Maria Nunes on photographing Carnival


Sharing excerpts from this fascinating article from TechNews TT (as seen via Critical.Caribbean.Art). Maria Nunes, a photographer and producer with special interest in the documentation of cultural heritage through photography and filmmaking, is the author of In a World of Their Own: Carnival Dreamers and Makers (Robert and Christopher Publishers, 2018). Nunes writes:

I first came into contact with NCC’s photographer accreditation process in 2010. I was a novice at the time and didn’t fully understand all the workings of the system, I just wanted to get access to official venues so that I could photograph Carnival from what I thought were all the best vantage points.

[. . .] I spoke at length recently with fellow photographer Abigail Hadeed, who has been photographing Carnival for thirty years, on the issue of the facilities that should come with the accreditation we pay for. She lamented that “the accommodation for the media, especially photographers, is inadequate as there are not enough tables and chairs.

To my knowledge neither is there dedicated high speed internet access for the quick upload and distribution of images for working photojournalists both local and international. It also does not appear thought has gone into facility design to take into account the best angles to optimally photograph from.

For years, I saw Noel Norton carrying a ladder into the savannah to be able to photograph from a better vantage point. We’ve also not developed proper backdrop and lighting design for kings and queens, and pan, for example, is increasingly getting more difficult to photograph. And what about the lack of security for our gear. I could go on.”

[. . .]

Years ago I also figured out that there was no advantage to having accreditation in terms of anything to do with my rights to use any photograph I took during Carnival. All the pass was giving me, in effect, was access to the stage areas. [. . .]

Most requests for my photographs have however not been for commercial use, but rather for editorial use as supporting visuals for articles on some aspect of Carnival in magazines such as Discover TnTCaribbean Beat and Ins and Outs of Trinidad and Tobago. I also get the occasional request for newspaper use and online placement for information posts. The income generated by this kind of use is relatively small and is typically only seasonal and uncertain in nature.

One aspect of magazine/print-related photography however needs special mention: cover photography. The cover of a magazine is what is used to sell it, therefore although the content of the magazine is editorial by nature, the cover crosses over into what would be defined as commercial use. [. . .]

This brings me sharply to the questions currently on the front burner this Carnival regarding photography, accreditation, intellectual property rights and “works of mas” which have been the subject of a guest column by the Trinidad and Tobago Photographic society in Thursday’s Newsday, as well as by Mark Lyndersay in his Bit Depth column here on TechNewsTT.

Mark Lyndersay succinctly got to the heart of the current accreditation matter when he wrote in his most recent BitDepth column “Paying for undetermined, unsupportable rights in advance of actual use is a peculiarly Carnivalesque abomination that continues because we allow it to.” [. . .]

The Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Agency (TTCO), which is acting as the licensing agency for the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Band Leaders Association (TTCBA) which has replaced the NCBA on the National Carnival Commission (NCC), has decided, with the sanction of the NCC, that they will protect the rights of “works of mas” by allowing the TTCO to assume wide powers to assess and collect what it is deeming “blanket licenses” issued to photographers. (I hope you are sufficiently confused by all those acronyms because it’s all a mouthful and a lot to keep track of.)

Simply put, there’s a new system in place in which, depending on the answers given to a data collection questionnaire, photographers are being required to pay a blanket license upfront for the right to capture imagery of Carnival to cover the possibility that they might use an undeterminable number of photographs at an unknown time in the future. [. . .]

[Above: All Stars at the corner of Queen and Duncan Streets on Carnival Tuesday in 2012. Photo by Maria Nunes.]

For full article, see


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