“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” That’s a quote by the late child writer and poet, Mattie Stepanek. Jack was fortunate to photograph the author years ago at Mattie’s home. It’s a great quote because it rings true. Partnerships and collaborations, especially in the arts, can produce wonderful results. Mattie was right on with this quote.
Ed, for those that might not be aware, is a lawyer, and his follow-up quote to Mattie’s is “Make sure you have a written collaboration or partnership agreement” . In the real world you need one. The absence of such an agreement may serve to fill the pockets of at least two attorneys and empty the wallets of their respective clients.
These relationships are not unlike a bride and groom who have fallen madly in love. Each loves the way their partner does those little things. They love their partner’s laugh, the way they raise their eyes at something said and they just adore the way the other sees the world. And yet, for more than 50% of those loving couples, once lovingly married, they later divorce. Many of those divorces are shall we say, “acrimonious”.
They now hate the way the other does those little things, hate the way they laugh, hate the way they roll their eyes, hating the way their partner sees the world to the extent the two of them refuse to even be in the same room together.
The two of us want to point out here that we’ve each been (and are still) married to our first wives. We both believe in the institution of marriage. Why, together we’ve been institutionalized for a combined 74 years! Thirty-seven years each. Why, we love being married and we’d probably say this even if our wives didn’t read what we write. (Insert smiley face. Can’t be too safe.)
The point is we’ve both seen photographers get into collaborative situations with other artists, be it other photographers, illustrators, dancers, art directors, makeup artists, and so on. And some of these scenarios involve a real marriage between two artists or an artist married to an agent. The resulting works can be fabulous. The combination of talents can yield a greater result that the two separate talents ever could acting alone. And, from our combined experience, the more fabulous the resulting work, the more likely a divorce is likely. If you think the divorce movie “The War of the Roses” was contentious, you ain’t seen nothing until you see a dispute between creators, artists and agents. When the resulting work isn’t so fabulous, it is less likely that a split will occur as there is less money to fight about.
We have seen long-term successful partnerships over the years, but they are the exception rather than the rule. From our combined experience as a lawyer and a photographer, the rule for any such collaboration or partnership is to have it all in writing. At best, if things work out, it becomes an aging piece of paper in a drawer that no one ever looks at. You aren’t compelled to live by all its rules, ala Sheldon’s “Roommate Agreement” in the TV show, The Big Bang Theory.
But, and this is the big but, if anything goes south, if the partnership/collaboration/friendship/marriage or whatever you choose to call it, sours, you have the blueprints of how to handle the split already on paper. Specifically who owns what, what is shared, how the breakup works should be spelled out. It is not unlike a pre-nuptial agreement that spares the parties aggravation, expenses including but not limited to attorneys’ fees. Much easier on all parties, much less aggravation, and unfortunately for attorneys like Ed, lower fees.
Please don’t be one of those people who later tell us that you read this, didn’t do as we suggest here, find yourself in a battle and confess that you were forewarned by us.
Better you’re in the group that says, “Thank goodness I listened” rather than having your lawyer ask/tell you “You were told what to do but didn’t listen!?”