So this has been discussed on my Facebook page before, but I’ve never put it on my blog. I’m not going to rant and rage. I’ve done that and I agree with you, it’s stupid and pointless. I do want to comment, because let’s face it. I always want to comment.
This is an image of my daughter, Gracie. I took 11 years ago. Just before this, I had joined this great community of photographers online and my work improved exponentially because of their critique. I was frustrated that Gracie wouldn’t stay in front of the backdrop I had wanted to use. I shot this and I was irritated at the sun on her head. Bummed. I was bummed. But when I shared it with my people, it is the first time, I had such overwhelming positivity feedback. This image was a turning point for me as a photographer. It means a lot to me.
Fast forward to here and now. Some (not so) lovely person, stole this image and put a quote on top of it, “little girls with dreams become women with vision”. I have yet to find out who wrote that quote, but I would love to find her or him. I wonder what she thinks of her words being stolen and never being given credit. When I submit the original photograph and then the one with the quote, Google Image Search shows roughly 500 results. Not many, except that each result reflects hundreds and sometimes thousands of re-pins on Pinterest alone. Someone do the math for me.
None of these numbers take into account the massive amount of re-shares on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, foreign social media sites and I could go on and on. The image shows up as profile pictures for users all over the damn place and even as the profile picture for a beer drinking Meet-up group in Toranto! Please don’t get me started on the professional and personal bloggers who have used it on their websites. They know better and I’m trying to stay positive.
My feelings about this experience are mixed. First, I realize this world of Pinterest and Tumblr is here to stay. I’m not trying to fight it. Trying to take down or attach my name to every posting is like, one friend said to me, “playing whack-a-mole”. I am on Pinterest and I have pinned without thought and with frightening compusivity. I’d be a hypocrite to lecture anybody on the topic. I know the reality here. But knowing the facts, doesn’t completely resolve my feelings. It never does.
First, this is my daughter. It was very off-putting to see this image of her with a quote I’d never heard and on a site I had never seen. As I searched around it had already really been making the rounds. Imagine walking into a person’s house for the first time and seeing your family photo on their mantle. Now multiply that times hundreds of thousands. My creeped out phase led to the anger phase and I’m glad I didn’t write anything about it then because I was on fire. Time has passed and there is a big part of me that is grateful and flattered when I see it pop up on Pinterest with a kind comment. Mostly that’s where I am at. Resigned, surrendered… (whatever) that it’s taken on a life of it’s own. It makes me feel good that it speaks to people enough to continue sharing it. But there is still a little part of me that is tweaked.
I’m a Photographer. I make my money with my photographs. It’s all personal, but an image of my daughter is especially so. I wouldn’t know how to begin to do the math and calculate how many views this image has had, but certainly if I had been paid per click, Gracie would have a little extra nugget in her college fund and maybe a little left over for my 401k. You know? If my site had been linked on the re-shares, it would have driven traffic to my site and very possibly manifested into a few extra bookings. And, I have to say, that is a crap feeling. I still feel a bit burglarized and taken advantage of, even if the vast majority of people sharing would never had done so, if they had known the background story.
My point of posting isn’t to complain or whine. This folly isn’t much compared to many other image thievery stories out there. Mostly I just wanted to claim it and let everybody know that this image is mine. If you have pinned it or re-shared it, I first thank you. I make no demands, but I do have a favor to ask. If you’ve the time and you feel inclined, I would appreciate you re-pinning it with credit or maybe just Pinning this image as a public service announcement. My second request is your mindfulness now that you know. Please, if you would, just try and take a little extra second to be thoughtful of the artist behind the images you’re sharing. A few extra clicks deeper will often take you directly to their website and if you pin from there, it’s better for them. Writing their name or website is a kind gesture too. Please don’t ever upload images to Instagram, Facebook or any other sites if they are not yours and you don’t have permission. Teach your kids to do the same. They are very guilty of this, and they just don’t know any better. Teach them.
I don’t want to take the fun out of it. I don’t want to be a downer. I’m not asking you to do an in depth background check on every image you pin or share. I am there pinning with fervor right beside you, remember?. Still, everything in our world is moving way fast, not just digital art and it’s good and kind and right to make efforts to put 2 seconds of thought into these things we do online so compuslivly. Pin away and pin with speed, if you must. But please be mindful of the artists behind the images you are sharing. We’re sensitive and we’re hard on ourselves and we usually think our work sucks when it probably doesn’t. A little bit of credit, if not payment is meaningful to us (unless you’re Fit Pregnancy). I realize it’s not realistic to expect this kind of vigilance 100%, but it would be nice if it became a new norm of social engagement. A new rule in the book of modern social etiquette.
To the bloggers, advertisers and people who right click and rework images for your own profit or attention: You should really just stop. Seriously. Stop it.
Thanks for listening. I would appreciate you sharing this one. It’s important to me.