Why I have bad feelings about Motown…
I was working as a photographer at the J. L. Hudson’s department store in Detroit back in the 70s. One day, I get a call from Motown saying that they have a new album scheduled to be released and would like for me to take the cover photos. I was already good friends with Bill Riser whose brother Paul did some arrangements for Motown and had even been to a party at Berry Gordy’s house. “Fine”, I said. “I’ll do it.”
Back then, getting exposure was sometimes more important that getting paid. I offered to do the job for $250, figured it would take about an hour or more to do it. Actually, the entire shoot lasted about a half hour.
The album was the Temptations’ “All Directions”. They said that they didn’t want a studio shot, so I recommended Belle Isle, figuring there would barely be just enough light when I got off from work.
So, we met at the park and in a rush due to the fading light, I took one full roll of 35mm color shots. Out of all the photos, two were selected for the album.
After about a month, I hadn’t received a check, so I called the Motown office. “Oh, it’s in accounting”, I was told. Another month went by and they said, “what, you haven’t been paid? We’ll look in to it”. Another month went by and still no check. I called again, getting a busy signal this time. After a week of busy signals, I find out that Motown had closed all of it’s Detroit recording studios and had moved to California.
So, to this day, I have not been paid by Motown for my work, but hey, it was worth the exposure…