Street Style Photographers Form Unofficial Union

Image via Getty
Image via Getty

The photographers who clamor outside fashion week tents and venues, snapping the street style of fashionable editors and bloggers, are tired of doing so without adequate compensation.


The New York Times reports that about 40 street-style photographers created an unofficial union of sorts this weekend to protest the fact that influencers and brands frequently use their photos without properly paying for them. Calling themselves “The Photographers,” the group created the hashtag #NoFreePhotos, which they added onto their Instagram posts.

Street-style photographers can help a nobody become a somebody by legitimizing their style, photographing them alongside editors for major fashion magazines. And once a blogger or Youtuber or famous-actor spawn-slash-DJ becomes known for their style, they often use those pictures on their blogs or Instagrams—which can lead to lucrative deals with brands.

The photographers who help catapult these randos to fame believe they’re being used when these influencers or multi-million dollar brands use their photos without paying for the rights. And some of these photographers, according to photographer Adam Katz Sinding of Le 21ème, spend thousands of dollars to cover shows, just in hopes of landing a paid job out of it.

“This cause is rooted in asking for more respect,” French photographer Nabile Quenum told the Times. “We want people to respect the work we do and recognize that this is our livelihood. We, too, are trying to make a living, and many of us are struggling.”

All across the fashion world, different areas of labor are beginning to organize, officially or unofficially. The Model Alliance, a labor organization established in 2012, provides education and advocacy for fashion models. Last year retail workers at Zara voted to unionize and back in 2013 after a building collapse killed 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers the government decided to commit to a sustainability compact with the European Union, but there are still huge problems with factories unionizing there. And in an industry where people across magazines and fashion labels are often underpaid, illegally employed, and have their work used for profit for free, widespread unions are a long time coming.

Hazel Cills is the Pop Culture Reporter at Jezebel. Her writing has been published by outlets including The Los Angeles Times, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, ELLE, and more.



There’s a lot of snark in the comments here, but it seems the issue is the photos are being used without permission. That seems to be a simple thing. These people want to be recognized as working for a living. The people using the photos are getting them from somewhere, and the photo rights belong to the photographer. Get permission, in writing. If the photos are being used, then there is obviously a demand for them, whether the casual observer agrees with the art form. It’s not hard to find out who took the photo and to get permission- whether by paying for its use or working it out some other way.