Recently I attended a lecture given by an expert in a field to which I am passionately involved. I was really looking forward to this lecture and I have on many occasions actively promoted this lecturer. To get to the point, I was stunned to recognize that the third photo into the slideshow was one of my own photos, and it was presented without acknowledgement. I sat stupefied listening to the rest of the lecture. I hoped that no other photos of mine were part of the presentation. Unfortunately that was not the case. One of the last photos presented was one of my best selling photographs and the audience was audibly moved by the photo. It would have been so simple at that point to say something like, “Thanks to Kim Smith, the photographer, who is here with us this evening.”
The following morning I wrote the lecturer a very polite email stating that I don’t mind sharing my work. I simply requested that he use any one of several photos that I attached for him, with my name discreetly added in the lower right corner. In reply I received a curt and condescending note from the lecturer stating he would delete my photos from his presentation and from his files.
I spent three freezing hours before a long workday in a windy wet field hoping to get that shot that the lecturer was using as part of his presentation. Taking credit, either by claiming it as your own, or by lack of acknowledgement is unethical, at the very least. I really empathize with people who experience more extreme cases of appropriation. Some may find this case to be relatively minor; I found it totally unnerving.
I love to share information and photos about wildflowers and butterflies—as my new friend Hannah says, “You are working for the butterflies.” I blame myself for not watermarking the photos, although I believe very sincerely that most people are honest, have integrity, and give credit when credit is due. For example, when Maggie Harper, the producer from the television show Chronicle, borrowed my Greasy Pole footage, they not only ran my name across the top of the footage, they also provided a link to my blog on the Chronicle website. Maggie had seen the footage on Good Morning Gloucester and contacted Joey, who graciously provided her with my contact information. From the Chronicle link, I received many thousands of hits on my own blog. As another example, when a non-profit national wildflower organization wanted to use several photos for their publication, I gladly said yes, and only requested that I receive a photo credit, which they did provide. I am honored and touched beyond measure that people enjoy my photos and films. My policy is the same as many artists in that I request that if someone wishes to use my work for presentation, that they would please let me know, prior to use.
Enough with all that. Many have written requesting information about this year’s Monarch Butterfly migration. I have been shooting daily hours and hours of video and still photos and will be sharing all. I have figured out how to add a watermark in photo shop, but am hoping to find a more efficient and faster method of adding a signature.
Happy Last Days of Summer!
Many more photos from this year’s migration to come.