As a stay-at-home working mom of three, it can be a bit challenging to balance the needs of my beautiful kids while giving my clients the best service possible. Wet laundry is sometimes forgotten in the machine, dishes pile up in the sink and I'm still trying to work my way through four online photography courses. I'm two years behind on every cool TV series, and I catch up on the news through snippets on NPR and Yahoo. Daycare would make things easier, but I'm determined, utilizing the inherent powers of coffee and dark chocolate, to make it work so the little girls can make their messes and hit milestones at home.
Suffice it say I don't have the luxury of spending my time on banal news stories like this even if it's about my profession.
To be fair to ABC, they're simply reporting about what's trending on social media. Normally, this wouldn't catch my attention; however, I know a bit about the back story that wasn't reported.
Two days ago, a local respected colleague of mine became alarmed when a composite photograph that she created was digitally stolen and posted to a distasteful Facebook Page Which Shall Remain Nameless. Her image was of a new father in military dress uniform cradling his newborn who was draped in the US Flag. The Page is operated by an anonymous person(s) who posts images taken by other people and include an often sarcastic critique of the technical execution of the photographer. Images are typically watermarked by the photographer, although that isn't necessarily an indication that the photographer is a professional. It's common for amateurs and students to put a watermark on their photograph. The anonymous administrator(s) state that they use images that "have been sent in for critiques from the photographers themselves."
Except they didn't have permission to use my colleague's image. And what ensued was a scathing commentary about alleged misuse of the US Flag. My colleague was mortified and quickly messaged the Page administrators to report the copyright violation. She believes the image was stolen when she presented the image to a group of baby photographers while seeking help about creating the composite (baby and father were photographed separately and the images were merged) The Page took down the image and instead used a photo by Vanessa Hicks, the unwitting photographer who is now fighting a backlash of controversy and, I suspect, cleaned house in a mad panic before news crews arrived to film that ABC piece. (I'm totally guessing that Miss Hicks works from home, but if she does it seems logical that she subscribes to the universal method - I Get More Housework Done In The 60 Minutes Before Company Arrives Than I Do All Week.)(Heh, heh... I said 60 Minutes while talking about an ABC story.)
Now, I don't know if the Facebook Page Which Shall Remain Nameless had Miss Hicks' permission to post her image, but the administrator(s) went on to the belittle the service member in the photograph by name and Miss Hicks for what he/she perceives to be a violation of the US Flag Code. And the Page has re-posted my colleague's image. Now, I'm not active duty so I can't speak to the career ramifications of violating Flag Code. And I'm not an attorney, but I doubt this violates any flag related law (United States v. Eichman.)
But I'm pretty damn sure that unlawful use of a photograph violates US Copyright, and it's a sad, sad day when a photographer(s) does it to another photographer and then hides behind anonymity and illogical arguments. The Facebook Page Which Shall Remain Nameless defends their posts by stating "Let's stop and be real here for a minute shall we? Our page is nothing but a business review page. We see a bad photographer, we review their work publicly for others to see. Are business reviews considered bullying? If I go to a restaurant and their food is always cold and I say so on my page, is that bullying them? No. Sorry. It's not. Stating the truth about a bad business is not bullying. It's what the public deserves."
But, how can you review a business that you never hired?
If you're still reading this, you might be wondering why they are Nameless (because bad behavior doesn't deserve attention or notoriety) and what this has to do with VHP?
I've been educating my clients that, if they post images to the Internet, please use low-resolution, watermarked images to deter theft or unauthorized use. It won't eliminate the possibility of misuse, but it's harder to use a low-res image for marketing purposes and printing. I respect my clients, and I don't post sneak peaks to my blog or social media sites if they request it. I have two gorgeous wedding couples that are not featured in my portfolio because they asked me to keep the images private. Yep, it sucks for marketing reasons, and, okay, vanity - I took this! Ermergersh, I love it! Hire me! - but sometimes people just have serious concerns about privacy.
If you are military personnel and would like to have a photo of your new baby with the US Flag, I will gladly oblige. Then again, I just might send you over to my colleague, the local baby photographer, as her composite image was the bee's knees.
The author, Valerie Hawkins, was born on Flag Day which grants her inherent authority on all ethical matters of Flag Use.
Alright, perhaps not - but how many of you had to Google "When is Flag Day?", hmm?