Creating an experience - Peering Over the Palace Wall - by Garth Clark at SOFA
Pandora's Box or Toolbox - COPYRIGHT of Photographic Images

Photo Permission & Copyright Issues - Is this hampering a dialog?

Hotbutton The previous post discussed the lecture by Garth Clark at SOFA Chicago and his tour of Metalsmith Exhibition in Print: Neo-Palatial (published by SNAG).  Clark concluded his talk by commenting on a hot button topic.  He suggested that images of art and craft should be made available copyright-free for the purpose of supporting and expanding critical writing and discourse. Copyright_symbol2

A rather radical idea.  But as I understand it, artists sometimes deny the use of their photos to writers.  Such artists commonly rationalize this behavior for two reasons:

Some artists don’t want photos of their work used in a non-approved context. In other words, they want to control how their work is seen, who is writing about their work, what is written about their work, which publications the article will be in, etc. The artists want complete and absolute control over their identity (or "brand") as an artist or maker.  I have heard that this is a small, but growing problem.

Bar Code Identity Necklace

Bar Code Identity Necklace © 2008
Plastic, vintage beads, recycled tin,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Some artists want to be paid for the use of photos. However, writers rarely have much of a budget for an article or book, much less extra money to pay for the use of an image.  Yet some artists are asking upwards of $1,000 per image -- and consequently, end up with no deal at all.

This problem was described by Garth Clark as hampering writers, authors, and lecturers to generate dialog and critical thinking within the art and craft media. I see his point and agree with his intent.  However, I don't see a need to stop using the fundamental copyright law that protects artists' work.

Close up view for seder plate by Harriete Estel Berman How Is This Night Different From All Other Nights? It would be much better for the arts and crafts community to share images of our work with our permission and free of charge.  We collectively have much more to gain by fostering greater awareness within and beyond our community.   It is unproductive to worry about the minuscule possibility that your reputation might be impacted by one writer's point of view. You may be surprised, but normally, both you and the community generally benefit from free-flowing dialog. Open the door to the possibilities.

How IsThis Night  Different From All Other Nights
How Is This Night Different From AllOther Nights © 2001   (full view)
Seder Plate constructed from post
consumer recycled tin cans,
Vintage steel dollhouses.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

There have been plenty of times when I've been surprised by the comments of an author.  It may or may not have been negative comments or critical evaluation.  Misrepresentation of my work with an incorrect interpretation or description is a common problem.

Get over it!  Anytime your work goes out into the public forum, this is a risk. It may be annoying, but it is not fatal.  It is more valuable to have people see and hear your name and the discussion. They wouldn't remember slight errors or recognize mistakes. So I suggest that you be bold, brave, and ready for an adventure.

Next week: The importance of quality images and documentation of your work to expand the critical dialog.


P.S. Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment?

This post was updated on January 22, 2022.