Tuesday, 12 March 2013

My Microsoft-Funded Travels

To date, my Wonder hunting has involved an eight-month travel around Asia, and two separate trips to France. I'm only about 25% through: travels through the Middle East, Europe, North and South America, and a few other locations such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Dubai, and Ethiopia are ahead. It's not unreasonable to wonder how I can pay for all this. Well, may I present some of the funding, on behalf of Microsoft.

That is a cheque from Microsoft, to the tune of $25. It took around nine months of work to procure, a mixture of their apparent mix-ups, my tardiness, and an obstacle course of paperwork. It all began in June last year, when I received an email asking permission to use one of my photos, this one from my visit to the Spring Temple Buddha.

Of course, I said, and it transpired I'd be paid $25 for the rights too. They were going to use it in a slideshow sequence on MSN Photos called "The World's Biggest, Tallest & Fastest", the Spring Temple Buddha being the world's biggest statue. Some time went by and I'd heard nothing, so I happened to pop over to MSN Photos, and lo-and-behold, there my photo was.

Well, they'd touch it up a little, to make the day seem a little sunnier, and the Buddha to look a little shinier, but it was the same photo. Except I hadn't received my $25! As you might imagine, I was boiling with outrage, and was poised to go direct to my lawyers and take Microsoft down, but instead I wrote a nice email to them. This seemed to set off a small cascade of emails from different MSN people, each saying the issue had been passed onto to another, until eventually the first chunk of paperwork arrived. To get my money, I had to print off various documents, sign them, scan them, and email them back. This would then release the next stage of documents to be filled in, signed, scanned etc.

It was not exactly a speedy process, and at one point I was getting very polite emails asking how I was getting on filling whatever stage of paperwork I was on. I also realised that my photo had been taken down from the MSN slideshow (it's been lovingly restored, I'm pleased to say). But by Christmas, finally, I'd passed the final stage - the payment stage of documentation - and could wait eagerly for my payment.

So it was a little bit of an anticlimax when yesterday Danielle casually said to me, upon looking through a mound of her own mail that she opens only with reluctance at irregular intervals, "Oh, look, there's something for you." It was the Microsoft cheque, sent six weeks before, sitting quietly waiting to be discovered. I paid it in today. After the bank fees for processing a cheque in dollars, my grand total comes to £16.70.

This £16.70 represents either my first or second ever payment received for creative endeavours. Technically, the payment is my second, after I had an article published on Cracked.com in January, for which I received a swift and easy $100 via Paypal. It is, of course, very gratifying to get payment for something like this, whatever the amount. Certainly for the photograph, which was taken without any attempt at composition other than to get the statue in the shot, and thus represents a low-effort reward - unless you count all the travel involved, both to China and to the statue itself, which was quite a mission.

I'm really not much of a photographer, regarding it more as a means to record and remember than to create art, where my own photography is concerned at least. So actually getting paid for it was quite a surprise, and slightly amusing. I more regard my $25 payment as being for the efforts to fill in all the paperwork - even the bank had a form for me to fill in - than for the photo. However, in saying that, I reckon I must have a couple of hundred photos on this blog now, so if Microsoft - or, indeed anyone - would like to use any for a bargain $25 each, then you are more than welcome to contact me and send me a mass of papers to sign. I would particularly recommend the following melancholy classic, from my previous nev360 blog, entitled "Goats At Night" (featuring, for the observant, donkeys).

(in actual fact, I'll happily eschew the paperwork and give any photo for free, although a credit is nice, even for major corporations. The above photo, of course, is the exception, and is very strictly copyrighted by myself, prints available on request for a discounted "Mad March" rate.)


  1. Well done! By the way will you be writing any more articles for Cracked? I enjoyed your article (which is what originally led me here) and they have several recurring themes of which architecture/monuments is one. Just make sure you use words like "mindblowing" or "bad-ass" in the title! And if you can shoehorn a dick-joke in there I'm sure they won't be able to resist!

  2. I've got another similar one they've been considering, but it's been sitting for a while and I need to prod them for a response. It would be a vague sequel to this article: http://www.cracked.com/article_19198_the-5-craziest-buildings-ever-proposed-with-straight-face.html

    I've also got one more relevant to my Wonders, which is about celebrated buildings with disastrous consequences, eg the funding of St Peter's Basilica and the associated scandal which in part led to the Protestant Reformation, and how the Great Wall of China enflamed relations with China's "barbarian" neighbours, leading to the overthrow of the Ming dynasty. This needs a lot of work though, and a couple more examples.

    I'll certainly link them on this blog if they ever get published. It takes a surprising amount of work. Getting Microsoft to buy my photos is much easier...

  3. I'm new to blogging I would say because my personal blog is just about a year old. But I have been a freelance writer for three years before I started my own blog and still a freelancer to this day so that makes it four years for me as a freelance writer. I know the many tricks about commenting in blogs and I get paid to crate accounts to make comments on blog sites of clients some of them are pretty up there in Google Pagerank.

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