Speaking of photo IP theft: In praise of photo piracy

Images by Merkley???.

Image by Cari Ann Wayman.

So, we’ve been pretty unsuccessful in tracking down the image in my previous post, which is both disappointing (I want to get the artist proper credit and see more of their work) but is also a very interesting real-world thought experiment. How exactly do you do the right thing with unattributed images, besides just not touching them at all?

This issue dovetails neatly into a very fascinating post *in favor* of contextual online photo distribution, the kind that a number of photographers actively advocate against. Here’s a snip from Dear photographers who restrict your hi-res images on Flickr/your portfolio/whatev (the blogger is a Tumblr user, BTW):

You do this because you think it will benefit you. You think that visitors to your portfolio or Flickr stream will try to find a way to hand you money to avoid visual blueballs, or you think it will prevent IP theft and thereby increase your chances of being approached by photo editors/art directors/gallery owners even though people in those influential, legitimizing positions constitute maybe 0.000001% of your current audience.

This thinking is wrong-headed. You are dumb.

You need to provide hi-res images so that people pirate them. By ‘pirate,’ I mean ‘pass them around,’ of course. You need as many people as possible coveting your work and showing it to others. It’s a strategy of odds. Some people will be like me and happily provide links and credit. Aggregators who make this effort attract a greater concentration of professionals (photographers and patrons alike) because we allow people with more than a passing interest the ability to spider outwards—what the internet was meant for. This is what separates Resources from Distractions.

Huge-ass JPGs are instrumental to all this.

If you have talent and vision, your brand will take care of itself. Think about Noah Kalina, Merkeley, Cari Ann Wayman, or other net-made photographers. Their visual styles are distinct. You know who shot those photos without having to see their name.

Individual images are less important than building a reputation for shooting captivating photos. Do great work and throw it to the wind. (…read more, syntheticpubes.com, thanks A!)

Update 06.10.09: In defense of remix culture, here’s the post 40 Examples of Incredible Photo Manipulation (thanks, Tim!), with this image — the explicit original versions here; entertaining derivative here:

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