods or foods full of pesticides), then you need to eliminate those out of your diet. No amount of whole foods or juices will purge the toxins that latch onto your fat deposits. We live in a toxic world of our own making and the only way to mediate the associated issues is to make the best healthy choices you can. Furthermore, juice cleanses are ridiculous – your body needs fibre to “clean” your guts, etc. and juicing removes all the lovely fibre from all those expensive organic fruits and veggies you just bought. If you must “cleanse”, eat whole foods and lean protein. Then, try and stick with eating whole foods and lean protein semi regularly.
  3. Yoga: If you don’t like yoga or don’t find it relaxing, than don’t do it. There are real benefits to yoga, but there is also a lot of made up nonsense based on anecdotal findings. It’s a lifestyle, some might even say it’s a “cult”. Whatever it is, if it’s not for you, find your own niche. Try regular stretching. Or, maybe you just need time away from the kids, so go for a walk or take a pottery class. If you need exercise, find the activity that you like best. Vigorous activities (especially those involving intervals) are best if you need to get in shape and lose weight. That said, I think that yoga is a pretty great idea, and one of my current fitness goals is to increase my range of motion and strength enough to be able to do it without feeling stressed and frustrated in the end. I will try it, eventually, but if I decide that I don’t like it, I won’t stick with it just because everyone else thinks it’s the bees knees.

These are all things that I have learned after over a decade of doing research and trying to find the right things for me. If you want to find out more health science, look into some of the more skeptical and science fact based health promoters on the web, like Dr. Yoni Freedhoff,  Scientific Chick, Timothy Caulfield, Julia Belluz, or Alex Hutchinson.

So, the website in question may have some valid and valuable information, but it is based on a premise that I don’t feel I can promote and it has at least a few articles and core beliefs that I think are a complete farce. Consequently, I don’t want them to use my pictures on their website.

My point is this: don’t give work away for free because it devalues you and, potentially, a whole profession, and, where possible, only work for things that you can stand behind, to some degree or another.

For the record: I’m not sharing the website, because I don’t feel the need to promote it.


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