An article about the freedom of sharing knowledge versus the fear to do it, so it is not misused; about what can and cannot be used as such when it is shared on the Internet; about fairness and honesty in the Internet age, or the lack of it. An article about the passion for photography, or the hunger for fame.
Inspiring from other photographers in the age of Internet. This is a tough subject to talk about because you generally do it after you’ve had a bad experience with how far this goes or you witnessed others having this experience. In my case it was both cases. I witness excesses to this every day at other photographers and it is happening to me too.
Before I go any further, I have to say that this is not one of my usual articles sharing my knowledge or sharing news about my photography activity. I apologize if you are not interested in this subject. You are free to not read this post if it is not of your interest, but even if it is based on personal experience, it is something that raises a higher concern, as it is a matter of principles in photography. This is why I decided to discuss it in this article.
This is an article I have to write with sadness because it has to do with the lack of fairness and moral values that I see in some cases in the photography community today and that may make those who share knowledge start being afraid to do it freely in the future. This would be a huge loss for everyone. The freedom of sharing knowledge and the freedom of receiving knowledge is fundamental for the progress of humanity and implicitly for the progress of art and photography.
Most photographers and artists I know are well intended and willing to follow their artistic vision and passion for photography, because they need to create something to express themselves, but there are a few who are here for hunting fame and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even using other people’s ideas, making those people wonder if it has any use to share their knowledge anymore.
Unfortunately, I was the victim of this lack of fairness and principles and I am not alone. So I am speaking now for all those who are in my situation.
I will use my experiences to speak about a larger issue we as artists sharing our knowledge and our work publicly, face everyday – inspiring from other photographers in the age of Internet an how far this can go. I will not mention names for now and I hope the situation will be solved before I need to take legal measures. I wouldn’t want to go as far as doing something that would harm someone’s image or career. I respect everyone, even the ones who do not respect me, and I believe in giving people a second chance and this is what I’m doing now, by not revealing any name. But on the other hand, this is a serious issue happening to many of us every day and I have to talk about it and demystify it.
SHARING FREELY MY KNOWLEDGE – THIS IS MY MISSION AND IT IS IN DANGER
I am a big believer in fairness and I would do everything so the truth prevails. I’ve always been like this, just like I’ve always been happy to share my knowledge and willing to help everyone asked me to, in photography and throughout my entire life. I have spent umpteen hours helping other people and sharing what I know with them.
Many of the people reading this blog and generally in the fine art photography community, know that I answer to all my emails or messages and I help everyone who needs me, without any reward than the joy of knowing someone was inspired and will be able to use this to become the artist they dream to be. I spend many hours of my time working with students and trying to give as much as I can to the photography community, so photography as a whole can become better and give more satisfaction to the artists creating it. It is my mission to do so and I couldn’t keep the things I know and the things that help me just for myself. It would be such a loss. This is why I openly share everything and I’m happy when people are inspired and happy themselves.
But these days, after the experience I had, I’m wondering if I should keep sharing or just keep what I know for myself.
SHOULD WE CONSIDER WHAT WE FIND ON THE INTERNET AS OUR OWN PROPERTY?
I’ve had different experiences with finding my work used without permission but one of these experiences was more serious and made me think deeper about the issue I address with this article. It is an issue that started a few years ago when I first launched the concept of (en)Visionography. A couple of weeks after I first published about (en)Visionography I found the same concept in someone else’s blog and social media without any credit to me or even an explanation of what inspired this person to write about it so soon after me doing it. In order to be able to use it without being obvious he is doing so, this person translated this term into another language (that I am speaking, which is why I understood it immediately, and this also explains why not many others understand what happened, because they don’t speak the language) then he translated it back to English and uses it as such as a flagship for the philosophy defining his photography ever since. I wouldn’t have been bothered if this person mentioned the provenance of this term but when I tried to address this with him right after it happened he didn’t admit it and is not admitting it to this day.
This was not the only instance this person has inspired from me. Up to this day this person is using my expressions and ideas in defining their photography and it has happened numerous times for me to post an article or my thoughts on social media just to see this person repeating the same idea with slightly different words on his social media a few days later. Also, I am not the only one this person has inspired from without giving credit. I have a list that I can present of instances he inspired from other people and when they addressed the issue with him he didn’t admit it nor stopped doing what he was doing.
Of course I am not speaking without proofs here. I have proofs for everything I say, either written or screenshots of everything that was posted and it was not a fair play from a moral point of view. What is happening is at the limit of plagiarism, and I am being nice when I say so.
A WORD IS MORE THAN JUST A WORD – IT HOLDS WITHIN A CONCEPT, A LIFE
When I addressed the issue in the begging and recently again, this person, instead of apologizing and stopping this behavior, in the beginning he claimed it was a coincidence then recently he offended me by saying that I was the one inspiring from him, while anyone can see clearly on my blog and his that I was the first to talk about this publicly and there are people knowing about this concept from even before I made it public. In his defense, this person even sustained that I am not the first using this word (argument he had used in a different instance, when he “borrowed” a term from another photographer and recycled it), while I never sustained this is a word noone else could have thought about, since it is based on a very common word, the word “envision”. However, even if someone else “could’ have thought about this, I made a research before starting using this word and there was no evidence at that moment that it was being already used to define a concept.
As a piece of even further info, (en)Visionography started with being “Visionography” in the first phase, when I was still working on the concept, but it became (en)Visionography because I considered the addition of (en) would make it go even deeper into the soul of the artist and make my ideas more clear. I am explaining this extensively in my book From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography that I wrote together with Joel Tjintjelaar. Another reason I didn’t use the word “Visionography” is because I looked it up and found others using it and I didn’t want to use other people’s ideas. So I pondered even deeper and thought about adding the “(en)” to “Visionography” so it became what is today known as (en)Visionography. I searched again and didn’t find the word used by others so I went on with giving my new concept this name.
But what I brought was not necessarily a word but an original concept and this concept had to have a name. This name was (en)Visionography for a reason that I’m explaining very clearly. It’s not just a word play, it is based on my photography philosophy. However the name is strongly related to the concept because it expresses it faithfully. Which is why I chose this word that everyone would understand and I haven’t invented a new one that no one would understand but me. I didn’t aim to create smoke and mirrors to impress the audience, but I wanted to create substance and value by using things that people understand and relate to.
Today (en)Visionography is considered by many a new current in photography and there are more and more those who start thinking about their fine art work in terms of artist’s vision and personal experiences translated into photography, which is what (en)Visionography is, and not necessarily in terms of presenting a subject in a beautiful way, which is what many understand by fine art photography, due to the use of the term “fine”.
That is what this person started from, changing slightly the word I use to define my concept, and the ideas I presented, and is using them as his own. I consider that whoever uses my ideas or concepts, or even parts of them, or even takes the name and translates it and use it as such, should at least mention my name when he does it, especially when he does it a couple of weeks after I launch the concept publicly and ever since. This person never did.
SHOULDN’T ARTISTS BE MORAL AND PURE?
OR SHOULD THEY BURN ALL PRINCIPLES ON THE ALTAR OF FAME?
I consider what happened with (en)Visionography being the clearest proof that we are living in a very strange age when technology and a certain anonymity we all have on the Internet, gives people the opportunity to hide behind a computer screen and forget about morals, forget about respect for intellectual property, forget about laws also.
It is sad, especially when this happens among artists who should be people of higher morality and of more pronounced spirituality.
How can you give art to the world when your soul is not pure? I will never understand this. In my opinion, art is the highest representation of human quality, the representation of the purity of the human soul, and it needs to be pure just like the soul that created it. Otherwise how can it be considered art?
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY VS CREATIVE COMMONS
Unfortunately though, in the age we live many people think that if it is on the Internet it is free to use, which is absolutely not like this, unless the person who publishes something on the Internet makes it creative commons content and offers it free for use. (en)Visionography was never creative Commons content. It was private intellectual property from the beginning and after what happened in the first phase when I discovered my concept recycled, I tried to strengthen the idea that (en)Visionography is a private trademark concept by using the ™ sign to indicate to this person in a subtle way that this is my intellectual property. What happened was that this person started using the ™ sign himself for everything he was publishing from then on, and still does. It would be funny if it wouldn’t be tragic.
MY ONLY WISH
TO BE FREE AGAIN TO SHARE MY KNOWLEDGE WITHOUT FEAR
I hope I have given you enough food for thought with this presentation. This article is not meant to provoke, harm, or blame anyone. I’m not addressing to anyone else than the persons I’m referring to and I don’t want to name them because that could harm their career if it was made public. That’s not my intention.
The only thing I need is for this thing to stop so I can do what I love, which is sharing my ideas on photography, freely without being afraid that what I’m saying will be reproduced by someone after a couple of days and used for personal interests.
This limits me in what I can say publicly and I can tell you there are many ideas I’m afraid to share anymore, because I’m afraid to find them copied after a few days. Besides, this is not acceptable in any society and in any artistic or business environment, regardless the mentalities or laws. Everywhere in the world this would be considered unfair, to say the least.
A SAD DAY FOR PHOTOGRAPHY OR IS THERE STILL HOPE?
Thinking about everything that happened with me for the past years in a more philosophical way, I cannot help but ask myself a few questions:
How far can we go with inspiring from other photographers?
How far is it fair and when does it start to become unacceptable?
When does it start becoming something that limits other photographers sharing their ideas because they are afraid of losing the ownership on those ideas after struggling for months or years to create them?
Is this good for photography as a whole?
Is it true what they say that if you don’t want something copied you shouldn’t put it on the Internet?
Believe it or not I’ve heard this arguments recently from a “professional” fine art photographer, saying that, if he finds something on the internet he will use it as his own and be happy about it. Personally I cringed when I read this and I know all of you who are sharing your work and thoughts would do the same. How a person saying this publicly can respect the laws of copyright, not to mention the laws of honesty and good manners towards his peers? And he is not alone…
It is a proof of cowardliness and internet is the place where this cowardliness can be found in the highest amount because people have the illusion of anonymity. People are still afraid to steal the ideas of others or harass them in real life, because they are afraid of law, but they don’t realize the same law governs internet and nowadays you don’t even need to have contact in real life with someone to be considered guilty if you did any of the above. So anonymity on the internet is in fact only an illusion because everything we do there stays there and will be there as a proof into eternity. So I would say, one should be even more careful what they say on the internet than in real life because everything is recorded, even what we delete.
I think, if the world of photography today is one based on the disrespect for authorship and intelectual property, that would be very sad, it would be tragic, and if we get there, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for free sharing anymore. I’m afraid what we are living is an epidemic of unfairness and of people thinking that they have no obligation in front of others just because they don’t see them in front of them, but only as a name, a few ideas and a few photographs on the Internet.
It is sad.
The day we will be afraid to share our ideas freely, is a sad day for photography…
Because I don’t want to end this article on a pessimistic note and because i still have faith in good values and good people, which I meet every day, even if I meet the bad ones too, I will end by saying that I hope and believe we are still living in a quality world, where people respect and help each other and where they know that fairness and honesty are important values in art, just like in our entire life.
Thank you for bearing with me till the end of this article.
UPDATE: A PHILOSOPHICAL CONSIDERATION BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE
After much thought over the past days after publishing this article and the wonderful and numerous responses I received here, on my social media, in messages and emails, and for which I’m hugely grateful, I think what I’m going to do from now on, besides handling this issue in an official way, is to see my experience as a step in my evolution and try to see it in a constructive way rather than let it influence me negatively.
I see life as a succession of experiences and I think this is our meaning here, to have as many experiences as possible and make our passing through the world as worth as we can based on these experiences. We accumulate knowledge and feelings after every new thing we live, good or bad, and if we can use this to translate it in our art then we will create sometime unique. I’ll try to do that with my experiences too and this is how it will transform negative energy into positive, by making it food for my photography.
This is what I mean when I say my photography is autobiographic.
I will use this once more as inspiration for my work and maybe one day I could write about the story behind all my photos and why they are the way they are, which experiences created which photos.
This is what I mean when I talk about (en)Visionography and personal vision.
I’m sure if each of us would do this, take inspiration mainly from their own life instead of searching for it outside, there would be no more photos or ideas replicated because everyone would use their own uniqueness to create and wouldn’t need someone else as inspiration.
It is rather philosophical, but I’m going to say that what we try to do when creating is to find the Absolute and the Truth and this can only be done if we turn towards our inner world and search for it in there instead of expecting to find it outside. We are the ones who are the best material for inspiration for our art since we know ourselves better than we will ever know others or whatever else outside of us. The Absolute lies in ourselves and all great artists knew that and that is where they first searched for inspiration. The outside world is only the material shell we put around our ideas to make ourselves understood, but the source of these ideas and feelings is inside of us.
This is the philosophical base of (en)visionography, as a photography that explores personal vision and self, as an autobiographic kind of art.
Julia Anna Gospodarou – (en)Visionographer
Julia Anna Gospodarou is an architect with a Master degree, a multiple award-winning black and white fine art photographer, (en)Visionographer, author and sought-after educator, founder of (en)Visionography™ and Photography Drawing™, author of the best-selling book From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography (co-author Joel Tjintjelaar), with high distinctions in the most important photography competitions worldwide, published internationally in numerous books and magazines, passionate about beauty and trying to spread it into the world.