Who Owns An Image?

May 9, 2011

This blog is very dependent on the reproduction of other peoples work and I try to credit them when I know who is responsible. Often I copy photos and artwork from website where the creator is not named even though sometimes the identity of the originator is only a few clicks away. Nonetheless, I am aware of the possible risks associated with using people’s work without permission and the potential for accusations of hypocrisy in doing so.

Part of my justification is that I use these pictures, either to draw attention to the artist’s work or to comment on it in some way, and certainly there is no material gain for me in this.

An interesting angle on this is found via Fstoppers – a website for professional photographers.  In a video entitled The Stolen Scream,  photographer Noam Galai tells the story of how a single photograph of himself posted on Flickr has become a universal image.





Noam generously sees this circulation of his work as publishing rather than theft, though he draws the line at people making money out of his work (let alone his likeness). It does raise the question though of who owns an image and does the act of posting it online negate any claims. Noam himself gives the example of an artist not receiving any ongoing gain from a work hanging on the wall of a gallery.

I suspect that it is a forlorn hope to want to share in the profits from the use of work posted online.



Thank you Rotating Corpse. This picture comes from a fantastically daggy Hallmark book from 1976 called “Please Don’t Promise Me Forever” which Brittany at Rotating Corpse has scanned. Every page delivers a gem of wonderful picture and cringe-making verse.


Rotating Corpses is a collaborative site which features pictures and other artwork from a huge variety of sources. A place to idly browse for the odd, fascinating and the strangely pointless.

Unfortunately, their pages are not well indexed and their is a fair degree of pot luck with what you find. I do like this though from “The Curious Sofa” by Ogdred Weary (in fact Edward Gorey) some pages of which have been scanned for our pleasure.image

It was another time

February 7, 2009

In response to a challenge from a dedicated commenter, I am posting some of my old photos.

Two from Sydney 1971

Kings Cross Wall  

Kings Cross coffee

Two from the Melbourne Moratorium march as 1971


Corner Collins and Swanston

And one from a Led Zeppelin Concert also in 1971

Led Zepplin

Rennie Ellis

January 28, 2009


If it is summer holidays it must be time for photographic exhibitions. This time last year I wrote about an exhibition of photographs of August Sander at the Gallery of New South Wales. This year it is an exhibition of photographs by celebrated Australian photographer Rennie Ellis at the National Gallery of Victoria entitled No Standing Only Dancing


Some of Ellis’s wonderful documentary photographs set off some strong memories for me, particularly those from the early 1970’s. He took photographs at events and locations which exactly mirror one’s which I also took – Melbourne Moratorium of 1971, Hippies and Hare Krishnas in Kings Cross and others. Looking at mine, it is enough of a reminder of why he was a celebrated photographer and I was not!

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Do Play with Your Food

April 4, 2008

These are from a Russian website called Snowfall. I can’t find any hint as to who is the creator of these wonderful photos (or any other of the photographs on the site). They are too good not to post.

Jazz in B&W

February 22, 2008

Watching, and more importantly listening, to the wonderful jazz short Jammin’ The Blues I was struck by how beautifully jazz and black and white photography go together. This1944 film is particularly stylish to look at on top of the sensational jam session it records. It turns out that the film was directed by the Albanian born American photographer Gjon Mili. Mili spent most of his career as a photographer for Life magazine, including taking many cover shots.


Mili was an innovator and had a great ability to capture movement, sometimes enhanced by multiple exposures – a technique he also used in Jammin’ The Blues. The film, which features Lester Young, begins on a top view of Young’s hat. A similar image to one used a few years later by Herman Leonard in his 1948 photograph of Lester Young’s hat.

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I have a number of Herman Leonard’s photographs on my living room wall. Deep blacks, stark shadows, whips of smoke. They fill the room with music – complex , moody jazz.


To me, Herman Leonard is the great jazz photographer. His pictures are all atmosphere and music and of course could only be seen in black and white.

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Compare those photographs of Dizzy, Duke and Billie with the better-known but more formal photographs by William Gottlieb.

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No contest.

Incidentally, although many thousands of Leonard’s photographs were lost in Hurricane Katrina, fortunately for fans of these wonderful photographs, the negatives were saved. setstats

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The Art Gallery of New South Wales is currently showing a large retrospective exhibition of the work of Sidney Nolan, whose long career encompassed many styles and techniques and produced a great deal more than his best-known Ned Kelly painting. The exhibition does not disappoint, but for me it was overshadowed by another smaller, less well-publicised exhibition – that of German photographer August Sander on loan from the J Paul Getty Museum, entitled Extraordinary Images of Ordinary People.

August Sander was one of a number of photographers in the early 20th century who used the camera to record the diversity of human life. As he wrote “We know that people are formed by the light and air, by their inherited traits, and their actions. We can tell from appearance the work someone does or does not do; we can read in his face whether he is happy or troubled,”

For about 25 years, Sander photographed the people living in and around the area of Cologne where he lived. His aim was to document the physiognomy and body-language of all walks of life, in a monumental series entitled – People of the Twentieth Century. From 1909 until 1934 when the Nazis banned his portraits and he moved to taking architectural and nature pictures, he took many thousands of photographs of farmers, workers, officials and families. The genius of Sander was his ability to allow his subjects to speak for themselves. His photograph of a man in Nazi uniform can sit side by side with a portrait of a Socialist leader Paul Frölich with little indication of Sander’s own political view.

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Sanders photographs were published in various books including Face of Our Time and his work appeared in The Family of Man.

Although the Nazis and later a fire destroyed many of his negatives and photographic plates, many thousands of his pictures survive. The major collection of his work can be found at the August Sander Archiv in the Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung, Cologne.