Photographer Challenges Schools' Yearbook Contracts

Hare Says Segall-majestic Has 'Monopoly' On All Snaps

September 16, 1991|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Staff writer

Pasadena portrait photographer David Hare is questioning why all 12 county high schools have selected the same Baltimore photography studio to take yearbook photos.

Hare claims that Segall-Majestic holdsa monopoly on the county yearbook photography market, and he thinks it's unfair.

"This policy constitutes a closed shop," said Hare, owner of David Hare Photographers. "There should be freedom of choice. Students should have a right to choose their photographer."

The photographer blames school officials for failing to set clear guidelines regardingyearbook photography, allowing schools to select their own photographers.

He's also critical of the fact that schools are not requiredto notify every photographic studio in the county when yearbook contracts come up for bid, usually every year or every three years.

Under yearbook guidelines, school officials are required to invite three photography studios to present their bids to a selection committee.Chesapeake High School officials invited Hare to place a bid in 1984.

"This is no policy," Hare said. "I think they need to create a policy."

But school officials deny they've done anything wrong. Several met with Hare and other photographers Tuesday to discuss the issue.

"He made his feelings known, and we're following up on his concerns," school Superintendent Larry Lorton said. "But I don't think we're in violation of board policy. There's no conspiracy."

Hare said he wasn't interested in capturing a piece of the yearbook photography business until last year. That's when school officials from Old Mill and Chesapeake high schools told students that only photographs from Segall-Majestic would be used in the yearbook, Hare said.

His student portrait sales dipped from $50,000 for the 1989-1990 school year to $27,000 for the 1990-1991 year, he says. He photographed about250 students two years ago but only 138 last year.

The photographer said that school officials edited or pulled his ads from student newspapers that suggested students have their yearbook photographs taken at his studio.

"There wasn't even a courtesy of a call to tell me that they were doing it," Hare said.

But Chesapeake High officials edited Hare's school newspaper ad because it was misleading, Principal Harry Calender said. Only Segall-Majestic, the official yearbook photographer, can take photos for the yearbook, he added.

Chesapeake and Old Mill High officials say they are pleased with the company's work.

"It's like with anything else," Old Mill High business manager Pat Weishaar said. "When you have a company that is providing the kind of service that a school wants, naturally you're going to continue with that company. Segall-Majestic provides a tremendous service. We can place a phone call at any time to get things taken care of."

Segall-Majestic photographers take photos at all school events and process film taken by the student yearbook staff. The school alsoreceives commissions on portrait sales. Last year, the school earned$8,000, Weishaar said.

The school does not accept photographs from outside photographers because they don't look the same as Segall-Majestic pictures, he said.

"We want it to be uniform -- the same background, the same head size," Weishaar said.

Chesapeake High School yearbook adviser Joe Bandzwolek agreed.

"You know the oddball picture is the one that's going to stick out," he said.

Bandzwolek said he allowed students to use their own photographers in 1980. But the experiment failed, he said, because each photo looked different.

"We're not asking them to buy the pictures, but if they want to beincluded in the yearbook, they have to pay the $4 sitting fee and get their pictures taken by Segall-Majestic," Bandzwolek said.

AddedSegall-Majestic vice president Bob Caddick: "If the contract says that we will photograph 350 seniors and we're only permitted to photograph 250, then it's not fair to our contract. But we don't make the kids buy the package. That's their choice."

Hare doesn't agree. He believes students don't know they can go elsewhere if they're not satisfied with their yearbook photos.

And he wonders why county schoolofficials don't adopt the policy instituted by Harford County publicschools, under which students may select their photographers as longas the photos meet yearbook guidelines.

"They should change theirpolicy, like Harford County, and let people make their own choice," he said.

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