Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Publishers See Life in Killed Images

Why Did The New York Times Kill This Image of Henry Kissinger? (Not for His Naked Butt Cheeks!) | Media and Technology | AlterNet

Books of killed cartoons and illustrations are popping up everywhere. I keep getting calls. The people in book marketing must have brought this up at one of their seminars as a hot trend. Killed images are ones created on assignment for a publication that are rejected and "killed." I think the tone of this article on Alternet about the book on the images killed by the New York Times is kind of funny and not just because of Kissinger's butt cheeks. It's like there's a big conspiracy to suppress rough tough illustration... I like the fact that they give the amount of one million dollars as how much the Times pays out in "kill fees," as evidence of the epidemic of censorship, but is that a million a year? A million since the Times began? The article doesn't say. I'll tell you from experience, with what the Times pays for accepted art, it would take a helluva lot of killed pictures to get to a million. It also says that some of the images have been suppressed for thirty years. It's probably more likely that nobody had thought to publish a book of killed cartoons for over thirty years.

I suppose I should be grateful. It make us illustrators who get our artwork killed sound so noble and beleaguered. I was a contributor to the NY Times Op-Ed page for years. My experience was that things got killed out of weird circumstance more than anything else, except one time I submitted a cartoon making fun of Al Gore and that woman who was his "image advisor..." Naomi Wolf. It was killed because Naomi Wolf was married to someone important at the paper. That's sorta conspiratorial I guess. Another time they gave me an assignment to illustrate an article about Bill Clinton, but I was told before starting that I couldn't draw Bill Clinton in my illustration. I came up with some sketches, very surreal, high-concept stuff that illustrated the inner-Bill Clinton or some such stuff. It were killed. When the paper came out, they had used a primitive-looking illustration of a guy looking over the side of a boat. It made no sense at all in the context of the story. It's always infuriating, after you get your illustration killed, to see what they end up using––because it always sucks!

If you ever work for the Times it won't be the kill policy, however, that is most offensive. It will be signing the freelancer contract, which requires you to give all rights to the company; and also the small pittance you will be paid for your effort. Every time I worked for Op-Ed page I rejected the contract in writing and my art directors always accepted it. Then I got an assignment from another part of the paper and refused the contract again. It worked again, I did the job. Then, about two months later I received an envelope from the NY Timesin the mail. Inside was a copy of my written correspondence with the word, "rejection," hand-written over it, and signed by Steven Heller, famous art director and promoter of graphic arts and Steven Heller. It was a little late for the rejection of my rejection to hold water legally, but funny, I never got another call to do an illustration from the Times.

Of course, you don't work for the Times for the money but for the exposure and the perceived legitimacy it gives you. I would syndicate Troubletown often off of the notoriety of having pieces published in the Times. So, dumbass, you're thinking, why make a big deal out of the contract? So what? I wonder that myself sometimes, but I just can't stomach those contracts. I don't even like to read them. I hate 'em.


Blogger Matt Bors said...

I'd bet the Times pad YOU a million dollars to act like their isn't a corporate conspiracy to hide Kissinger's buttcheeks!

If that flabby ass crack was shown to the public, the people would have risen up and demanded a war crimes tribunal.

10:25 AM  

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