This is a question for the people of T&T about the hijacking of public places for Carnival which is now called an "event", not a public festival, which takes place all around but is off limits everywhere regarding documentary photography.
The Carnival authorities demand exorbitant fees—from $10,000 up including a fee for personal use! Does this include tourists? How could that possibly work?
My understanding is that the whole place is an event, not just the judging venues, with regard to being able to sell any image for any purpose.
There is also a misunderstanding of the term "commercial images". In photographic terms these would be for uses such as advertising or product use and you would still need a model release—almost impossible unless pre-arranged.
Editorial images, which is the only real avenue of revenue, do not attract anything like the same fees as commercial images.
The years of work and love that have gone into creating images by many of us without any or little reward for the hours spent in time and equipment will from now on to be charged for by organisers who have no input in this work.
In previous years I have had accreditation for the main events—this was not a good experience. There was a complete lack of respect for what we were doing, no sensible place to photograph properly at any of the events and we were continually shoved by security men, who, on occasion, unbelievably stood right in front of an orderly bank of photographers while the band began its performance and saw no reason why that was a problem when asked to move.
It would be interesting to look at "public" street festivals around the world and see if Trinidad and Tobago is unique in this regard or on a par with dictatorships where freedom of the press is limited.
Publicity in most parts of the world for such an event would be welcomed and the press invited. They are not charged. In fact they are often well looked after and well informed.
Not just artists, but all should be concerned about this infringement involving public spaces including now Chaguaramas, the Botanical Gardens and Fort George.
In the case of mas, people buy, not hire, their costumes and perform, not for money, but shared pleasure and welcome photographers. Do the band designers not value the artistry of good photography to display their art? Without us there would be no record of the mas or the event—it would be all gone and unrecorded.
There are, sad to say, business people here who are not interested in supporting the people behind the art of Carnival but only interested in profits.
The traditional arts are no longer given enough respect although they persist valiantly (I have witnessed traditional mas players being told they cannot perform in front of the judges—they could only chip by—how sad is that).
The pan competitions have reached an all-time low, most die-hard devotees are now in the streets and the yards only and calypso tents are suffering too.
I have photographed and witnessed Carnival since 1977. It is time to rethink this. An alternative Carnival arts event may be a good idea to give more elbow room for the more traditional and innovative Carnival arts. Invite the press to cover it and display the glory of this, not charge them for doing so.
People could reclaim their Carnival. I heard Peter Minshall talk along these lines years ago, but who listens to one of our greatest mas men, celebrated as he was on the world stage, but not listened to here in terms of his vision for the development of Carnival.
I hope for better things but in the meantime I understand they are more accommodating in Venice, Rio, St Lucia, Barbados, Guyana etc.
Carole Anne Ferris