“For a photographer, it often seems like our greatest efforts, borne of passion and skill, have become mere commodities.”

By Melinda Sue Gordon

I take pictures for a living.

Not just any pictures, either. I work on film sets – capturing the cast and the crew, which is made up of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people with specialized creative talents. My images are used on screen in support of the story and to promote the films – in marketing materials, advertising, publicity, and more – and I love my job.

I was drawn into this business because of the collaborative nature of theater and film, which allows me to work with such skilled artists and technicians. That’s why I’m so excited for the American Film Institute’s AFI FEST – an annual celebration of international cinema. I get to celebrate some of the greatest films in the world – and do it in a place that attracts the amazingly talented people (the ones I often shoot) who created them.

Oh, and a movie that I recently worked on – Concussion – is making its debut at AFI. It is a project I am particularly proud to have been a part of, an important story beautifully told.

The AFI is near and dear to my creative heart. For one thing, I am an alumnus. I earned the money to attend by working at a custom black and white photo lab which inadvertently set me on the path of documenting production. Once I entered the Conservatory Program as a cinematography fellow, I had a still camera with me at all times and I have been shooting ever since.

We live in the digital era. For a photographer, it often seems like our greatest efforts, borne of passion and skill, have become mere commodities. More people than ever have access to cameras (which happen to also be their phones) and social platforms – that make taking and sharing images a part of everyday life. But while digital technology has opened up new opportunities – allowing those who love to express their creativity to explore the art of photography – it has also eroded the perceived value of those images.

Think of a modern wedding. Within moments of the event, the happy couple will have hundreds of pictures from friends and family – most of which will be made available for anyone anywhere to see in real time – yet they still hire a wedding photographer. Why? Because the ability to compose an image that tells a meaningful story is a sophisticated talent that takes years to refine. And that talent has value.

That’s why I joined CreativeFuture – because I believe creativity has value. Piracy undermines that value – and adversely affects all of the people who work behind the scenes to bring creative works to life. Your typical movie set is full of hard-working people, doing our best to create the movie magic that thrills audiences. At every level, we are concerned about the future of creativity in the digital age – but it’s time to turn that concern into action. And the most meaningful actions are the simplest: speaking up.

We all love moving images and the stories they tell that warm our hearts and enrich our lives. During the AFI FEST – and any time of the year – I encourage you to stand with me in speaking up about the value of creativity. Join CreativeFuture and lend your voice – because creativity has value and it’s time we start talking about it.