Thank you for your  response to my post yesterday critisizing the way way certain photo agencies seem content to abuse the rights of indvidual photographers. I am sorry that we misunderstood you. Might that have something to do with upholding a logic that many people find is at odds with your self stated remit of ‘defending professional photographers’?

If you take that remit seriously and if you want others  (the one’s who are not desperate to grace the walls of your festival) to take you seriously, doesn’t it make more sense to embrace the digital world in which the vast majority of professional photographers produce their work?

To tell photographers not to use social network sites is a bit like suffering from agoraphobia and then insisting that nobody else in your family leaves your cave for fear the sky will fall on their heads. Let’s briefly look at two things.

  1. The use of the web by photographers
  2. Your attitude towards Morel

Many, many photographers successfully use social network sites and in fact many agencies actively encourage this because they rightly conclude that the danger of another agency stealing and selling their work is far less than having an invisible and therefore worthless product.

Photographers that have used social networks to promote work recently include Kashi, Nachtwey and Bleasdale.  David Alan Harvey’s Burn magazine is a social network site. Images can be stolen from it in exactly the same way as Flickr or Twitpic, infact the pictures on Burn are generally of a higher resolution.

How many other cases like Morel’s are you aware of? By putting his pictures on Twitpic he got them out to a huge number of people, at a time when the most important thing to him was that the public was aware of the magnitude of the crisis in Haiti.

Did the fact that he published his photos first on Twitpic stop any of the world’s major news outlets from publishing his photos also? No.

Did it stop any of them from paying for his photos?  No.

The only problem is that the money went in the wrong persons pocket and now they want to keep it, for which your comment to Olivier Laurent of BJP was:

‘AFP acted in good faith.’

Mr Leroy if that’s not defending them, then I’m a haricot vert.

Infact the majority of those news outlets who wrongly published Morel’s pictures have now paid him for his work.  So actually in many ways his strategy worked. And as stated above it’s a strategy pursued by many of the world’s major agencies.

Take Magnum. Just like Morel everyday they use Twitter to link to their images.

I continue to be perplexed by your unwillingness to accept that there is little difference in protection between publishing a photo on the Visa website and on Twitpic.

In your response to my taking images from the Visa website in the same way AFP took them from Twitpic (to demonstrate the hypocrisy of your comments) you write:

‘The images that are displayed on Visa’s website were  licensed for the use on Visa’s website, and, as stated by the  universally-recognized copyright sign at the bottom of the front page  where you stole the work of others, they are protected by copyright.  If you have some kind of viewing impairment that prevented you from  seeing this, please accept my apologies.’

This is the copyright sign that you are referring to:

But you are mistaken.  It refers to the website but not to any of the uncredited images that I copied from your website because Visa is not the copyright holder of those images, the photographers are. Infact  your use of copyright is almost identical to the sign at the bottom of the Twitpic page, the site that you call Morel an ‘amateur’ for posting his pictures on.

However if you want to be seen to really care about the rights of  photographers you may want to take a lesson from Twitpic who add the following text to their website under terms and conditions: Given the fact that your own website offers less explicit protection then Twitpic’s isn’t this a case of two standards, your own being lower than the website and the photographer you seek to denigrate?  That brings me to issue two, your attitude towards Morel and your bizarre analogy with car insurance. Let’s go along with the analogy for the sake of argument.

You are driving your car and an earthquake strikes. That earthquake destroys much of the city and kills tens of thousands of people. Within minutes this is the scene you are photographing (Morel’s words published in the New York Times and 100eyes magazine):

Destruction. Horror. Black. This place was hit by — I don’t know — hundreds of cruise missiles at the same time. I never saw anything like that. People, dead bodies were all over the place. And in minutes, I would say like 10 minutes, the street was full — full of dead bodies.  Everybody was panicked. Sobbing and dazed —people crying for help. Buildings collapsed—the Cathedral of St. Trinity, the Cathedral, the Iron Market, the Presidential Palace, the Palace of Justice, my father’s bakery. The principal manifestations, institutions, and symbols of my Haitian childhood were destroyed in less than a minute. There were aftershocks every 15 to 20 minutes which lasted from three to five seconds.”

And whilst you are doing the job of a photographer someone comes and steals your car, which they then sell through their showroom.  When you write to them to try and get compensation they write back to you saying that if you come near the showroom they will run you over.

Infact it was the first evening of the earthquake that Morel, after having just lived through the scene above, had a friend’s daughter help him upload the photos to Twitpic over a dodgy internet connection on the roof of a hotel. Both of them will have been in a state of shock.

I have to tell you honestly Mr Leroy many people are wondering in these horrific circumstances what kind of person who claims to represent photographers  (or otherwise) goes right out of his way to beat up on the guy for leaving his keys in the car rather than expressing outrage at the people who took his car and sold it?

Here’s a possible answer that to question.    Take a look at this screengrab from your website:

Three questions for you to answer:

  1. Isn’t it true that Visa has a business relationship with Getty, one of the companies who distributed Morel’s photographs and are now refusing to compensate him?
  2. Do you yourself derive benefit from that relationship?
  3. Given that Getty are one of the key sponsors of Visa is it possible that some of the money Getty received from the sale of Morel’s photographs could benefit Visa?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes there is an obvious conflict of interest. Nothing wrong with that. Conflicts of interest are a part of life. But it does mean that given your readiness to lay into Morel people will question your impartiality and ultimately your commitment to photographers, to journalism and to storytelling. That’s a shame considering how much of your life you have given to these things.

I’ll end with an extract from a comment one of our readers made in response to your attack on Morel:

‘If you left your keys in your expensive car, I would take the keys out and give them to you.’

Me too.

Yours Sincerely

Benjamin Chesterton (aka duckrabbit)

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

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