From Olivier C Laurent’s tweet to the Medium piece by Fred Ritchin called “Where Do We Go From Here” A wake-up call for visual journalism in the “post-factual” era; to the Four Corners’ website where they’ve made code available for your if you run a WordPress blog and to the form you can fill with metadata for your image.
Olivier is a photo editor at the TIMES’ photography website. Fred Ritchin is Dean of the School at the International Center of Photography. He is author of Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen.
The Medium article discusses photojournalism and ethical practices but I feel the ethics apply to us all. It is better to tell all than leave anything to the viewers’ assumption, especially if you’re responsible for conveying news. While I don’t really provide “news” on Naina.co, I do provide documentation of what I do. As much as possible, in the words that accompany my photo stories, I try to give context. I try not to remove elements from my images – the ones in which I am the subject – and I also try not to do that when I’m photographing for commercial clients.
If an image is too cluttered, it’s just too cluttered and might not be a good image to show to the audience anyway. Removing elements from it just means more work for me – I do my own post-production and re-touching.
Fred is right. Instead of bemoaning what has become of photography, we must look at evolving it. I’ve used the Four Corners code for the self-portrait below – if you hover over the image, you get tiny icons that you can then further hover over and click on to know more about this images.
The fields in the form provide text boxes where one can add details like backstory and copyright and description and details of how the image was edited etc. And a “codeof ethics”.
It feels a little clunky as of now – they plan to release a WordPress plugin, where it will get easier to add metadata to each image. Currently one has to manually fill out a separate form for each separate image and then upload it individually as well. Tedious and will not gain widespread adaption any time soon. ( You could use the same metadata file for a set of images within the same series I suppose. )
The Four Corners code also doesn’t ensure that if someone copies this image from my blog, the metadata will go along with the image. Adding that might incentivize photographers to use the plugin more. Considering how most photographers struggle with the daily reality of their work being stolen, plagiarized or misappropriated in the Internet world, this will be a great addition. I can’t see how it can be done though. It is currently in the form of a text file, which is easily manipulated or deleted. I currently add keywords and copyright notices to all my images using Adobe Lightroom’s inbuilt tool. But these too can be scrubbed clean. Everything’s hackable.
The one thing that a lot of international photo editors seem to be opposed to is photographers adding watermarks to their images that are then shared / uploaded online. I don’t understand this resistance. Adding a well-designed, small-sized watermark to an image, in one corner, is one of the most reliable ways of trying to maintain “some” form of copyright. Yes of course a watermark can be removed as well, but it is the act of removal that can be argued – in a court of IP law – that is criminal. ( I’m not a lawyer – as you can probably tell from the usage of words in this paragraph. ) Actively obscuring copyright is more legally challenge-able than not having a watermark and letting anyone make merry with your work.
There might be other uses for this Four Corners thing though. For example, adding links to a store where prints of the photograph can be purchased – but one can already do that by adding “<a href=””></a>” The only restriction is that you can only add one link there. With Four Corners, you can add multiple links. One could send the viewer to a store, the other to the photographer’s website and yet another to a link where press articles about the photographer can be see and read, further adding credibility to their work.
The “Backstory” is usually part of the words that accompany my images on this blog – as text. Hovering over the image to replicate the same backstory might only help with additional SEO benefits, nothing more.
It is an interesting development. One wonders where all this is going. And one hopes one will be able to find ones way wherever it does go. It’s a mad, brand new, shiny world, with newer issues and problems and hopefully new solutions and a way to evolve as well.
Meanwhile, is that a good selfie or what?! My self-absorbed self wants to get a canvas print and hang it up on the wall that is currently reserved for family portraits.
Don’t forget to enjoy your art. Not everyone’s meant to be a photo journalist. Or capable of carrying that burden.