Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Art...The Sacred Transaction

by Kelly

"Art is an act of the soul, not the intellect....a sacred transaction..." ~Julia Cameron
A sacred transaction.  An intimate conversation.  A dialog between the artist and observer.  This is how I have come to think of my photography...my Art.  And this is why I felt so violated when I learned that one of my images had been used without my permission in a creative lifestyle publication.


Yesterday I was able to speak to the editor of the publication.  She was incredible gracious, and I believe, profoundly embarrassed.  She listened to my frustration and exasperation attentively and sincerely apologized for the oversight. In addition, the editor promised to look into the situation to make sure it doesn't happen again.

I truly do not believe that this was intentional act of theft.  But whether image stealing is done with malicious intent of trying to pass off someone else's art as your own, or it's a case of laziness and not wanting to go through the proper channels to get consent, in either case, using a person's image without his/her permission is wrong.  Period.

Recently, another blogger I follow reported that someone had stolen a photo of her beloved dog (who had died back in the fall) from her Instagram account and used it to create an internet meme.  She was rightfully furious and found the account who hijacked her photo.  In her IG post sharing the story, the overwhelming majority of those commenting were voicing their support for her rights and ownership of the photo in question.  But there were a few dissenters....their comments were along the line of, "what's the big deal...it's a silly picture your dog...you put it out there...it's your own fault." And this is what I find to be so troubling...the idea that once you put something out on the internet it is fair game and available for public use.

But I get it....thievery, violation, outrage...it sounds so melodramatic.  And in my case, it's a photo of my coffee cup, some garden blooms, and a couple of old books on my kitchen table.  This is not high-art.  This photo will never grace the wall of prestigious art galleries.  But it's the not the point.  It's my photograph...it's my art.  From inception to execution, I created every facet of this photograph.  And it's profoundly personal.

For example, I doubt if this publication knew or cared that I grew these flowers in my front garden.  That I tended to them for an entire year.  And what a source of pure joy it was to have flowers blooming in February while both of my parents were very ill - my dad just getting released from the hospital after a bout of pneumonia and my mom still battling a wicked virus.  They don't know how these hellebores touched my weary soul and lifted my spirits.  And I doubt if they knew or cared that I have been practicing calligraphy for two years - that the act of creating this simple tag was a quiet moment of real connection for me.  And those books? They were purchased when I was out 'junkin' with mom a couple of years ago on a brighter, happier day.  The wooden spools a gift from my BFF so many years ago - they had belonged to her beloved grandmother.  And sitting there in the sunshine at my kitchen table...one of the sunniest spots in my house during some of my darkest, most anxious days.  


My photo isn't just a random collection of props to me.  This is my life...this is my Art.

For me Art starts with an initial inspiration that I invite into life.  Such as hellebores.  Then based on my interests and passions (in this case a love of gardening, photography, and calligraphy), inspiration will eventually evolve into ideas.  These ideas will get filtered through my world view and life experiences.  And after enough incubation time, an image will start to take shape according to my sensibilities and creative vision.  Finally, new Art is made.... something original and brand new is sent out into the world.

Art comes in - Art comes out.  And in the process, it heals and touches both the Artist and the observer.  This is the sacred transaction.

No doubt, Art means a lot of things to a lot of people.  But I have to come think of true Art as an expression of the soul.  Art is personal - or at least I believe it should be.  And in my case, I create Art from 1) a deep-seated need to find inspiration, joy, and magic in my ordinary life and 2) a profound desire to uplift others by putting beauty, love, and light into a sometimes dark and cruel world.  Again, that's why having someone steal my photograph and publish it without my knowledge and consent feels like a violation.

This is not the first time we've discussed this issue.  I'm specifically thinking of Leigh and a photo of her children being passed around the internet without her consent. And sadly, I'm afraid it won't be the last....whether it's one of us contributing to FOL or you, our kindreds, who continue to make brave, bold, beautiful, personal, inspiring Art.  So just for the record, I am putting this out here into the inter webs one more time...the practice of taking Art without permission is NOT okay.  It's a personal violation.

As I wrap up this post, I would just like to thank all of my friends/artists who offered words of encouragement and support as I navigated this issue.  And that's the real irony here...because I have found that true artists are as kind as they are generous.   Gracious individuals who are happy to share their art with the world...all they ask in return is integrity, honesty, and respect.

I would love to get your feedback about this issue.  Please share with us any issue you've had with image theft and how you were able to fight back and/or move on.

Until next time.

Kelly

P.S.  One last note...although it is stated in our Flickr overview, please remember that by adding your photos to our group you are granting us permission to use your photo in our weekly Focus on You feature.  Thank you to all of you who continue to share your beautiful Art with us.




40 comments:

Kate TerHaar said...

Last year I noticed a photo (not mine but someone I follow on Flickr) in a very popular lifestyle magazine that was not given photo credit, in fact since the photo was used in an article written by and about another photographer. I contacted both the magazine and the photographer and heard back from both. The photographer was unaware his photo was being used. The editor also, as you said, "She listened to my frustration and exasperation attentively and sincerely apologized for the oversight. In addition, the editor promised to look into the situation to make sure it doesn't happen again." I sure hope it wasn't the same publication......Bella Grace by Stampington.
My conversation with the editor continued for several emails as she promised to look into things. I was very disappointed in the magazine and to this day, do not necessarily trust their content.

AFishGirl said...

There are times I just abhor the Internet. Hearing this, reading this, make me want to go back in the hidey hole. It's why my blog remains private and why 90% of what I shoot on Flickr I mark "friends and family." I had an Explore a short while ago and after the momentary whoooeeee of seeing this views rack up, mostly I felt uncomfortable with thinking that this photo was being viewed by people I don't know. Theft is theft. Period. Copyright is copyright. I'm sorry to read this happened to you. I understand about your creation of your work, all that you write about it here. It's certainly disheartening to read this. I shake my head, it's sad. It really is.

Beverly said...

First Kelly, your images are always stunning...the one in mention is simply breathtaking! I do however find it very shameful that a large, well known publication would seemingly not know they were using images without the proper permission. It doesn't seem logical that they have such lax procedures that would remotely get by with this, especially once they are confronted. Now after this incident I'll have reservations about their credibility. I understand how easy it is for an image to be downloaded, but to have the audacity to publish it in a magazine is so unethical. I've experienced (not from a publication) the "apologizing profusely, the embarrassment, and the "I'll follow up" but in the end it doesn't change the situation, nor make for a comforting outcome. I'm very sorry you are the one that experienced this!! A well written post!

kelly said...

@Kate - I too was unaware that my photo was being used until it was pointed out to me by a fellow photog. We are a tight-knit group no? Champions of each others' art and watchdogs when necessary. :) Thank you for sharing your story.

@Pam - I know exactly what you mean...it's such a tightrope for me...wanting to share and be authentic but trying to preserve my privacy. Thank you for getting the dilemma and for sharing yourself with us.

@Beverly - Thank you friend for the kind words. I too don't understand how this is still an issue. It's such a simple fix - write an email, ask for permission. I guess we will just have to continue to be vigilant.

Lisa Comperry said...

I agree, write an e-mail, ask for and get permission first..No complicated forms to fill out, with e-mail, the permission granted is on record..As Kate mentioned, it makes us readers feel violated to find that we may not be able to trust the content of our favorite publications :-/

Dotti said...

You already know how I feel about this, Kelly. I was so heartbroken when I learned of this sacrilege against your Art. It makes me sick whenever I hear about it but when it happens to someone who is a dear friend, as you are, it hurts my heart. As for the publication, I'm not encouraged that amends will be made after reading Kate's comments. It sounds similar to what you and I heard yesterday. I don't subscribe to either magazine and I certainly won't now even though some of our photography circle friends have been legitimately featured in both these publications. No matter how 'easy' it is to lift a photo off the internet, there is the moral obligation to do what is right. What is being done is not right. As someone pointed out, if this publication were to 'lift' a photo that has already been sold with exclusive rights, somebody's going to be in one big heap o' trouble! Your post is very well-written, from the heart as we always say around here, and beautifully expresses your passion about this subject and echoes what we all feel about our own. We're with you in this fight. All we can do is be vigilant and if we see it happening again, make sure the artist to whom the photo belongs knows and can take appropriate action.

terriporter said...

I was absolutely appalled when I read about this, Kelly! I know images are being "stolen" every day but for a respected publication to do so is so disturbing! A year or so ago someone on IG began posting my images as their own. I can't even remember how I found out about it but when I went into their gallery, there were several of my images posted. I messaged the person and asked them to take them down, which they did, but I still felt violated. Unfortunately your image was published and could not be taken back. I hope your calling it to their attention will help keep this from happening to someone else. You are right that this community, both the one here at FOL and the photography community at large, is a tight-knit group and I hope we will all continue to be vigilant and report it if we see this type of violation. I am so sorry this happened to you but I think you have brought to light a situation that we all need to be aware of. Hopefully this publication will realize they need to get permission from the artist before publishing photos.

Lisa said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you. This is one of the resins I don't like to share photos of my kids or family online. I have in the past, but it's rare that I do that. Regardless, using someone photo without permission is wrong. I'm glad you were able to get some resolution but you can't unring a bell and that's what is so frustrating. Perhaps you'll need to start watermarking your beautiful photos.

Susan Licht said...

I echo what Terri wrote, appalling and disturbing and I believe it's happening far too often. They can apologize left and right but obviously it's already published and they got what they wanted...for free. Like you, I feel this is a personal violation and should not be tolerated. Let's continue to keep our eyes out for one another and always have each other's backs. So sorry to hear about this, Kelly.

CarolHart said...

Very well written Kelly and I know exactly how you feel. You have every right to be put out...I'm put out for you and all the other artists who bravely share their work. The sharing of our art is something that lifts all of us up. We learn, we are inspired from what we see. I find it ironic for a publication firm who describes themselves as a "creative lifestyle magazine", would repeatedly violate the creative trust. With Kate's comments above I now know of 5 people who have had their images stolen from this publication firm. I know we are all told "that we should expect this to happen when we share on the internet. We need to move on, get past it, because there is nothing we can do." I have to say that I disagree with that sentiment. We need to stand up, be vocal, and stand together. Articles like the one you have just written Kelly is a good start. We all need to bring attention to this problem for the sake of future creatives, not just for ourselves. You've done a good thing here Kelly.

Renuko Style said...

Kelly if I had seen this photo in a publication I would know it was yours immediately. We each have our particular style and that's what indeed makes it ours. I am very disappointed to hear of this issue again and again. After all, what does it take really to send a private message and ask permission. We would all say yes of course. So what is the problem? Thank you for posting this article, speaking up is indeed the best if not the only way to handle it.

Caz Sultz said...

Hello Kelly, As the other 'victim' in this particular situation, I echo your eloquently written words . I was shocked when another photog friend congratulated me on having my photo published . I obviously didn't have a clue what she was talking about , and then I realized that you probably didn't know either ! It's unbelievable that a publishing company like Stampington have the nerve to do this. Although we both called them yesterday, I actually have no doubt that it will happen again and again . I'm not sure there is a solution unfortunately . Thank you for expressing yourself and sharing here . All we can do is to continue to look out for each other .

kelly said...

Thank you all so much for the kind words of encouragement and support! I do want to clarify one thing...both Caz and I were credited properly for our work. I DO NOT feel as if this was outright piracy. My issue is with not being asked permission and not being notified that it was published.

I do so appreciate that you all get why I was upset. It is such a comfort to know that I am among friends - fellow artists on our own creative journeys. It truly touches my heart. Thank you so much!

beth said...

kelly... this is fascinating to me and ironic, because i used to think maybe i wouldn't care if that happened. i mean, i'm such small potatoes!! i have never liked putting a watermark/signature on my images b/c of the disruption that brings to the eye. i found an image of mine in a magazine recently that i'm not sure i gave permission for... i had written previously for the publication and had given permission for images from my flickr feed to be included, but hadn't given permission for the other image i saw in a different month's publication. (then again, i'm not sure i looked carefully at anything...!) i was credited... but i was also surprised bc i didn't give permission for it. rereading the above i can see we are talking about the same publication... which is ironic again, b/c i'm working on another feature for them!!

cheryl Crotty said...

This is all very interesting...it makes one take pause and wonder what these supposedly "reputable" publications are up to. I have always said someday I would submit to Stampington. I love writing and taking photo's to go with my writing. After hearing so many stories like Kelly's, I think not. Honesty and trust should be everyone's goal. This publication thinks they should be excluded from a good faith practice. Like Kelly, I photograph and write from the heart. I would hope to have the respect that I deserve for my efforts and my time, along with my talent. Having said that, I just bought my last issue of Bella Grace...thanks for all of you for sharing.

kelly said...

@beth - thank you for your comment...and I think you bring up an excellent point. Suppose I had never found out about it. I'd still go on doing what I do...like you, I consider myself pretty "small potatoes". I wouldn't be here with my knickers all in a twist and the world would just go right on spinning. And my issue is not that my image appears in this publication - I am a big fan of their work. I totally get what they are trying to do and I have pondered many time submitting my work to them. The great irony here is that I never really felt like my stuff was good enough! ;)

It's also not that I mind for someone to use my photos...I work with an author and have given her permission to use my photos for any of her social media. I believe in what she doing and feel like we have great alignment. But it's the respect that come from asking permission first. I think there is a new generation that believe if it's on the internet it belongs to everyone. I'm hoping to set the record straight on that. xoxo

kelly said...

@Cheryl - Thank you so much for your kinds words. My hope with post was bring attention to the practice of using photos without permission and consent....not to discredit any one publication or company. The truth is that I have been a big fan this company for many years. And I hope to remain one...with the proper channels of image use in place.

Bev1 said...

Kelly you have so many wonderful gifts and it's just so very wrong what happened here and what continues to happen with the Art that is so generously shared with the world each and every day.
I agree whole heartedly with Carol Hart that this issue simply can't continue to be brushed under the rug. It hasn't and won't be resolved in silence and the offenders need to be made accountable or called out at the least.
Awareness is key but education and understanding are absolutely critical if a difference is ever going to be made regarding this problem.
I would love to see your eloquent post go viral. The more people reached, the greater the messages impact. Thank you for the beauty and inspiration you so generously share. My heart goes out to you and Caz.

b"E"th edwards ( : said...

i have followed this blog forever, thanks to several of the ladies who speak here ... for me personally i always wonder about the rules. like some where, i believe it was on FB they were saying that Picmonkey fonts are not protected by copyright. so then i started thinking well i use them on my photography when i put them on my blog so does that mean if some one decides to use my photo on their blog or whatever account is that considered taking my work or what? do i have to state on my blog that you can not use my work without my permission and then it becomes copyrighted or? at one time i used the option of paying for Picmonkey but then thought why am I paying when i get plenty of fonts for free. so i quit. my brother and I talk about things like this all the time ... so i take a photo. that is my photo but then i put it on a website, & google takes that photos and it is out there in the google land ... so it is still my photo ... but what keeps a person from taking it and using it themselves? i know & i understand that (i am a christian person, but what does that mean to some?) to me if you are mean you & will use others work without thinking about it ever again, until you do in fact get in trouble? me ... i always do give credit to authors & whatnot when i am speaking about a books or music. is there a website that gives us the rules? what is right & wrong? or do you just go with what is right in your heart? i am curious ... do you use a "watermark" as they call it in your photos? so when some one else uses your photos it will be there & can be seen? i do. that is why i am asking? i am truly sorry to hear of this frustration. i have heard of it happening to several bloggy friends. i wonder what or where it will lead in the future, will things change or will it continue to get worse? so sad. i guess you have to be a nice person, be there for you friends and when you see their work being used without their permission have their back. what else is a blogger/photographer, etc. to do? i guess on the other side, i hope and pray they will most feel sad they overstepped and never do it again in the future. most people mean well, they just don't know the rules. when you know better, you do better. i think that is the saying. ( :

Cathy H. said...

Kelly, I'm so sorry this happened to you. Your post is so well written. It's heartbreaking that we can't trust large publishing companies to do what is right.

Caz Sultz said...

Kelly, you said exactly what I was thinking.....I've held off from submitting any of my work to them because I didn't think it was good enough. Now I've been published and I feel no joy really, whereas if I had submitted work and been published I would have been so thrilled ! Oh well, onward and upward as they say......

Susan Licht said...

I've been thinking about this all day and now I'm wondering..are any photographers paid for their work/articles for this publication? Seems to me that they have a pretty good deal going on, they charge a large sum of money for their magazine but get all their submissions for free (or stolen). Pretty sweet deal indeed.

kelly said...

@Bev1 - Thank you so much for your kind words. I totally agree with you that education and understanding why an artist's right are so important. So appreciate your input. xo

Susan said...

I completely agree with you Kelly, about this being a personal invasion of your heart and soul. If someone has never had their privacy invaded and stolen, then its hard to understand the gut wrenching feeling you get when it happens to you or your loved one. I personally have never had a photo stolen, but our home was broken into years ago, with my teenage daughter at home. As they grabbed her jewelry box while she hid under the bed, a photo of her deceased grandfather fell to the floor. She kept her eyes focused on that photo, praying for her life. We sold that home immediately for fear of her safety. I know the jewelry and photos had absolutely no meaning to them what so ever, but our lives were changed forever that horrific day! Im so sorry that this happened to you, as I know how priceless your art is to you and all it stands for. You have written a very heartfelt post and I adore your photo and all it stands for. Hopefully, you will heal from this invasion of privacy and thievery! Keep up the beautiful work...we love seeing your art in all its beauty!

kelly said...

@b"E"th edwards - Thank you so much for your support all these years...we are so grateful to have you as part of our community. You have brought up some really good, important questions...and yes, when we know better, we do better...so true. Below is my VERY LIMITED understanding of the two main types of copyright licenses as it pertains to images (I googled it and you can also check out https://creativecommons.org/about/):

1) All Rights Reserved means that I retain all rights to my images and any unauthorized use of my images without express and written permission is strictly prohibited.

2) A Creative Commons license allows others the right to share and use any image that I have created. I still own the image, but am allowing others to add to my work.

Depending on your desire for your art, I think it is a good idea to state your copyright and terms of use clearly on your blog or website. That's something I am planning to do ASAP. In Flickr, you can change your licensing settings in your main account settings (privacy and permissions tab). I have mine set to all rights reserved.

That's how it should work...but we both know that it doesn't always work that way. There is really no way to prevent image theft...And for me the notion of policing the internet for illegal use of my stuff seems like a lot of time that could be better served creating. As far as water-marking - well it's an option. I don't personally care to do it since I am not in "business" per se...I'm not trying to market or brand myself which is often what a watermark is used for.

I'm like you in that I want to believe that most people are trying to do the right thing but I also know that there will always be others that either maliciously try to misuse my art. Once again, I would just like to reiterate that I do not believe that was the case with my image...I honestly think it was a matter of not taking the extra step to send an email.

Thanks again Beth for your input and for taking the time to join the conversation! xo

kelly said...

@Cathy H - thank you so much friend. xoxo @Caz - exactly!! xoxo

kelly said...

@Susan - Man...I hear ya...there's a cynical part of me that is like 'why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?' It's a crude analogy, but you're so right on...it's a VERY valid question.

But then again, you and I and this larger circle of photographers we know...we are familiar with the work of the many of the contributors. We get to enjoy the beautiful imagery and writing and spirit of their work - We know many of their blogs and follow them on Flickr and IG. I want to believe that the mission of the publisher is reaching a wider audience - outside of our familiar, talented network - and touching the lives of others who aren't as fortunate as we are to get to see the beauty they create everyday. Does that make sense??

Thank you so much for your input Susan...I feel so blessed that our paths crossed a few years ago and so appreciate your encouragement and support. xoxo

kelly said...

@Suz B Oh my heart...I can only imagine how gut-wrenching it must have been for you as a mother and for your entire family. While clearly my life or the life of a loved one was no in danger in my situation, at the core it is this idea of taking something that doesn't belong to you. And that's just not right.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. And thank you for continuing to be such a wonderful friend of FOL...we so appreciate you and the beautiful art you share. xoxox

Kate TerHaar said...

...so if this publisher has been "caught" using others photos before without permission and/or attribution... why are they continuing the practice especially when the editor promised to look into the situation to make sure it doesn't happen again?
Personally, I have a Creative Commons attribution on my photos but alway appreciate when I am asked to use them. Those of you that have All Rights Reserved have every right to expect that attribution to be followed.

Beverly said...

Kate T. that question is the very one I have as well.

Denise Fabian said...

I have chimed in about this on FB and my feelings are well known. I just wanted folks to know I contacted them today and this is certainly not over.

kelly said...

@Kate @Beverly - you are so right on...it is a big issue and one that needs to addressed AND corrected if the publication wishes to thrive with any sort of integrity. thank you so much ladies for bringing your insights into this conversation. xo

kelly said...

@denise thank you for sharing your thoughts! so appreciate the sign of support!

Carol said...

Getting to this late tonight and just want to add that , like everyone else I am infuriated by this. You have beautifully written about the reasons for feeling violated and I couldn't agree more. You are more than tolerant and generous with your forgiveness, but this is just wrong.

kelly said...

@carol thank you so much for the kind words. xoxo

Roxi Hardegree said...

I think this is a huge deal. And I know they have a section in a certain publication that is 'Internet finds'. Probably exactly where you guys ended up. If they get enough complaints perhaps they will eventually do something. But they also know it's a huge'honor' to get published and no, they don't pay anyone except their writers I believe.

Marilyn said...

Kelly, your images have your definitive artistic style. We all know that style. It's beautiful and it is really your art. I'm just so devastated to think that Stampington is guilty of this little deed. I really have a hard time thinking it was a mistake. As I said on your IG, it made me think of the time I came home to find my home had been burglarized. It's such a feeling of violation. It's no different with our art/photographs.
P.S. I don't care if they do have a section called "Internet Finds", it's still stealing if they don't ask permission. I'll never feel the same about Stampington.

Kate TerHaar said...

@Roxi Actually, the photo I was concerned about showed up smack dab in the middle of an article written by a photographer/blogger. I mistakenly assumed that the photographer "borrowed" the photo when actually it turned out that the magazine added it themselves. So wrong in so many ways.

kelly said...

@roxi - I think you have touched on something very important here - This idea that I should feel 'honored' that they selected my image...that they have done me a big favor. Something about that feels really icky to me. And like Caz mentioned, if they had asked for my permission before publishing it, I WOULD feel honored. And grateful.

I so appreciate your support Roxi...there's a part of me that thinks, "Jeez Kelly...get over yourself...it's just a picture of a coffee cup." And that is exactly why this post was so important for me to write. Thank you for getting that. xoxo

kelly said...

@Marilyn - Thank you so much for the kind words. Once again, my goal in writing this post was not to discredit any one publication. A similar thing happened to another photog friend of my in a local city publication...she is a professional portrait photographer and they used one of her photographs without asking and without notifying her. The sad thing is that this is happening all the time. My hope was to bring awareness to the situation and shed light on why it wrong and hurtful. Thank you so much for your input and for being part of the conversation. xoxo

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