I’m sure this short film is going to generate some slow claps, and probably deservedly so. Zulu Alpha Kilo’s Spec | #saynotospec is brilliant in its simplicity because the lack of pretense or even pre-dialogue doesn’t clutter the message, and the message is clear:

Don’t work for free, no one else does.

Actually it’s a teensy bit more nuanced than that because it’s highlighting that when others in other fields are asked to work for free not only do they respond sometimes with disdain and venom, the idea comes across almost as entirely alien, if not simply insulting.


The provocateur seeks out workers in varied fields, from a coffee shop barista, a framer, a personal trainer, an architect, and a restaurant worker. In each scenario, they are asked to either entirely provide their finished product for free or a sample, for exposure. The reactions that ensue are rather priceless, and it’s just sharp enough to get you thinking about why our industry is treated any differently.


Furthermore, the video nicely touches upon something we as creatives have to deal with constantly, and that is the almost expectant transfer of all rights to our work, even our ideas. I’ve gone against the grain of many suggesting that working for free under certain circumstances can be to your benefit (and understand here this is within a certain context), but I must say that the signing away the rights to our works is something I’ve often struggled with. 

Of course, the irony here is that it does make you wonder if the people being interviewed would ever ask a photographer for their work for exposure because I know personal trainers that have done so. Though I think the trainer here was most succinct at pointing out the inherent irony and problem here:

Do you do what you do for free? [No] So why do you want me to?

That about sums it up.

And this isn’t a plight only concerning photographers, of course, and even the performance arts suffer from the same. I encourage you to have a read of an article on ArtNews, ‘…BUT WE CAN’T PAY YOU’: PERFORMANCE ART AND MONEY’S KNOTTY RELATIONSHIP” where possibly the most renowned performance artist, Marina Abramovic, speaks about this very topic. Oh, and for good measure and humor check out this offering from the ever-genius The Oatmeal.

[REWIND: The Evolution Of Camera & Tech Leads To My Next Bag | ONA Bowery For Leica]

I should interject here, however, that I don’t by any means suggest you or anyone handle offers for exposure with the lack of politesse some of the people in the video do. Be firm, sure, but handling yourself with decorum is never out of style.