For Exposure: The People Who Want Artists To Work For Free

In partnership with Format Magazine. This is a syndicated blog post from Format Magazine. It and the content here are being used with exclusive permission. Original piece by Jessica Bloom. Syndication by Anthony Thurston. 

Every creative professional has heard the phrase “for exposure.” It means that your work will be seen by a new audience, but it mostly means that you won’t be paid.

Sometimes there are benefits of working for free (see: designer Jessica Hische’s Should I Work for Free flowchart) and it continues to be a controversial topic within the creative community as some will say that it devalues all artists’ work while others point out that unpaid work can lead to bigger projects or be a new addition to your portfolio.


It’s ultimately your decision to work or not work for free. But what about that people who commission projects without the bling to back it up? Are they oblivious or completely cheap? Tired of seeing post after post asking for free work, artist/writer Ryan Estrada started the twitter account @forexposure_txt to share real quotations from real people who want artists to work for free. With over 37k followers, the lighthearted tweets allow photographers, designers, illustrators and painters to commiserate over nightmare clients and shockingly dismissive “job” postings.

When we saw Emmie Tsumura’s @ok_cucumber illustrated online dating pick-up lines, we asked her to draw faces to match For Exposure’s craziest posts. From the succinct “This will pay off!! (No pay)” to the net art slagging “If we had money for this, we’d be going after real artists…who paint on canvases. Not the digital fake stuff,” Tsumura imagines the person behind the post. Her illustrations give the displaced tweets a personal touch that adds to the insanity of these requests.

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Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.