Papercuts and Curses

Harriet Bennett's Album Panel 30

Last year I uploaded a collection of Victorian portrait photographs to a set entitled ‘Harriet Bennett’s Photo Album‘.  Swollen with the sharing spirit of the Internet, I gave the images a permissive Creative Commons Licience.  My hope was that they might act as a prompt or support for other people’s creative projects.

The first instance of this hope being realised is ‘Papercuts and Curses‘ by Sam Meekings. It uses my scanned image of a young and now anonymous aquaintance of Harriet Bennett to illustrate a story about a young adventurer.  Sam begins his story with a liberating broadside against an old writing cliche:

The standard advice to those thinking of becoming writers is to write what you know. The fact that this is clearly the most ridiculous and restrictive piece of advice imaginable does not seem to put people off from repeating it again and again. Edward Gregory Charles was determined to follow it to the letter: with the pragmatism typical of the late nineteenth century, he made it his mission to fill up his mind with experiences.

Read the entire piece on Medium (Twitter founder Evan Williams‘ new project).

I would be delighted if other authors (on Medium or elsewhere) wrote stories based on other images in the Harriet Bennett collection.

Astronauts Do The Coolest Things

Is there any organisation out there leveraging the Internet as effectively as NASA? Despite the loss of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011, the agency seems to be winning hearts and minds through its confident and open use of social media.

Of course, NASA’s PR department is assisted by expensive, state funded machinery and the spectacular images it creates. But this does not tell the whole story. I think a large part of the organisation’s communications success is down to the creativity and personality of the astronauts themselves… and NASA’s comfort at letting their personnel broadcast to their earth-shackled audience directly. Continue reading “Astronauts Do The Coolest Things”

Misunderstanding Creative Commons

I’m a fan of Creative Commons, the fantastic project that provides ready-made licences, with increasing degrees of freedom, that you can bestow on any content you create.

One thing I find amusing and irritating in turn is the inappropriate use of these licences. Over on Flickr, I see countless examples of people giving their snap shots an ‘All Rights Reserved’ licence, as if they are part of the Getty or Magnum elite.

There are thousands of examples of this, so I hate to pick on anyone.  But the latest example I have come across just happens to be the Flickr group for The Last Tuesday Society, a bizarre yet highly successful events company based in London.  Now, I’ve been to a couple of events that they have put on, and they are great fun.  Sexy, risqué, warped, funny.  They upload literally hundreds of snap-shots for each event they run, but Mr Victor Wynd uses a simple domestic camera with a built in flash, so, to be frank, they’re not all that impressive.  And yet bizarrely, there’s no way I can reproduce this photo, or that photo, or even this photo, because they are All Rights Reserved.

And that’s just silly.  The people taking and uploading the photos is in the business of promoting events, and so it would be in their interests for their images to be seen by as many people as possible.  Especially photos like this, which would, I’ll wager, sell a fair few dozen tickets if they appeared on a large news website or even in the Metro, or londonpaper, or London Lite.

And its not just companies that are guilty of this particular misunderstanding.  At the risk of alienating certain friends of mine, I do wonder why the images for mkultra, strangerpixel and rossfadam are not given a more liberal licence.  Doing so would surely bring their work to a wider audience, and may even increase the rate at which their images are used for editorial or illustrative purposes.  As we saw with the case of MC Yogi last year, providing some work for free (however high the quality) can lead to greater exposure, and paid for contracts, a short way down the line.

Amusingly, a more liberal approach has worked for me.  I recently found that one of my photographs has been included on the popular Schmapp website.  It is actually a rather average image, poorly lit and unimaginatively framed.  And its inclusion is also unlikely to make me any money.  However, it does mean an increased exposure for my Flickr stream, and also fulfils a particular purpose for the community.  A net gain all round?

The Botanical Gardens in Sheffield, September 2008
The Botanical Gardens in Sheffield, September 2008