Aside from posting my work here, I also have a Tumblr blog, Redzenradish Photography. Tumblr is one of those sprawling, digital media sites similar to Facebook, where artists can post their work, and others can repost the work of those artists. There are some Tumblr blogs that are considered curated sites where images are carefully chosen to be reblogged to a broader audience so that others can discover the work of photographers and artists whose work they might otherwise miss. For me, it’s been wonderful, not just to have my own work reblogged by some of these curated sites (Lensblr, Luxlit), but because it has also introduced me to photographers whose work continues to inspire me and with whom I’ve formed friendships both in the digital and in the real world. I’m grateful to have found a community of artists there who, for the most part, are very supportive of each other.
However, as it happens in the digital world, it’s easy to strip the metadata or marks of ownership of an image that then gets reblogged throughout the maze of rabbit holes inside the Tumblrverse. Sometimes, the only way to find the original creator of an image is to look for the word “source” under the image near the tags line. Hopefully, that will contain a link that will take you to wherever the person who posted or reblogged the image originally found that image, even if it doesn’t tell you the name of the original artist. Leaving out the artist’s name, but maintaining a generic “source” is considered enough “attribution” to prove someone isn’t taking credit for another’s work, which is good……except for one small thing–the name of the artist. It’s like going into a museum to see the Mona Lisa and finding beneath the painting only a plaque that says “source,” and you are then expected to go elsewhere to find the identity of the artist. On Tumblr, it’s not uncommon to find someone who obviously likes an image enough to reblog it, but not enough to provide the name of the artist. They provide only a small link (if that) that many viewers may gloss over, which creates more of an association between the image and the person who posted or reblogged it than between the image and the original artist because there’s no visual cue that identifies the artist. It’s a small thing, until you find someone whose work is truly inspiring.
In this example, copied from Tumblr, a blogger reblogs this image from someone who reblogged it from someone else, and the “source” is identified as “thejoyofweird,” only “thejoyofweird” isn’t the original artist. You wouldn’t know that until you click on the link that takes you to “thejoyofweird”‘s Tumblr site where you’d then find only the word “source” listed below the image, but with no name. Click on that and it takes you to a website entry from 2012 of artist and photographer, Diana Hobson. Further, the original image is in color and not in black and white. Did “thejoyofweird” convert this image from color to black and white when he or she posted it from Hobson’s website? While the image is also beautiful in black and white, it’s not how the original photographer created and posted the image.
As a photographer who posts her work on digital, social platforms, it’s no small thing to stumble across your work out there in the world and find someone else is using your image without permission or has altered it without permission. I have no idea whether thejoyofweird, who, ironically, also happens to be an artist, got permission from Ms. Hobson to convert Hobson’s image from color to black and white.
I suppose thejoyofweird’s anemic attribution is unavoidable in a digital world where everything is available and capable of being downloaded or copied and pasted. When I reblogged the reblog of Hobson’s image
from thejoyofweird, I did so because I wanted to bring proper attention to Hobson’s amazing work (I rarely post anything other than my own work on my site) and to mentioned the lack of attribution, with which thejoyofweird then took issue, commenting on my post that he or she did provide attribution because they provided a link to Hobson’s website (insert frowny face emoji). Apparently, to thejoyorweird, that’s enough. To avoid legal issues, that’s enough, but it doesn’t honor the artist whose work you admire enough to post by naming who they are
. To individuals like thejoyofweird, this may seem like a small thing.