Photographer Criticized by Mayor for Expenses

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was quoted in today’s Ottawa’s Citizen as saying, “These kinds of expenses are the kinds that get my blood boiling and we’ll just have to do a better job.” ¬†This was in response to receiving a bill from professional photographer Paul Couvrette.

Couvrette has a very lengthy history with the city of Ottawa. Not only has he photographed many City Councils, a partial resume includes photographing every Prime Minister since Pierre Trudeau, including a group shot of five PM’s; every Supreme Court Justice; cabinet ministers, CEO’s, and 350 magazine covers including TIME, Newsweek and MacLean’s. His contract with the city spells out all details regarding fees and expenses, so the response from the Mayor, who according to the article was “aghast” when receiving the bill is a bit of a mystery. After reading the entire article, you will most likely agree with me that the only one whose blood should be boiling is Couvrette’s, along with every other professional photographer.

My DNA and my background in this industry does not permit me to sit by and remain idle. Following is a letter I wrote to Mayor Watson. Should anyone else wish to contact the Mayor, this can be done via e-mail at or by phone at 613-580-2496.

Dear Mayor Watson,

As someone who has worked in the photography industry for many years and is witnessing the blatant deterioration of said industry, it was with both great disappointment and amazement that I read about your criticism of a bill submitted to the city by professional photographer Paul Couvrette. In an article written by Kelly Egan in the Ottawa Citizen you were quoted as saying, “These kinds of expenses are the kinds that get my blood boiling and we’ll just have to do a better job.”

Perhaps you are not aware to what extent running a business as a professional photographer (the operative word being professional) entails. They have thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of equipment, staff to pay salaries to, rent or taxes on their studio spaces, promotional costs and a host of other expenses that must be met. These are very real businesses that are not established based upon mere ownership of a point and shoot purchased at the corner electronics store.

Digital technology has made everyone believe that they are photographers and worse, that those on the hiring end believe it should be inexpensive. Both of these beliefs are grossly inaccurate. Given the information in the article, you’ve already managed to get a great deal. Not only do I agree that Couvrette deserves an apology, but a bonus as well. If what has been written in the article is not factual, please offer a correction.

I urge you to reconsider your attitude as it appears to be incredibly shortsighted and serves only to denigrate an entire profession. This is the type of thinking that unfortunately can and will result in that profession becoming history.

Speaking of history, it is sad and ironic that this attitude comes from an official of a city that Yousuf Karsh, a true master of photography, chose to be his home.


Debra Weiss


  1. Doug Menuez’s avatar

    A sad, sad story of ignorance and worse, world-class stupidity and populist pandering. The photographer should absolutely sue for being slandered. I’m glad you’ve taken up his cause, bravo Debra.

  2. Don Eddy’s avatar

    There seems to be something missing in the article. Like why did the mayor even see the bill? If there’s a contract set years ago and the photography had been done over the years, the billings would have gone to, understandably, the same office/person for payment. Perhaps someone in that office had an axe to grind and thus released the bill? In any case the mayor was way out of line in making a public comment. He needs to retract it and apologize in my view.

    I’ve been well aware of Karsh since my days at RIT in the early 1960s and have shown his work to my classes for many years. Now whether the following is true or not, I only submit it here as hearsay from a source I cannot recall. To walk up the stairs to Karsh’s studio for a portrait will set you back $10,000! That of course was at a time when the world knew his work.

  3. Wick Beavers’s avatar

    1) just a politician’s breezy words sound-bited for his own re-election… or, 2) is this another incident demarcating loss of interest in and respect for quality? I go with number 2.

  4. admin’s avatar

    I think it’s a combination of both. I’m not sure there is a conscious loss of respect for quality as I’m not sure he would have recognized it to begin with.

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