Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coming Back to What I Know

It's been over a month since I have blogged on this website, and though I knew it had been a while, I didn't realise it had been that long! Quite a lot has happened over the last month, and while I can say there are work and personal reasons that have kept me very busy and are true, I think a lot of the reason I have been kept from blogging on this website, is perhaps a little disillusionment recently with photography.

First of all, I think I have been very confused about where I want to go with it. I had aspirations at the beginning of the year to turn photography into a profitable business, and begin doing wedding photography and other commercial avenues, but I'm not sure I have the heart or desire for it now. The key problem I have with going in that direction is that although it would be doing something for a living I love, it would still be that four letter word 'work'. I love creating artistic images and whilst working in photography would still give me opportunity to do that, I am not sure I could maintain my passion for all things photography, whilst meeting deadlines and processing dozens of commercial shots that perhaps don't inspire me. I don't want to burn my bridges here, it's still something I may go into, but perhaps I am still waiting for a different path to inspire me business wise.

At the same time I have been continuing with my online photography course, and though I do recognise the benefit it has given me as a photographer, I again am feeling a little uninspired by it now. The projects keep coming forward that I am not so interested in, and it has affected my desire to complete it. Now don't get me wrong, I will complete it, I am just saying that it too is starting to feel like work rather than enjoying my photography. I have learnt that perhaps the only photography I will ever love is the type where I am inspired to go out, get the pictures and see if I can turn them into digital work that I am proud of. This is why I think that amongst all my soul-searching, I am going to focus on creating HDR pictures more than ever, because I think this is simply the photography I most enjoy doing.

One of the big reasons I have become disillusioned with photography though, is an event that recently took place that has bothered me way more than it should. Without a doubt my most successful picture I have created is my 'Justice for the 96 picture' below. I was incredibly excited at the time I took this picture, knowing it was a unique event and that I was perhaps 'in the right place, at the right time', and spent a long time crafting it when back on the computer, to get an HDR picture that captured the atmosphere and beauty of the event.

My fellow photography blogger Tim Pursall and a couple of other people on Facebook, alerted me to the fact on April 15th (the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy) there seemed to be a version of my work that was doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook, that was a black and white version of my photograph, that I had not created. This version you can see here below:

My brother quickly found who had created this version and emailed him for a response, but as I understand, has never had a response. I have followed this guy's work and can see that he is a graphic design student that takes other people's photos, puts a graphic over them and then claims them as his own work. I'm not saying I don't like what he did with my picture, but what has got to me, is the idea in my opinion, of doing very little work to it, and then putting his name on the picture as if he created the whole work. It is about lack of credibility that I dislike. I have no intention to profit from this picture, and would have had no problems had he contacted me to use it before creating his version of it. He obviously chose not to do this though, and again then claimed the work as his own. Even a simple 'Photograph by Pete Halewood / Design by such and such' would have been ok with me.

I know it perhaps sounds modest to demand recognition for one's own work, but I would stick up for any photographer whose work is being copied, and not receiving the credit they deserve. The time and inspiration photographers put into their work should be duly recognised, and though this is very often not in terms of a financial amount, they should be recognised as the artist and creator of the work, that is the very least recognition deserved.

What went on to bother me more is the extent to which his version (and which he has bragged about) has been copied onto T-shirts and used as the front cover on a fanzine.

Again, I have no wish to benefit economically from this photograph, but I don't like that none of these items bear any reference to the original work I created, and dare I say it, the fanzine is profiting from it. I know too well that in this internet age, it is impossible to get your work out there and not have people copy it and claim it for their own. I have seen it happen so many times, and it indeed is nothing new even in the midst of history. It is in fact a situation that has been paralleled with the sowing of seeds on a farm, i.e. the birds will get some. But what happens when you go chasing birds? You leave the field. I am surprised to the extent that some well established photographers have chased 'small birds' who may have used their work for some purpose, but at least now I understand the annoyance behind it. I have not gone demanding an answer from this individual myself, I really don't want to spend my energy on it. Yes the lack of credit has bothered me, but I can only think about what should I do about it from now.

I also read an online article recently (Here is the link) that said that the government are planning on bringing legislation in, that means that anybody on the net can use any photograph they find for commercial purposes, if credit for the picture is not made clear with the photograph. The article is called 'Is the UK government trying to kill off photographers?' by Edmond Terakopian. Now I do not know the exact facts or truth behind the story, but I see no reason to disbelieve it. As shown earlier, it is a terrible time for photographers to get recognition for their own work. And saying 'where there is no credit' is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I used to naively think that if I filled out all that meta data detail on my photograph, then it would be built into the picture forever, like someone walking round with a microchip inside them. WRONG! It is easy for others to strip a picture of it's meta data, and again only takes a second for somebody to copy a picture, strip you of all credit and leave the picture with no credit, or a credit to themselves. I try not let this stuff bother me, but as the title of the article suggests, it seems that nobody is on our side these days, and could not care whether you benefit from your work or not.

So yes I have become a bit disillusioned recently with the photography scene, but I am now fighting back! I don't mean in an angry way, I would much rather create pictures then fight the world for the recognition of them, but still it is simply a fact I have come to realise that the whole thing about putting pictures on the net with no watermark or frame, is making it ridiculously easy for someone to take credit for your work. I have spoken about putting watermarks and frames on photographs before, but now I have had a change of heart. Whilst I have experimented with watermarks recently, I still cannot bring myself to cover any part of the photograph with a name or logo. I'm not going to argue why, it just doesn't work for me. However, I have decided that all the pictures I create and display on the web now, will come with a frame, and titled signature by myself (see new photograph below!). I know this will not make it fool-proof to stop determined people copying the work, but it would take the more devious type.

I have been guilty in the past of creating new ways to present my pictures, and quickly going back to old habits with no frames or watermarks, but this new presentation is going to stay. Check my Flickr photostream for some of my older pictures I have created with my new white frame! I don't expect it to be popular with everyone, but like changes to Facebook, everyone gets used to them quickly. I must state now (for balance) that I know watermarks and frames are ill-advised by some well established and inspirational photographers such as Trey Ratcliff. He has built his success on the free movement of his pictures around the internet (though of course more importantly great photography!), albeit with a creative commons licence, to counter anyone who uses his pictures for commercial purposes. Though I do not use Creative Commons copyright, I have used the same philosophy with my own work, but it's time to realise that what works for other other people, may not be the best for me. It doesn't help people find your work and get the recognition you deserve, especially if you are not an established photographer. I have to say as well, I do like the new presentation to my pictures, in fact my Wife said she cannot believe I did not present them this way before.

I absolutely welcome any comments or opinions on presentation of photographs online, and indeed about being recognised for your own work. Today's picture is one I took in Chelsea, West London, whilst visiting my brother a few weeks ago. I intend to be back on this blog in a big way now, and apologise to everyone for the absence. Next time: how to create a photo frame such as the one I have employed!


  1. Epic post Pete! One in which a lot of the points you make resonate with me!

    Glad to be of assistance regarding spotting your picture and thanks for the shout out in the post.

    If nothing else, then the image has been exposed to a very wide audience. If only you had been credited.

    I like the new picture format and look forward to your renewed presence on the web!

  2. Many thanks for your kind comments Tim, much appreciated.

    I have posted a link to that article I read now within the blog, so you may like to read that as well.

    I thought about the potential benefit of the wider exposure, but as you correctly state, without credit stated, there is no linking back to the original creator. I wouldn't have much of a problem with it with credit stated. We will see how things turn out in future..

    Glad you like the new format, it has the added bonus of uniformity and presentation to a photographer's work, so I'm very willing and happy to go in this new direction.

  3. Wouldn't it be easy for someone to strip off the frame, alter the photo slightly, and present it as their own?

    I've thought of encrypting information in the photo itself with a stego program, but that cuts the quality somewhat and probably doesn't stick in a jpeg.

    Mostly, I just put small, low res copies online.

    1. Hi Ted, thanks for stopping by!

      I know that someone could potentially copy the picture and remove the frame, but as I said in the article, I think that would take a more devious type. Do I think many people are that deceitful? Not really. It's the risk we take putting it online, there is always a chance someone could use it but honestly, I doubt that they could profit from it much, if they did it would eventually be found out. I don't want to compromise the quality and presentation of the image online because of a few 'bottom-feeders' (as Trey Ratcliff would call them!) out there.

      It's about presentation as well though, I'm happy with the new look to my images and will continue this way.

      Many thanks for your comment, it's much appreciated!

  4. I'd be mad if one of my photos ended up on t shirts, fanzines and the like without credit, but I admire your attitude Pete. The subject matter of the photo makes it even more annoying though and anyone who is making profit from your work should credit you at least.

    I watermark my images these days and even that won't deter cheats, but at least it makes more work for them? I agree with the above comment, post only low res images online (72 dpi) and see how hard it'd be for them to print that on a t-shirt!

    I hope you don't become too disillusioned with photography Pete, you have a lot to offer mate. I agree with your points about it becoming work like and I am finding that with my wedding photography business, I am doing 95% marketing, networking, processing, website work and about 5% actually taking photos!

    But I love it and my drive to make a success of it keeps me going. The actual photography part is incredibly challenging, but I find it extremely rewarding and very creative too which keeps it exciting. If you ever decide to do weddings, I'd be happy to give you some pointers and you can even come and second shoot with me at a up coming wedding if you like, to see if it is something you'd like to pursue?

    Glad to see you back, great post.

    1. Marc! Great to see you back here!

      I have been keeping up with your wedding photography work and can see you're becoming quite the dab hand at it! Really great photos.

      I really appreciate your comments, it's great to receive your support. I personally don't want to reduce the resolution of my images, I accept the risk that incurs but I don't want to be too worried about people claiming it as their own work. I know it bothered me though on this occasion, I won't pretend it didn't!

      It's a real delight to read how much you are enjoying your wedding photography business though, and you have a fantastic drive towards it. I will not say no to being a second shooter at one of your weddings, so maybe we can plan something in the near future? That's very kind of you to offer, and I hope the business keeps coming!

      Cheers again for your comment, good to see you back too!