I first met Peggy Collins at the Sechelt Farmer’s Market, in its previous location at the Ravens Cry Theatre. She had a table up towards the high end, covered with photo cards from one end to the other that were a hot spot of interest among the booths.
If you have ever seen Peggy’s iconic squirrel and the cookie jar photo, you will recognize her work: whimsical, graceful, and engaging, these cards are popular both at market booths and commercial locations, and online at Peggy’s Zazzle store for her brand ‘FunNaturePhotography‘.
Peggy came to the Coast 10 1/2 years ago from the Commercial Drive area of Vancouver, where she had hosted a booth in the East Van market selling hand made jewellery and as a sideline, photo cards, as part of her hobby of photography. With a real film camera and everything (kids, ask your parents).
It wasn’t until she and her husband arrived in Madeira Park that she made the plunge to go digital, with a Canon 20D – which was one step up from the famous Canon Rebel – to really be able to focus on bird photography in particular. She chose a camera that allowed for SLR like use, and could take additional lenses though almost all of her work is done with a 100-400 focal length lens, on a Canon EOS 7D for the last two years (there you go, men, the stats!)
Knowing that the camera you use is the one you have with you, I asked Peggy if she always used a big camera or sometimes swapped out for something lighter to carry. No dice. The big camera or nothing, and the only time it doesn’t go is when the weather is rainy. “At 5’11″ I’m tall, so that makes it easier for the weight,” she offered, but I know height or no height, when I’m hiking I find the Nikon D70 plenty heavy enough, without even a longer lens to cart around.
But that’s how you know you’re dealing with someone who makes a living from their photography. They do the work: carry the camera at all times, ever ready for those fleeting shots (instead of cursing oneself as I do when those magical moments pass me by with my iPhone), and willing to do the laborious work of downloading to the computer to go through each one to provide file notes, shooting info, and otherwise treat those golden images seriously.
We had a very interesting discussion about digital rights management, and etiquette around linking to images taken by someone else, otherwise known (my words) as theft. “People help themselves all the time,” Peggy says, and it’s true. She even traced back the use of one image, which happened to be the pet of someone close to her, and the person who had taken the image was using it as an avatar for a site about demonic possession and wanting an artist to edit the image to add gaping wounds, and red, bloody eyes. “That one just ticked me off for some reason… it was probably some young person who didn’t know any better. The webmaster freaked out on me because I posted something in the forums like ‘it’s not okay to just take someone’s pictures’.”
“I get asked constantly, for free images, through my Flickr account. Lately I’ve been saying, ‘No, I have earn my living this way. I have to ask for something.’ I don’t ask other people to work for me for free…. Dentists… I don’t ask them, hey would you fill my tooth for free?”
In an age of Pinterest, aggregated news, right-clicking madness, and a growing monopoly by a few concentrated players in the stock image industry (Corbis, Masterfile, and Getty, which in 2006 bought out the independent and affordable istockphoto.com*) means photographers and their customer base are being alienated and siloed from each other.
We have an opportunity, in our small communities, to really see where the money changes hands, and who is creating and who is legitimately buying and playing by the rules. In a region so dominated by the arts, the ability of our creative people to make a living for their efforts is no theoretical discussion.
So support the artists in our community. Buy from them at markets and galleries. Visit them online and comment/engage to find out more about them and their work….
…and admire the skills and eye that give us marvels such as these. Check out Peggy’s Fun Nature Photography Store – you can get these images and hundreds of others, as cards, prints… and printed on almost everything you can imagine!
The photo of the deer above was published in Canadian Geographic’s “Best Wildlife Pictures of 2012″, and two additional photos are scheduled to be published in the upcoming Canadian Geographic ‘Special Edition’ focusing on extreme weather. Peggy’s work has been published in a number of magazines, books, and even on TV.
*In an interesting aside, in “April, 2008 Getty Images disclosed, as part of its agreement to be sold to a private equity firm, that iStockphoto’s revenue in 2007 was $71.9 million USD of which $20.9 million (29%) was paid to contributors” – Wikipedia.com)
Fun Nature Photography Store
Peggy Moon Collins – Blog
PeggyCollinsPhotography on Facebook