"Art is an act of the soul, not the intellect....a sacred transaction..." ~Julia CameronA 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.
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.
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.