Blogger, the DMCA and me…

The DMCA is the rather grandly titled Digital Millennium Copyright Act and it appears that the people at Google, who run the blogging site Blogger have acted on a notice that I issued them at the end of last month to take down some of my images that were being used on a blog without my permission.

I recently wrote about this unauthorised image use. Such a shame because the commentary was good and the images well chosen to illustrate my work. It seems I’ll never know whether the writer was choosing to ignore my small request or somehow it never came to his attention. It beats me how someone writing an intelligent blog can choose not to include an email address so that they can be communicated with.

Unauthorised image use, artist’s moral rights & it’s nice to ask…

Before Christmas I discovered a blog post about my more personal images which included five of my photos that had been copied from my sites and used without my permission. This blog article is quite a good post – as a short critique it understands what I’m about is was placed alongside articles on Francesca Woodman & Juergen Teller so exalted company – but really I would like to have been asked about using the images before publication!

There was no contact email address, so I made a firm and polite comment. “From your comments you obviously appreciate what is behind my work. Like most photographers however I really would like to be asked first! To use them I am asking what I would ask of anyone – that you amend the heading & label to credit Scott H. the name I use as an artist, like on my site, rather than my full name – the reasons are complicated but good.”

So why don’t I want my full name used?

Put my name into Google and you’ll find there are not many of me about. Right now the blog article comes up on the first page of Google and anyone searching for me by name (in particular a client wishing to reuse my services) could easily click through and see rather more than they expected to see! There have been two such searches and contacts in the last two days – no clicks on the blog as far as I know but it’s only a matter of time. Many of my older clients come from conservative backgrounds and that will cost me work. And for photographers, work is really hard to come by.

So that’s why I’m Scott H. here. And because I know about how Google works I know that this article I write here which includes my full name is not going to come up prominently. And my blogger could even leave my name in the body of that blog too but (SEO lesson..) it is the use of the name in the title and links that causes Google to index it highly.

I don’t want to hide, I’m proud of the integrity of my images and am open about them with online and real life friends, but just as I don’t run naked down the street in front of the neighbours I don’t want to do the equivalent on the first page of Google.

But the real issue here is one of principle. Asking first. To use my images in any way people should have a licence or specific permission to use that image. To ask respects  an  artist’s moral rights and copyright rights. I’m not asking for money in return for the use, I’m asking for the removal of a few letters from the title and tags!

While taking away my wish for partial anonymity, the blogger chooses to be anonymous to the extent that I can’t even send an email. All I can do is write a post on the blog. In the absence of any contact, a week ago I issued a DMCA take down notice to Google which the blogger hopefully will read with my comment (which perhaps he or she’s not seen) and make the amendment that allows the publication to continue.

Here’s a reminder of what I say on various copyright posts on this blog…

“All these images are copyright. None of these photos may be reproduced and/or used in any form without my permission. This includes blogging!

But please don’t let this stop you asking nicely – if your blog treats other peoples intellectual property with respect and is non-commercial (no ads!) then I’m likely to say yes. On Tumblr you are welcome to ‘like’ or repost with the usual credit (to Scott H. / Allablur) and link.

Thank you for your understanding.”

2010 – A year of radical change, when nothing much happened!

Nothing much happened in terms of my actual photography, BUT it’s been a year of physical relocation for my wife and I to Brighton and the year in which the second of my offspring went off to university. The radical change that these changes have brought on has been in my mindset, the freedom to be more open about my edgier work, even if not to do much of it!

In starting this blog, twittering and the facebook malarkey, even resurrecting my deviantArt account, I’ve decided to put myself about in new online communities and to the extent the community is local the physical community here in Brighton. In London my openness about the my ‘alt’ work was shared with a smallish defined community (fundamentally the London Alternative Photography Meetup group), in Brighton it’s now anyone who is active in the wider arts in Brighton or further afield.

Everything I do which is not for a commercial client or commercial stock photography may get featured in this alternative arena. So it’s not just about photographing fetish or the nude, it’s also about street photography, landscapes and the occasional more oddball image I might capture. It’s about photography as an artform to be enjoyed and an hugely important part of art is sharing and acceptance, not for producing easy art but something that can be more challenging, that causes people to think about the whole rather than an individual image.

On the commercial side with all the changes it’s not been a great year. But then I’ve not been pushing. I still don’t think I can mix the alt side in with the commercial ‘Light Touch’ photography because of the nature of that commercial photography – if it were fashion (say) then there would not be an issue but the people who buy my services are generally rather conservative types and I really do think that images of Japanese bondage or naked men would be too much! (Mental note; must update the portfolio for the more fetishy stuff).

So what’s ahead?

I’m not really a fetish photographer. Unless you pull in the self portraiture and call that a fetish! That’s more about easy access to a compliant model:-) But it’s an important element of what I do even if I’ve been making myself a smaller part of it. For the next year what I want to do is get out into the environment with an accomplice (or two, or three, or ten!) to do more environmental nudes, making the body/bodies a small part of the landscapes, because in the end that’s all we are.

I would like to do some of the more personal nude photography of others I practiced about three years ago. With Brighton in mind the tag ‘straight eye for the gay guy’ has occurred to me! Finding the right person(s), either sex, is an issue because I don’t want outright exhibitionists as models (all too easy to recruit!) or indeed established models but people who are pretty confident in their skins and have ideas of where they want to go with self expression. Self portraiture with a half decent photographer to make sure that the photography side works is how I’d describe it. Whether that makes sense to anyone else is another thing!

The landscapes lie ahead – they don’t need people, clothed or otherwise. And the streets; they need people. And maybe an excusion again into what I called ‘people panoramas’. And I have a small stock of 120 film!

2011 lies ahead and I’m excited. And a little nervous. But if I was just excited and not nervous then I know I wouldn’t be pushing myself…

Photography Xmas present to me….

Those following my earlier post on digging out the Pentax 645 and shooting off a film may wonder where the results are. Well after managing to get chemicals delivered, I’ve not been able to find my developing tank. 

I have just given up looking & have ordered one which if it arrives will be my annual photography Xmas present to me from me. If it arrives…..

Pulling out the Pentax…..

I used to be a big fan of Pentax. We’re talking 70s and 80s now! I still have two 35mm SLR’s & a couple of lenses (inc 50mm f1.4) & am not getting rid of any of it. But don’t use it.

The coming of the Pentax 645D (only £10K) reminded me that I do have another Pentax. So I pulled out the Pentax 645 which I must have last used about 6 years ago. And there appears to be a film in it – only 1 exposure taken.

Like an idiot I stated playing with the controls, including the ISO dial. Ha! mistake! This isn’t digital – I need to know what speed film is in there…..  From memory it’s probably Fuji 160 asa print or slide but I’ll have to wait until opening to see.

Click. The wrong sort of click. Trouble? Change the batteries. Nothing. Press a few more buttons, still unsure what’s what. Click. The right sort but now weird winding sound that does not stop. Turn off. Secure the film back properly (I’d had a fiddle). Click. Very quick whirr… It seems OK!

This camera has been in a warm but dry loft. The film will be crap I’m just going to fire to the end to see if it gets there and what it is.

I’m testing as I write. The high pitched winding noise recurs as I get towards the end of the film. Turning off the camera and on again seems to solve the problem. 

The film turns out to be 100 asa Provia. I wonder what such film stored in an oven and shot at 160 asa looks like? No, I won’t bother…..

I’m going to have to get some very cheap out of date film off eBay to test this out. The sort which I could get 10,000 rolls of for the price of a Pentax 645D!

Taylor Wessing at the National Portrait Gallery

A casually explicit image by photographer Panayiotis Lamprou entitled “Portrait of my British Wife” has been awarded second place in this year’s Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize – selected entries for which will be on show at the National Portrait Gallery in London for the next few months.

The British Journal of Photography published the outcome of this year’s contest today showing both the winning image (by David Chancellor) and the second place image in its report. Strangely the NPG are not upfront about the image that they had selected for second place, choosing to crop the lower half of it out completely in its presentation on its website inviting the viewer to click though to see the full image.

I like the image. It’s forthright and intimate. There’s some chatter about it not being erotic or pornographic but some people say that to excuse themselves liking such an image. In my view the subject is pornographic – however in its style and presentation, it hits me also as art.

So why am I writing? I’ve 2 issues:

  • If the NPG don’t feel that they can present the image properly then they really should not have chosen it as second prize in the most prestigious photo competition that there is in the UK.
  • The title – “Portrait of my British Wife”. The idea of the photographer showing off his possession instantly comes to mind. “And here is her vagina. Do you approve?”. You are left wondering about the motivation – is he just being doubly provocative?

It’s cool to have an essentially erotic portrait do well, but please not one with that title and next time don’t sensationalise it by censoring it. I like the image but it’s surely not strong enough to come second in such a prize.

With grants from government declining am I being too cynical if I suspect that the NPG have hit on a way of boosting publicity, attendances, and income?

North Laine hangout

Two guys hanging out amidst the graffiti art in Brighton’s North Laine. One that really has to be in colour. I’m not sure if they were trying to claim credit…

The morals of street photography

I was out yesterday on the streets of Brighton doing ‘street photography’ (which perhaps should be better known as candid people photography) I got back home and while skimming through Digital Photographer magazine found an article “Morals and photography, what are yours”?

I’m not going to discuss the article (which I felt was poorly illustrated) or dwell too much on what my morals as a street photographer might be. However while doing a little more research on the web, I was interested to read that Robert Doisneau’s classic photograph of a couple stealing a passionate kiss on a Paris street was set up by the photographer. That makes me now feel a lot better about this image which I got on Carnaby Street in London last year….

Street photo of a couple kissing

And this I think captures what a lot of my street photography is about because I think that this is an uplifting image, this is the real world – no models, no influence from the photographer, this is how we/you really are.

I learned that a rare print of Doisneau’s photo was auctioned by the model for over $200,000, the image really is so famous that it little matters whether it was set up or not.

Yesterday I took this:

Woman in North Laines, Brighton

Now it may seem to you that she must have had knowledge of me taking this photo, but I do not think she did. This was the pose before I manoeuvred into position to get the image and was the pose as I moved away. So no, she is not expressing disapproval!

Why do I like the image? Because like my first image, it makes me smile, albeit in a different way.

I’ve no qualms about taking and publishing either image.

Now here’s a final image which I think is more complicated:

Asian tourist on Westminster Bridge

Why is this more problematical@ In that I was working with the woman in the foreground, who was posing for me, there is not an issue. She’s not ‘real’. But the other people are real. The woman on the left is not looking at me the photographer, but at the model. How you interpret what’s going on is up to you, but I don’t think of this as an image to make me smile. But it does make me think.

I like this image because it’s a happy accident. The model is as I intended. The bus too. The moving people blurring, yes, them too.  At the time I did not even notice the other motionless people, I was concentrating on the position of the bus.  The motionless people are the accident.

The observational woman and the photographer in the background standing out so vividly make this a very busy picture. And that’s why I like it – there’s a lot going on, different elements to think about and a composition that works.

I’m not going out onto the streets to take photos of people that show them in a bad light, although some street photographers will do this. I’m not sure that the observational woman in this image will like this photo of herself – if it were a photo of her only I’m sure that I would not publish it but she is just one element of this photo which pleases me overall so I’m not going to hold back.

I think this image captures something of our times. That’s what all good street photography should do.