What do all these pictures mean, anyway? And whose are they?

1.3 billion images a day. Rosette Nebula [PUBLIC DOMAIN] 15 APR 2015 DYLAN O'DONNELL  CATEGORY : ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY

1.3 billion images a day.
Rosette Nebula
[PUBLIC DOMAIN] 15 APR 2015 DYLAN O’DONNELL 

In a world where we now upload 1.8 Billion photos a day, maybe it’s time to take stock of all things ”photographic” and what those little image suckers – both professional, amateur and press – might actually mean in the scheme of things; as our high art, media and pop culture changes; both aesthetically and also within what early twentieth century politicians and creatives called – almost quaintly now – “the means of production.”

One thing is for sure, amidst all the sides being taken: the issue of authorship, and control, may be different in 2015, from 1915, but it remains as vital and contentious as ever. Let’s look at a few current examples:

1.) FOO COMPLEX FOR MORTALS:

The Washington City Post has decided that it will not photograph “Foo Fighters” because of what it sees as (and make your own mind up on this) injurious and unreasonable conditions demanded by the band. They indicate that if they signed the contract to have a staff photographer shoot Dave Grohl and his cohorts on their latest gig, that:

“…the band approving the photos which run in the City Paper; only running the photos once and with only one article; and all copyrights would transfer to the band. Then, here’s the fun part, the band would have “the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations” without any approval or payment or consideration for the photographer.”

This seems a little weird, given the band’s stance on protecting its own intellectual property, to say the least…

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/general/2015/07/02/why-were-not-photographing-the-foo-fighters/

2.) SHOOT THE MOON:

Other artists seem to have a different approach to IP issues. Something a little more mellow (or is it provocative? Nobody seems to know the difference, any more…), a little less hysterical… Photographer Dylan O’Donnell proclaims a clear stance on how he perceives how certain elements of his portfolio are intended to exist within the public domain, by way of the following statement:

“I can’t think of anything more anally retentive than amateur photographers uploading mobile photos of their morning coffee and then claiming copyright – just in case some evil corporation uses their award winning image to (heaven forbid) sell something. Instead, the photo will sit unused forever, tainted with the smell of legal copyright. “

Basically, Dylan shoots the moon… and gives it away:

http://deography.com

3.) SCALDING ISSUES:

Meanwhile, artist Maya Hayuk has her own IP beef with Starbucks. Her series of colorful, geometric designs – The Universe, The Universe II, and Hands Across the Universe – evoke splintered prisms of neon light forms. Starbucks approached Hayuk to use her designs as ‘backdrops’ on its new Mini Frappuccino campaign; but the artist demurred.

Starbucks seemingly used a variation therein, and Hayuk feels like they co-opted her work. However, once one gets into the IP of geometric forms, what does actually constitute an original work? This blog seems to come down pretty firmly on the side of the artist; but looks forward to a vibrant comments section…

http://www.wired.com/2015/07/maya-hayuk-starbucks/

 

 

Cartel Photos – University Runs its Own Photo Agency

by Julian Jackson

Cartel Photos is an exclusive photo-library – it only consists of Falmouth University photography students. It is based in a picturesque seaside town in Cornwall, southwest UK. Its objective is to give existing and graduated students a taste of the business end of the industry by finding them assignments and photo sales. Started in 2011 by former professional photographer turned lecturer Mal Stone, “Cartel Photos has been very successful,” he says, “but we are not running it as a business. It is an educational tool. For us it is putting students in an environment where they get the feel of what it is like to work for a real agency.”

Porthleven during the storm in the early hours of the 5th of February 2014.

Porthleven during the storm in the early hours of the 5th of February 2014. (c) Annabel May Oakley-Watson/Cartel Photos

It licenses individual pictures – last year’s storm images from Cornwall found their way around the world and onto the front page of the Telegraph newspaper, which earned the student about $230 after Cartel had taken its 20% cut; it sends out feature stories, and it gains assignments for those students who are able and confident enough. Students with lower experience are sent out as assistants to others to gain knowledge of the sharp end of the photography business.

The attraction for Falmouth University is that Cartel Photos is an incentive for people to sign up for the degree course. The students get real world experience, working for local newspapers, doing event photography for the college, and commercial work.

The most successful individual picture to date was one of UKIP politician Nigel Farage, in a typical pose with Barbour coat and beer, by Tom Pullen, which has been syndicated nationally and even turned up on the Graham Norton TV show.

(c)Tom Pullen/Cartel Photos

Nigel Garage (c)Tom Pullen/Cartel Photos

 

Another of the working graduate photographers is Sam Barnes, who wanted to remain in the Cornwall area. The college helped him obtain start-up business funding. Specialising in sport, he has had pictures published in the local paper.

Day-to-day running of the photo-library is in the hands of Celine Smith, former student and now picture manager. She says that for her the importance of Cartel Photos is, “The personal development side of things – students gain confidence in their ability to manage the business side and deliver good work to the client as well as practical experience of editing photos from a shoot, ftp and keywording.” It has now amassed nearly 40,000 images in its collection.

Local photographers were initially worried that Cartel would undercut them, but the hint is in the name. The agency charges commercial rates for assignments and image licensing, although non-commercial fees for charities and non-profit projects can be negotiated. Mal says, “We look at each job in the context of how long it is going to take and how much work is involved for the student.”

Amy Romer, a second year student, who enjoys photographing performers, has had four assignments from Cartel. She took an “environmental portrait” of a pianist who had come to play at the Performance Centre. Her most recent job was to take pictures of 30 acting graduates which will go into Spotlight – the actors directory. Mal continues, “We are going to be doing more performance and portrait work in the future, in partnership with the Centre, but this pilot project was very successful.”

 

Amy found there was a steep learning curve between the leisurely pace of course assignments, which might take months, and having ten minutes to shoot a portrait in a studio. “It puts you right into the reality of freelance work – you have to get it right and deliver at speed, so it makes you aware of the constraints of professional work, which is valuable.”

The course has strong ties with Rex Features, the news agency which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. Second year students have to do a work placement, and many opt for six weeks paid work for Rex, which throws them into the centre of a fast-paced and turbulent industry, dealing with newspapers and TV, with a spectrum of news, celebrity and lifestyle subjects. Some students have gone on to work for Rex after graduation. One lucky individual did so well he was posted to Rex’s Los Angeles office, an extremely good break for a young photographer.

Cartel have also newly linked up with famed French agency SIPA, and are offering them features. Documentarist Marco Kesseler covered Albanian Blood Feuds, which have re-emerged since the fall of communism. His work was short-listed for the Taylor Wessing prize and he won $8000 from Ideas Tap and an intern-ship with Magnum. NOOR Agency in Amsterdam and VII are some of the other agencies which are linked with Cartel.

One of the stars of the course, Mal described him as “A very pro-active young photographer. I got some funding for him to do four months at NOOR. For me, the understanding of working in that environment gave him the tools to go out and tell interesting and sensitive stories, like his final piece on the Albanian blood feuds.”

Cartel Photos is an interesting development for an academic course, residing as it does in the divide between educational development, and commercial practice. It will be interesting to see if other academic institutions follow its example.

11092013_CompassPhotos_010

Jo Moore (c)Annemarie Bala/Cartel Photos

www.cartelphotos.com

juliancoffeshopcuJulian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. His portfolio is here: https://julianj.journoportfolio.com/ He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course www.picture-research-courses.co.uk. Linked-in profile.

 

Talking About My Generation

Peter Tosh. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones during the Don't Look Back video shoot - Strawberry Hill Jamaica 1978.

Peter Tosh. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones during the Don’t Look Back video shoot – Strawberry Hill Jamaica 1978.

We age, but photographs don’t; they capture in aspic, those moments when we were at the height of our vibrancy– and how often does that happen when we are pogo’ing in a mosh pit (try doing that in your fifties and see what happens…); or forgetting three out of four days we spent at a rock festival when the outside world faded away; or when we swayed and sang the words to our favorite rock anthem in a stadium?

The UrbanImage Photo Agency collects a whole swathe of archival materials that recall any number of music, travel and lifestyle images. It’s a rare and diverse mix of subjects that slams together genres ranging from Rock, Punk, Reggae, World Music, Dancehall, Travel, Tourism, Art, Culture and People.

The Clash at Rehearsal Rehearsals Camden London 1977

The Clash at Rehearsal Rehearsals Camden London 1977

Established over 15 years ago by Adrian and Felix Boot together with the IT and business skills of Richard Horsey, the collection continues to accrete new images (even though it already has too much material to scan!). The collection is currently building a third generation site, to even more effectively offer bigger, better, faster, easier, higher resolution images, vivid presentation and mobile friendly materials.

Images are available to license for a wide variety of uses. Online archive images are all available as high resolution scans, and on request they can, sometimes, custom rescan at an even higher resolutions.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Left to Right: Ron Blair, Mike Campbell, Beamont Tench, Stan Lynch, Tom Petty It was taken behind the studio that they were using in San Francisco in  1979

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Left to Right: Ron Blair, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Stan Lynch, Tom Petty
It was taken behind the studio that they were using in San Francisco in
1979

Adrian Boot responded to some questions that we asked him:

How does one go from having a philosophy to present a certain lifestyle/attitude; to actually compiling such an amazing amount of diverse material? Did you have any idea what you were taking on when you started the project?

No real philosophy… [I’m] not trying to pre-visualize a “cause”… Instead, looking for life, people, and inspiration, in the moment. My best work is opportunistic… not planned or styled. It’s not a project, it’s a life. It all pre-existed the Internet. The challenge was always reacting instantly while fighting with (inferior) film cameras in fast-moving low-light situations.

Jukebox at First and Last Bar Port Antonio 1972

Jukebox at First and Last Bar Port Antonio 1972

These days the technical mountain has been eroded… most people can take technically better pics on an iPhone than most pros could with a manual-film SLR 30 years ago. Photography is ubiquitous… 

How do you add new material to your project? Are you always on the look-out for new photographers? Do you have long-term relationships with photographers who are clearly documenting this subject matter for the rest of their lives?

Most new content is added to the online archives based on demand. If everyone wants pictures of “The Clash” then we will scan more and expand the collection. What this does mean is that many, many, photo sessions don’t see the light of day; most of our best photos remain deeply filed in [the] archive. Photos that sell are of important artist and events, so these get used and made famous. Urbanimage probably represents less than 20% of the content in our physical archives.

Blondie Debbie Harry Live London 1977 - Multi image contact sheet large format

Blondie Debbie Harry Live London 1977 – Multi image contact sheet large format

We do scan in other stuff [such as] urbanimagetravel.com but this is more a vanity project.

We are not looking for new photographers, except if it fills a gap in one of our more important collections. These days it’s better and easier for a photographer to create his or hers own online sales platform via something like photoshelter.com .

After fifteen years of this, how do you keep the material vibrant to current youth audiences? Is age and/or nostalgia a potential pitfall of identifying what is currently  “fresh”?

The above answers this: I would need another lifetime to ever finish scanning or adding material… and without ever having to take another photograph.

Grace Jones – New York Roof Photosessions – 1981(c)Adrian Boot/UrbanImage

Grace Jones – New York Roof Photosessions – 1981

 

Please see more: http://www.urbanimage.tv/#!/index

All images (c)Adrian Boot/UrbanImageUI_LOGO_LARGE

 

 

Chronicling Illinois… chronicling us.

What is the legacy of a President of the United States? It’s measured in the effects of his (or, in the future) her administration’s management of their time in power, but also the way that decisions made in those corridors of power resonate through the years afterwards… and even further back into history, as the decades pass.

In recent years, the National Archives and Records Administration has established a national network of thirteen 20th-21st century Presidential libraries in the home states of each President, starting with that of Herbert Hoover. However, over the sweep of more than two centuries, earlier libraries – often run by private foundations – have established an archive of individual Presidential legacies; so perhaps it’s no surprise that the state of Illinois established the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM).

Lincoln may have been born, technically, in Kentucky, but he made his ‘bones’ in Illinois as the lawyer who would eventually – as the 16th President of the United States – abolish slavery, safeguard the federal government, and save a devastated economy.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum contains thousands of primary documents, books, pamphlets, photographs, broadsides, ephemera, and artifacts related to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.

For the use of the general public, students, and scholars, Chronicling Illinois provides digital access holdings that include more than 6,000 individual manuscript collections, hundreds of newspapers, and tens of thousands of photographic and audiovisual materials pertaining to significant aspects of Illinois history. Chronicling Illinois showcases digitized collections and exhibits from the ALPLM’s diverse holdings.

In between a treasure trove of papers and documents – ranging from Lincoln’s sheet music; letters of condolence from world leaders after Lincoln’s assassination; and Civil War song sheet music collections – perhaps the most interesting artifacts to researchers would be those located in The Illinois Photographic Collection; which contains images from the more than 400,000 photographs and 5,000 broadsides.

The images represent aspects of the social, cultural, educational, economic, political, and military experience in Illinois during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Types of photographic technology in the collection include daguerreotype (the earliest commercial photographic process), ambrotype, tintype, glass negatives, albumen prints, stereograph, safety, and polyester film.

It’s fair to say that the research behind these images is exhaustive; within one picture from the “American Civil War Collection” subsection, and amazing photograph identifies the following in a photograph of Grant and his nine officers sit or stand under a tent during the American Civil War. The men are: Ulysses S. Grant, Adam Badeau, Cyrus Comstock, Frederick T. Dent, William L. Duff, John A. Rawlings, Henry Robinett, Ely S. Parker, and Horace Porter. There is only one unrecognized officer… which is pretty good going after 150+, or so, years…

However, the core beauty of the collection – both in terms of the images themselves, but also as a meditation on Lincoln’s legacy – is how the years after his passing, in Illinois, have become increasingly recorded… and how his era and then subsequent ones, up until the present, have melded into a continuous – if abstract – skein of events. A skein that passes through Lincolns’ time up until now: through our leisure times, our incarceration of those who would commit criminal acts; the portraits of children of both races playing baseball in a world that Lincoln might not even have imagined (but would probably have been proud of).

Other subsection collections include a host of images from other eras in Illinois life, and whether it’s a document the aftermath of the 1937 Ohio River flood (the Dan Reeves Collection); the political cartoons of Harold H. Heaton from 1885-1924; churches being built as recorded by the Great River Region Collection; or even back to the portraits of the men who tried to steal the body of Abraham Lincoln (on the night of November 7, 1876), we can see the time and tide of history and our place within it.

What would Lincoln make of photography now: of the prevalence of it? The ubiquity of both pool parties and transgressions recorded – as still images and videos – on a volume that he could never have comprehended? It’s fair to say that he would have approved of emancipation images of black workers in factories standing side by side with white people….

That is speculation, of course, but whatever his thoughts might have been, he would probably have approved, overall, of the sheer accreted range of human endeavor, in the contents of the Illinois Photographic Collection.

http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/collection-tree

For image reproduction requests: http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/contact

Many thanks to writer Simon Herbert for contributing to this piece.

 

 

The Evolution of Art Production

Written By Nicole Bishop. Originally featured on the Foundfolios Blog and reposted with their kind permission.

It is estimated that in 2004 there were 900 art buyers and producers in North America. Today, data shows there are only 400. What does that mean for the industry?

Art buyers and producers have had many struggles within the agency world due to budgetary constraints in an ever-evolving industry. As we all know, art buyers and producers work very closely with art directors and creative teams to secure proper images along with photographers and illustrators based on specialty. They all play an intricate role in securing rights and making sure all images are legally sound, based on the client’s needs.

For an agency perspective, I interviewed Brian Stabile, a Senior Production Specialist from LLNS in Manhattan, to gain some feedback on his experiences with the art buying and production departments. He is not only in charge of working on several campaigns and projects creatively, but he also serves as Quality Control. He noted that when he started his career in 2002 with an agency that employed roughly 200 people, there were five art buyers and producers at the company. To date they have narrowed down the department to one.

Many art producers are spread thin and it’s extremely difficult to include them in every facet of a project’s life. This, in turn, creates a larger issue for all agencies. From a legal standpoint, this puts an agency at risk for legal ramifications. Working in a churn and burn industry, several jobs could potentially be released with flaws. This creates an elevated level of stress and concern for the creative and studio departments as they have to diligently search for the perfect stock image (pending no photo shoot) for their layout, adding unnecessary hours to their day.

Jackie Contee, Art Buyer and Print Producer from The UniWorld Group based out of Brooklyn, New York, is finding that the art buyer and producer role is currently being segued into an art buyer, print-digital producer and content producer role. She’s been able to step into these shoes and facilitate the production of every facet of a shoot including stills, b-rolls, etc.

How does this affect the project life of a job? It touches every aspect of all teams involved on the job. From the project management department in charge of estimates and timing, to the account management departments, including the creative and studio teams who have to deliver on time.

On the flip side, photographers and illustrators also feel the brunt of many agencies eliminating Art Buyer and Producer roles. For these artists, FoundFolios addressed this concern years ago by creating FoundPicks. FoundPicks is a free service offered to help support all creatives, particularly helping Art Producers with a limited staff of Art Buyers to find appropriate talent for their specific needs.

Reflecting on Mary Ellen Mark

Any ‘photographer’ can capture something by being in the right place at the right time – all it takes is a fortuitous click of a shutter, and the recording of one iconic image – but few can sustain a lifetime of cogent work of repeating the same ‘trick’ of capturing something potent over and over: wherein being in the right place at the right time isn’t an accident of wishful intention, but, rather, because that photographer, at their core, was always out there, looking. Searching for that image, knowing that it came not from that 1/8 of a second, at F16; but from a life spent in places where they maybe weren’t even welcome to begin with. The trick is not to be there once: the trick is to be there time and time and time again…

In 1978, Mary Ellen Mark wasn’t welcome in Falkland Road, but – fascinated by the lives of Bombay prostitutes – she endured hostility from both the sex workers and their clients until, eventually, they simply let her in to their lives through Mark’s sheer endurance. The resultant portraits shone a lens on a hitherto unseen world.

Writing of her experience, Mark stated, ”Falkland Road remains one of the most powerful and rewarding experiences of my photographic life. Not only because of its visual richness, but also because of my extraordinary friendships and adventures with these women. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the people that I met on Falkland Road. I wonder how many are still alive. This book was done a few years before AIDS became a known phenomenon.”

Mary Ellen Mark was one of the protean photographers of her time: a photojournalist who, after her first day on the streets with a camera observed, I love this. This is what I want to do for ever.” In later years she would document the lives of the dispossessed and the afflicted (she called them, “Those who hadn’t had the best breaks in society”); her next iconic series of studies “Ward 81” were created of the patients in the women’s’ security ward in Oregon State Hospital; virtually living with her subjects for 36 days.

The pictures are strangely tender, a mix of the mundane and the profound, filtered through a haze of daily reality for the patients. Mark observed, “The women had very strong personalities. Some of them were funny, some romantic, some social. You could label them just the way you might label your friends — that’s the comedian, this is the social one. The difference was that the feelings were so much more exaggerated. There’s no bullshit; the emotions are pure.”

Maybe her essential humanism came from being a twentysomething child of the Sixties: after all, a photographer’s life dealing with the Vietnam protests; fringe gender and social identities in her beloved New York; and women’s liberation, reflected her own journey to find essential truths in a world in radical flux. Later portraits of Seattle junkies (commissioned by Life Magazine) in 1983, followed in 1996 by portraits of homeless children, showed that her empathy for the dispossessed never evaporated with age, or cynicism.

It might seems strange, then, that Mark was also equally at home in more glamorous contexts. She was the on set photographer for over 100 films, including Apocalypse Now (1979) and Australia (2008); but she seemed equally at home moving through disparate worlds. She transitioned into, and then excelled in, many creative identities and directions in her work: creating parallel commercial and artistic lives in portraiture, and advertizing.

Her portraits often hint at the rich interior life of her subjects; so maybe it’s no coincidence that she herself could splice together her own rainbow of interests: from a foundation of harsh and unflinching glimpses into the human condition to idealized filmic icons.

In 2014, the World Photography Organization awarded Mark the Outstanding Contribution to Photography. It was a timely award, a year before her passing on May 25th of this year.

 http://www.maryellenmark.com

 

The Apotheosis of Appropriation – Richard Prince

Guest post by Simon Herbert

Appropriation has always been a part of the history of art (Renaissance painters regularly ‘lifted’ iconography from one another), but it truly moved into the mainstream as its own accepted sub-category in the twentieth century. When Surrealist René Magritte deconstructed subject matter in his painting “The Treachery of Images” that a painting of a pipe was not, in fact a pipe at all (“Ceci ne’st pas un pipe”), he was marking artists’ increasing obsession with validating the truth of one’s own eyes; in an increasingly agnostic world, it seemed that subjective truth was rapidly becoming as reliable a guide as objective truth. Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” had already opened the conceptual floodgates eleven years earlier, in 1917: a porcelain urinal he entered into the Society of Independent Artists in NY. Unsurprisingly, at the time, the work was rejected, in a last gasp attempt to repudiate Duchamps’ provocations that “anything could be art.”

98 years after “Fountain,” Richard Prince has arguably reached the apotheosis of appropriation with his recent show at Gagosian Gallery in New York: “New Portraits,” features 37 images lifted from other peoples’ Instagram accounts. Enlarged to roughly 4 x 6 feet and printed on canvas, they are snapshots of people in the era of digital media, and reflect the narcissism of a continual “selfie” culture. The works sell for upwards of $100,000, fueling both outrage and acclamation in equal measure. The former camp is populated by those who think that there is little creativity in Prince’s lifting of other peoples’ images, and cite his decades of lifting other artists’ and photographers’ works; they believe it to be lazy at best, and outright theft at worst (the subjects of the paintings do not receive any percentage on sales). They also point out that Prince rarely creates the physical works himself; he employs assistants to fabricate them.

The latter camp – the defenders of Prince – will cite, doubtless, some of the artists mentioned above, and point to the consolidation of appropriation throughout the last century: Andy Warhol’s Factory was created by Warhol’s own recontextualization of found imagery (such as “Electric Chair” in 1963), and he, too, used assistants in a conveyor belt operation that worked both commercially, but also as a further critique of authenticity. In the nineties radical devil’s advocate and high art court jester Jeff Koons employed a small army of artisans to recreate mass-produced cheap kitsch objects as unique expensive one-offs; effectively inverting notions of “taste.”

So far, so good then: both sides make valid arguments, and it’s unlikely that any rapprochement will be made any time soon. Just as you might think that something is, or isn’t, a pipe; people project their own subjective values of work, authenticity, authorship onto both the processes and results of art making. In short, it’s a discussion that will never be “won.”

So what is left, in the case of the Richard prince show, is the guessing game of that other old chestnut: “the artist’s intentionality.” By any stretch of the imagination, Prince could put anything on a canvas or a plinth, and there would not only be sellers for it, but the run would be snapped up by buyers; so it’s fair to assume that Prince must have made the critical issues of his choice of subject matter for a reason?

It’s with this defining question that the conceptual aspects of the work, perhaps, begin to crystallize. To the subjective eyes of this writer (who usually falls into the camp of appropriation defenders), the schism between source material and artwork is pronounced and profound enough to justify the works as “art.” Consider the rarefied high art atmosphere that these selfies now exist in: surely that sense of inflated worth, and uniqueness, is exactly what the subject matter wanted for themselves when they first started documenting themselves? At a time when literally millions of people have an active compulsion to surrender portraits of themselves to a vast (but mainly imaginary: maybe a ‘tribe of friends numbering in the hundreds actually sees these photos, rather than the tens of thousand theoretically out there…) imaginary audience, Prince has amplified their narcissism and taken it to another level. The original Instagram portraits would have been consumed in split seconds, before the viewer moves on to absorb hundreds of other images that same day, with the click of a mouse of track pad; whereas now, in the Gagosian gallery, the subjects’ aspirations have reached a stillness, and permanence, beyond their wildest dreams. They remain inviolate, serene, loved, valued and magnified.

But just because Prince’s work is valid in this context, does it make it great art? That’s an argument for another time…

Simon Herbert is a freelance writer and editor, and has written for magazines including: Creative Camera, High Performance, Border Crossings, Art Monthly and Artists Newsletter; and catalogues for the Sydney Biennale and Henry Moore Sculpture Trust. As an art curator, he co-founded Locus+, which commissions a variety of digital-based artist’s projects.

Dangerous Little Knowledge

reposted from The Illusion of More with the kind permission of David Newhoff

Not surprisingly, friends contact me from time to time with copyright-related questions. I’m careful not to give definitive answers to most of these, but I can usually point them in the right direction toward a solution.  Very recently, a dear friend (let’s call her Sarah) asked my advice regarding an email she received from a photographer who demanded removal of an image from her blog as well as a substantial fee for damages.  Sarah is college educated, a Gen-Xer, an artist herself, wicked smart, talented, and very respectful of people in general, let alone other creators.  I would characterize her as among the last people who would knowingly infringe a fellow artist’s copyrights.

Sarah considers her blog educational and non-commercial, and she credited the photographer. These factors that led her to assume her posting the photo was a “fair use,”  and the mistakes she made are consistent with the kind of questions and assumptions I hear all time.  Real copyright experts may have another view, but it seems to me that the non-commercial thing is among the most common mistakes made when it comes to assuming a use is fair. In reality, commercial or non-commercial use of a work is is not necessarily dispositive (as the lawyers say) when determining whether or not a use would be judged fair. Setting aside the question of the photographer’s award demand — I can’t comment on whether or not it was in line with common practices among visual artists —  I was sorry to tell Sarah that her use was almost certainly an infringement. It only took her doing a bit of research to realize that fair use is a very specific component of copyright law that requires a federal court to weigh four factors in order to reach a conclusion.

What I find interesting, though, is that while I have been associated with originators and users of creative media my entire life, until Web 2.0 came along, I don’t remember people making decisions to use works based solely on what they thought they understood about copyright.  Put another way, I am not surprised Sarah misunderstood fair use so much as I am curious as to how the misinformation got into her head in the first place to the extent that she honestly believed she was on solid ground.  Because I bet her confusion is quite common.  Moreover, I suspect that so much misunderstanding about copyright is aggravated by both the design of the Web and even by the din of the copyright debates in the blogosphere. Not only does an interface like Google image search make potential infringement just a little too easy, but it also isn’t helpful to have a constant drumbeat of headlines written by entities with an interest in weakening copyright.

Lingo is catchy. We hear a unique term, assume we know what it means, then misapply it and spread the gospel. I used to see this a lot in video post production whenever a producer got hold of a new expression he thought he understood. Similarly, I suspect there’s so much chatter about copyright issues swarming around the Internet today, that terms like fair use seep into public consciousness; and then intelligent, thoughtful people like Sarah make perfectly reasonable yet entirely false assumptions about what the term means or how the principle is actually applied.  A clear case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

And of course, it’s not just copyright; it’s anything. The wealth of “content” out there doesn’t always make us more informed, but it can make us think we’re informed, sometimes just enough to get us into trouble.  Because it’s one thing to have an opinion about a subject like copyright, but another thing to act on the assumption that you can be your own attorney, which is no more advisable than, say, using WebMD to diagnose the presentation of some new symptom.

Let me pause and write in the imperative for a moment by way of what public service I may offer:

If you have to imagine a fair use argument, then a case for infringement by the rights holder may exist.  Unless you have really researched fair use and you are legally and/or  financially prepared to defend your use, don’t assume you know what you’re doing. Odds are you don’t. There are no bright line rules when judging fair use.  Plus, if you’re just writing a blog and need an image, there are probably better and clearly legal options like Getty Images’ free embed service. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with asking the rights holder for permission. He just might say yes.

Of course, the argument from the anti-copyright crowd might be that Sarah’s experience makes a good reason to “expand” fair use in the digital age.  For instance, readers may be generally aware of the Internet industry’s proposal to  “export” U.S. fair use principles through fair trade agreements despite the fact that our trading partners have radically different legal systems, and none has our First Amendment. I bring this up to illustrate the point that I believe this industry continues to trade on the populist tactic of oversimplifying legal frameworks in order to advance its own agenda.

And this goes back to what I meant when I said that the design of the web as we know it adds to the confusion of general users as to what’s fair and what’s infringing.  After all, the image is right there on Google image search.  Why not right click, copy, and paste into a blog, etc.? Yes, that’s certainly a paradigm Google et al want to promote, but let me cut to the chase here:  if you’re an individual with mere mortal resources rather than billions of dollars and a phalanx of attorneys, taking the “infringe now, apologize and maybe pay later” approach of Silicon Valley corporations is probably a bad strategy.

Meanwhile certain experts may convince users that they’re on solid ground.  For instance, fair use scholar Peter Jaszi, in his testimony before Congress in January 2014, stated the following:

“Fair use, one might say, is like a muscle – it will grow in strength if it is exercised, and atrophy if it is not. But, by the same token, fair use is hardly unusual or exotic today. Everyone who makes culture or participates in the innovation economy relies on fair use routinely – whether they recognize it or not.”

I don’t presume to criticize Jaszi’s scholarship; I’m not remotely qualified to do so. But to the ears of fellow laymen, statements like this can be interpreted as permission to push the boundaries of fair use, which may be particularly hazardous if one has not at least researched the basic principles in the first place. High-level theory, debate, testimony, and discussion in the halls of academia do not necessarily provide an accurate picture of the law as it is currently applied.

Add to all that the massive volume of un-scholarly blogs, editorials, and PR messages aimed at weakening one facet of copyright or another, and confusion is likely to be the rule rather than the exception.  Each individual should do the research and decide for herself which among the many proposals on copyright seem thoughtful and innovative and which are serving vested interests. In the meantime, confusion leads to infringement claims, which can lead to damages, which pisses people off who otherwise respect copyrights. And in this sense, all the Sarahs out there become a bit like cannon fodder in a larger battle being waged by billion-dollar corporations.

© 2015, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

Personal Photo Curation

By Laura Lucas

Last summer I snapped over 800 photos on a family trip to Newfoundland. I’m not a great photographer so I often take more than needed to get that one good shot, but it means a big job to organize and manage them later. So each day of my trip I sifted through 3 different devices; my camera, my phone and the shared memory cards of others to pick out the best shots and curate them.

Curation is the key to enjoying your photos, protecting them from damage and being able to find them easily again when needed and I like to start with a quick triage. Ask yourself these questions: What’s the quality like – sharp, blurry or chopped? Does it mean something special to you or someone else? Is there some historic value to it? Could it be worth some money? Is there a privacy issue to consider – like scantily clad children in the wading pool? Based on the answers, I cull, share or add to my permanent library.

After my East Coast vacation, I took the 75 “best” images, already identified and had them made into a photo book. These are the shots that mean the most to me from this trip and they are now beautifully displayed on my coffee table where someone can actually view them. I’ve whittled down the rest of collection to 300 images with proper descriptions, backed them up externally and hit the delete key on the others. That’s right! I hit the delete key. Just because storage space is becoming less expensive does not mean we should keep everything. Do I really need to save the photo of an electrical box I took at the hardware store because my husband was helping me select the right product at the time?

(c) Laura Lucas

(c) Laura Lucas

The visual researcher in me enjoys photo archiving but for most it is overwhelming. It takes time and some thoughtful organization. Here are my tips to a solid personal library in which you can find things easily!

  • Choose a main location for your photos whether it’s a desktop, the cloud, a tablet etc. but be diligent that all your photos end up in this location. It’s your main album.
  • Create an external copy of the library and set it to automatically backup regularly. If you’re a frequent shutterbug, I would suggest doing this weekly to protect them.
  • Create 10 broad photo categories within your album; no more than that. You can use a software package, but it’s not necessary. Simple computer file hierarchy works too. Every photo should easily fit into one of these headings. Do not go by date of download. Date stamping comes later. For instance, I have a “Lucas Family” category. Holidays, birthdays, vacations involving this family all go into this folder.
  • Within your 10 folders, create specific subject files. I have chosen a year designation. “Lucas’ 2015”.
  • You can add photos at this stage or continue creating sub- folders in your album. Mine looks like this…

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 6.57.32 PM

  • Import your photos into the respective subject files and replace the automatically-generated camera number with some metadata. That’s fancy speak for detailed information. I suggest 3 pieces of information in the file name of each photo; Title, date and brief description. Like this…

Laura Birthday1_04.21.2015_Cake

Laura Birthday2_04.21.2015_Opening gifts

Laura Birthday3_04.25.2015_Wearing new outfit

Notice how several dates are involved with this one event. This is why I suggest leaving date stamps until the photo level. If you’re not the owner of the photo you may wish to include that too; a professional photo agency for example. This can be important with regard to copyright.

  • If you don’t have time for Step 6… you’re already leaps ahead by creating the album hierarchy.

This is not rocket science.   I’m not offering you a secret solution. It’s a filing cabinet for the most part and it works for print as well as digital photos. If you’ve got a box of b&w pictures in the closet – start with the same quick triage above to make the job smaller and manageable. Photos to keep in one stack… photos to give to your sibling or an archive in another… photos to digitize in a third… and yes… a separate group of photos to purge. For the keepers – add some envelopes or dividers in the box for your category and subject headings. Label this box and store in a dry, safe place. I would also suggest a protective box rather than cardboard.

If all of this is too mind-boggling ask an organized friend to help. Or call me – Big Picture Research offers this service! Please don’t wait until you’ve damaged your phone or lost access to your social media account album or had your computer hacked or stolen. There are too many heart-wrenching tales out there from people who have lost precious photos. A little curation on a regular basis can make the job less stressful, help you find a photo quickly and give you peace of mind that our library is protected.

(c) Laura Lucas

(c) Laura Lucas

 

Headshot3_TEMPO Photography - BERN -6273Laura Lucas is a Visual Researcher and Rights Clearance Officer with 20 years of experience in the media market. She’s worked extensively with TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, with freelance video producers and with archivists and libraries. Having just launched her own company Big Picture Research, she’s driven by the thrill of the hunt to find the perfect image that can help bring a story to life and clearing the underlying permissions for its use. Her archival research work in turn has led her to explore the emerging field of digital estate planning and helping people organize and protect their digital assets. See more and contact Laura here: www.bigpictureresearch.com

From Across the Pond: fotofringe 2015

by Julian Jackson

Photography industry people love a good gabfest, and where better to do that than the annual fotofringe event, held in London’s King’s Place arts and media hub, right next to the iconic HQ of the Guardian and Observer newspapers. This was the fifth year of this successful trade fair, and with over 600 visitors, primarily photobuyers, and 100 photo agencies exhibiting, it was a intense but fun day.

fotofringe2015-003

Corbis and Gettyimages were there, but also the full spectrum of UK photo agencies exhibited, from companies representing the work of one photographer, like Homer Sykes or Werner Forman Archive, through smaller archives like FLPA or John Birdsall Social Issues Photolibrary, via a healthy mooch of museums (there I’ve made up a collective noun for them), to massive collections such as Mirrorpix, which has over a century of British newspaper photographs going back to 1903, totalling100 million images.

 

Fotofringe owner Flora Nedelcu of TopFoto said, “There’s always a really nice vibe here, people really, really like it. There are always new collections to show to the world so I am looking forward to next year.” Flora’s energy and enthusiasm make fotofringe what it is, and libraries are already booking for next year’s event, which will be on Thursday 21 April 2016. She added, “It’s a good idea for photobuyers to register in advance, it’s free and it saves you time on the day.”

 

The event takes place on several different levels, and every library, large or small, just gets one table. This is rather egalitarian, and also focuses the minds of the exhibitors on what to bring to show visitors. So there aren’t any large and elaborate displays but more catalogues, flyers and postcards, which are manageable to carry. There are a fair few giveaways, including a lot of chocolate and sweets. Though I declined some, I weakened later on, needing the sugar rush to counteract afternoon lethargy. I hope that the exercise of walking round a lot has cancelled out the extra calories. Brownie points to BAPLA, the British trade association, for stumping up a free lunch doggie bag. This solved last year’s problem of a mammoth gridlock at the King’s Place cafe.

 

I asked a lot of exhibitors about the state of play in the UK industry. Most were cautiously optimistic, saying that the things were better than after the nadir following the financial crash of 2007/8, but prices were still low. Many noted that they were making up in volume on sales rather than prices. Anders Granberg of Ardea said, “I think the depression in the industry has bottomed out. We are expanding our collection and acquiring new photography.” Martin Gibbs, of News Syndication, felt that although the magazine market had declined, “Book publishing is steady and more books are being published now.” Some agencies thought that their overseas sales were stronger than the UK home market and that was where they were trying to increase sales, either directly or by partnership with other distributors.

I didn’t manage to talk to all the agencies, and regrettably, I did waste some of the time gossiping with friends and colleagues. I only get to do this once a year! I will try to pick out some subject matter which may be of interest to US readers. Mary Evans Sales Manager Lucinda Gosling also writes pictorial books on what I can only describe as “Quirky British subjects” often relating to the First World War.

HeathRobinsonGosling

Homer Sykes has been cataloguing British life since the sixties. His work centres on sub-cultures and people that more mainstream photographers might miss. Writer Pictures does what it says on the tin: they have an archive of images of writers, both current and historical. They are based in that most literary of cities, Edinburgh, and were founded by Alex Hewitt because he couldn’t find writer images for his feature pages while he was working for a newspaper there, even though he would regularly see authors like crime maestro Ian Rankin or JK Rowling walking round the city.

 

This year there were really only two technology companies exhibiting. Above All Images is a new aerial photography venture. They have created their own custom aircraft filming rig, which produces stunning footage, and is capable of being fitted to a single-engine Cessna, thus reducing significantly the cost of aerials. As a technology geek I was intrigued but they were rather reticent and wouldn’t tell me how they put it together. Keeping it Top Secret. But it certainly works.

 

More down-to-earth is Capture. They produce Digital Asset Management software, which manages all aspects of running an image agency. They also have software called CaptureDesk, which is aimed at photobuyers. I was given a demo of the latest version. The objective is to streamline and assist the photobuyer to maximise the way they work on multiple projects. Essentially it is a cloud-based browser plug-in for Chrome or Firefox, which allows you, when you are searching photo library websites, to send the low res images selected into Capturedesk to manage your project. You can put in notes, pricing info and send lightboxes of the whole project or any part of it to clients. It is quite straightforward to use. Some of my photobuyer colleagues swear by it, but you can make up your own mind as Capture do a free trial. Capture CEO Abbie Enock says, “We are building a community of media researchers using Capture Desk, promoting their services and listening to their needs.” The only drawback is that it doesn’t handle high res images or video. Originally that was to keep the price point as low as possible, when storage costs were higher than they are now, but they told me that they are considering adding those improvements to a future version. They are offering a discount of 10% from now till the end of May with this promo code MAY15CD10.

CaptureDesk1000px

One bonus which added to the atmosphere of the event were the breathtaking landscape photographs of Alexander Lindsay which were not part of fotofringe but are the current exhibition on the walls of King’s Place.

You can see all the exhibitors here:

www.fotofringelondon.com

juliancoffeshopcuJulian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. His website is www.julianjackson.co.uk. He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course www.picture-research-courses.co.uk. Linked-in profile.