Archive for August, 2011

A Rare Opportunity

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

You can read my opinions on photography with some regularity on this site, although I’ve been rather busy in the last few days with a  couple of shows coming up, and producing a catalogue for one, and, when I get around to it a web site for the second. A more normal service will I hope be re-introduced here and on My London Diary (where August has yet to begin) shortly.

But tomorrow there is a fairly rare opportunity to actually hear me talking, in an event at the Museum of London, where with a few others I’m on a panel discussing the future of street photography and related issues.  On the panel with me are the curator of the museum’s attendance-breaking London Street Photography show, an old friend of mine, Mike Seaborne, and one of the other photographers with work in the show, Polly Braden, while photographer Stephen McClaren will try to keep some order. The discussion starts at 7pm and you can still book on-line.

Unless pressed I don’t intend to talk about my own picture in the show, not least because I don’t think it really is an example of street photography, although it was indeed taken on a London street, and was one of the images used on the poster for the show. But I have taken plenty of other pictures that are street photography but were not chosen. Of course the fact that it – and many other images in the show are not really street doesn’t mean they are not good pictures, but rather questions the criteria used in curating the show.

© 1991, Peter Marshall
Whitechapel 1991- a documentary image but is it ‘street photography’?
© 1987, Peter Marshall
But Portobello Road, Notting Hill, April 1987 certainly is

I wrote earlier this year about the opening of the show in London Street Photography, a piece that included one of my images that was a small attempt at a comment on the future of street photography.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Smartphones  Set Free – perhaps the future of street photography?

The discussion lasts – including the time for questions – an hour, after which there is a further opportunity to see the show, which closes this Sunday, September 4. I’m not at all sure what the talking will be like, but I have been asked to supply five of my own pictures for a presentation as well as nominating two pictures from the book that I would like to say something about.

Although in some ways I found the show disappointing, as an event in promoting photography I think it has been a great success – and of course I was very pleased to be chosen to be in it and the book London Street Photography published by Dewi Lewis Publishing, ISBN 978-1-907893-09-4, together with it. But when asked to talk about two pictures from it, I found it hard to find pictures that I really wanted to talk about, as although there were some great photographers included, the pictures were seldom particularly good examples of their work. There were also some aspects of it I found hard to swallow, including the disregard for the moral rights shown in projecting some images taken on medium format cropped to 35mm format in the slide show. A museum should really not treat photography like this.

Despite such reservations (and I have others), this was a show that came at exactly the right moment, when street photography was high on the popular agenda, with shows in Derby and of course the first London Street Photography Festival which has just concluded, although there is still a chance to see a show of the much-hyped work of Vivian Meir at Photofusion in Brixton, where it continues until 16 September 2011.

Although the publicity for the show talks about “her unique style of candid street photography” unfortunately the images on show – including some that I liked very much – confirmed her as a fine but derivative photographer. I walked around the show last week with a photographer friend and we were saying things like “not a bad Lisette Model” or “sub-sub Arbus” in front of almost every image.  Most things she did do well, but I found it impossible to see any unique personal vision in the work. We all produce works that are based on those of others, but the aim needs to be to try and stand on their shoulders rather than march behind them. Of course there are many good photographers, people whose work adorns the history of photography, but very, very few who really advance it.

No Copyright on Ideas?

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Many years ago when I first started writing and taking pictures I remember being firmly told “there is no copyright in ideas“. The FAQ on the US Copyright Office site states it clearly: “Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”

Of course it isn’t always clear quite where the boundary between idea and expression lies, particularly in photography, and some court decisions in the past have perhaps clouded the water. So it was good to see the judge dismiss the case that photographer Janine Gordon had brought against Ryan McGinley so clearly; the New York Times quotes from his written judgement that her idea of copyright would result in claiming copyright in “virtually any figure with outstretched arms, any interracial kiss, or any nude female torso” and that it had “no basis in statute, case law or common sense.”

You can read a slightly longer report on ARTINFO, which also links to an earlier feature there which includes a slide show comparing several images by the two photographers which I think clearly demonstrates the ridiculous nature of the claim.

Ryan McGinley is a photographer I’ve written about on several occasions, here and elsewhere. In Ryan McGinley’s Lost Summer I suggested that he “seems to have got lost, perhaps seduced by becoming too well-known.” But his project that I was writing about was based on the “the kinds of amateur photography that appeared in nudist magazines during the 60s and early 70s” and that seems to me the true source of exactly the kind of things that Gordon was complaining about.  Surely something has to be original for you to claim copyright on it. But that might rule out the entire oeuvre of many photographers!

Facing Bruce Gilden

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I’m not a great fan of Bruce Gilden, although I do still have a review copy of his ‘Facing New York‘ which Cornerhouse brought out here in 1992. But then I’ve never sold my review copies (plenty of reviewers made more money from doing so than writing reviews)  though I have put some in the bin.

I think I did review it at the time, and it was a work I disliked but I recognised the power of his pictures, although in some respects the book seemed and still seems over-repetitive. They work made me uncomfortable, it seemed too much like being rude to people. Though if you are a New Yorker you are surely used to people being rude to you.

I mention the interview* with him in Vice by Jonnie Craig published a week or two back mainly because I rather like the paragraph at the start about street photography which ends with a definition of what it used to be:

“picture-taking informed by unchecked insanity, spontaneous joy, downtrodden souls, criminal behavior, spewing fire hydrants, and all the other varieties of filth and glory that can be documented by simply walking down an unfamiliar sidewalk.

I think it’s the “unchecked insanity” and “spontaneous joy” that mostly appeal to me, and as Craig states, it is a far cry from the kind of thing that many people who like to call themselves street photographers are now producing.

It’s a fairly short read and I think gives a very clear impression of Gilden and comes with a few of his previously unpublished pictures. You can of course see more of his work on his Magnum pages, and I think he is generally a rather better photographer than ‘Facing New York’ made me think. Or at least there are many pictures that I like in his other work.

Vice seems to attract a particularly poor line in comments, but one of them says “Go look at Kurata Seiji’s book, Flash Up.” I googled a little, but only came up with the cover, which I looked and and thought of Daido Moriyama.  And then Wikipedia tells me that he “practised under Daidō Moriyama in an independent photography workshop in 1976“, as well as that he was born in 1945, perhaps a vintage year for photographers. But the only other pictures I could find were some colour pictures that, at least out of context, could be seen as fairly generic travel work.  So although it also apparently gets a recommendation from Messrs Parr and Badger, I can’t really tell you if ‘Flash Up‘ is worth a look.

*Thanks to American Suburb X to posting a link to this on Facebook.

Street View Photography

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Last November in Paris I saw Michael Wolf’s ‘We Are Watching You’ and was underwhelmed.  Large blow-ups of images from Google’s Street View (GSV) neither seemed particularly interesting or much to do with photography.  As I’ve said in various other articles on work taken from TV screens I think photographers should be out in the real world and not looking at a box on which other people have put images for them to look at.

Apparently neither Wolf or other artists using GSV even actually find these images themselves, but get links to them from Internet forums which post up these kind of things.  Pete Brook who has a fine blog ‘Prison Photography‘ has been looking at these projects and writing about them both on his own blog and on Wired’s Raw File. There in Navigating the Puzzle of Google Street View ‘Authorship’ he tries hard to find some merit in such projects but I find the artists’ justification of their practice less than convincing, and Google’s claim to copyright difficult to argue against.

It seems hardly a big deal that each of the two artists he considers crops the GSV image differently (although often not very differently) and Michael Wolf’s attempt to equate this with framing by a photographer seems merely an attempt to mislead.  Framing is very much about your point of view as well as about where you then put the edges, and in GSV the point of view is supplied by Google.

It’s also hard to take the analogy with Duchamp’s Readymades too seriously. He took objects – urinals, bicycle parts etc – and completely re-purposed them. GSV users simply take images and make smaller images from them, before blowing them up into senselessly big images for the gallery walls.

I find the whole thing a waste of space and resources, galleries, articles, discussion etc that could be used by real photographers making real images. For me it is the kind of thing that gives art and art photography a bad name.

Back on his own Prison Photography blog, in Photographing the Prostitutes of Italy’s Backroads: Google Street View vs. Boots on the Ground Brook looks at two contrasting approaches to the same subject matter, one by photographer Paolo Patrizi who actually went out on those back roads with a camera and researched the subject as well as taking pictures and the other a virtual tour using GSV by Mishka Henner. It is a comparision which makes the difference very clear. As he concludes:

‘Patrizi’s photographs return us to the shocking fact that that these women are human and not just bit-parts in the difficult social narratives of contemporary society. Works full of threat, fear, flesh and blood.

By comparison, Henner’s screen-grabs are anaemic.’

To me one is real photography, the other voyeuristic image collection. I find myself totally in agreement with Alan Chin who Brook quotes as saying:

‘This is about as interesting as cutting out adverts from magazines that have some connection and then presenting your edit as a work of art. ‘

Also by Brook on Wired’s Raw File is another piece, Google’s Mapping Tools Spawn New Breed of Art Projects which looks mainly at Wolf’s work and in particular quotes from a BJP article that I linked to in a piece about what I considered the nonsensical award made to Wolf in World Press Photo.

It’s perhaps interesting that although in his earlier work Wolf relied on Internet forums to find the incidents he used, he now says that in more recent work he finds the scenes himself on GSV. I’m not sure why he finds this necessary or necessary to mention.

Also interesting – and perhaps it may one day be tested in court is his claim quoted here that because he actually photographs the screen, chosing which part of it to include in the image, he somehow creates something that belongs to him.

There are I think two good reasons why he is wrong. Firstly that copyright law would seem quite clear that if the work on screen is copyright of Google any reproduction of it will also be covered by their copyright. Secondly that Wolf’s work is essentially a mechanical reproduction of an existing work and lacks the artistic intent that is necessary for any new copyright to be created. Or interesting pictures.

Brassai & Tony Ray Jones

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Thanks to American Suburb X for posting an interview with Brassai by Tony Ray-Jones that I first read around 40 years ago in Creative Camera magazine where it was published in the April 1970 issue.

Although I’d long had an interest in photography, at least since the start of my teens, money in those days was more than tight and in my family every halfpenny had to be accounted for. A twelve exposure black and white film developed and contact printed cost around half a day of my family income and was made to stretch over two years of our annual weeks at a seaside boarding house or with relatives in the country.

Then came the sixties and I was busy with other things – being a revolting student, getting degrees, getting married – and there was still no money and even less time for photography. It was only in my final year as a student, taking a training course for teaching that I could begin to indulge my interests, managing to spend most of that year playing in the university’s TV studio, taking courses in media studies (from the guy who had more or less just invented it), photography and film alongside my required teaching studies.  AlsoI met a couple of real photographers, and, in the library, came across a rather strange magazine, Creative Camera.

The next year I was out in the world and earning money (if not huge amounts) as a teacher rather than scraping along on a student grant, and I bought a cheap USSR made camera and enlarger,  and set up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen of our flat. And took out a subscription to Creative Camera, ordering too all the back issues that were available. Although the Zenith B and suitcase enlarger are long gone, I still have those magazines on the shelves behind me, along with most of the other issues until its sad end around the end of the century.

In the main the interview concentrates on the history of Brassai’s career and his view of the history of photography, interesting because of his part in it.  I’m not sure how much of it was new information, but certainly most of it has been repeated by many others, including myself, in writing about Brassai.

Perhaps my favourite sections are those in which he talks about his attitudes to photography and to art, and in particular one section in which this remark appears:

I think that there are photographers who compose very well but who have no understanding of life or human things. There are others who have much human understanding but no feeling for form. I feel that it is important to have both because one must convey a living thing with strong composition.

Happy World Photography Day

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I started off World Photography Day early for me, not only taking a picture but printing it out as a card a delivering it to the client (my wife) before 9am. Not a great picture of a rose but one that had more or less immediate use.

I only remembered it was World Photography Day a few minutes later when I read my e-mail from Shahidul News. Daguerre process had been announced by the French Academy of Sciences on 9 Jan 1839, but it was on 19 Aug 1839 that the French government made a gift of the process to the world.

Or at least to parts of it. Perhaps the reason we don’t make much of this celebration in the UK is that ‘the world’ for the French did not include us, and Daguerre patented the process here so those wishing to make Daguerreotypes in England had to pay for a licence.

This, along with our imperial need for Britain to have invented everything, doubtless contributed to this country always regarding W H F Talbot as the true inventor of our medium. Hearing about Daguerre’s announcement he rushed out some details of his ‘photogenic drawing’ and presented them within days, although it was not until a couple of years later that the calotype, almost certainly the first workable negative/positive process was introduced.

Now of course we have largely abandoned the whole family of processes that descended from that branch and perhaps even in the UK can acknowledge the priority of the French pioneers – Nièpce as well as Daguerre.

Shahidul News comes from photographer Shahidul Alam, the founder of Drik, and also on the blog is an interview between him and Shehab Uddin, which you can also read along with Uddin’s photographs of Dhaka’s pavement dwellers on the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund site.

In it Alam desribes “Drik’s photography-philosophy–in telling rich and diverse stories without compromising the subject’s humanity–we just had to create a whole space for ourselves. And now we are telling our own stories.”  Drik really is an incredible and inspirational story and has led to a tremendous volume of great photography dealing with important issues across the majority world. You can follow some of the links in Alam’s blog to see some of it.

Photography may have started in France (and England) and perhaps came of age in the twentieth century in Europe and the USA. But now much of the more interesting work is happening elsewhere.

Anyway, I’m going out to celebrate the day by telling some more stories.

Do Bears?

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

First in London I think it was cows. Then elephants and doubtless other animals cluttering up the pavements of our city. In Berlin it’s bears, which at least are appropriate, as the bear has been adopted as the symbol of Berlin, probably because of the similarity between their names.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Albrecht de Baer at Spandau Fortress

So Berlin is always full of bears, but there is an extra load of them at the moment.  The first ‘Buddy Bears’ which populated Berlin in 2001 simply promoted these 2 metre high fibreglass animals as a little urban fun for the city.  Then in 2002 came the ‘United Buddy Bears’, (UBB) a kind of united nations assembly of these figures designed to promote harmony, tolerance and understanding among different nations, cultures and religions.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Our first Berlin Buddy Bear sighting was on Karl Marx Allee

It’s an idea that brings out the cynic and the realist in me, seeing it as yet another way for people and in particular large corporations that sponsor such things to feel good and look good to the people without actually doing anything to solve the very real problems that the world faces. Getting artists from countries around the world to decorate a few bears doesn’t do much for world peace, global warming and moving towards a new and sustainable global economy. It’s just a bright and happy little circus, though it has raised quite a considerable sum for UNICEF and childrens’ charities over the years.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Since Rome is burning we might as well enjoy the violin playing, and the bears are rather fun in a way, some rather cleverer than others. As well as being scattered around the city there is also for the next few months a complete set – one for each of over 140 countries and a few ‘specials’ – along the edges of the Kurfürstendamm. Earlier in the day that I photographed the UBB I’d strolled along with the crowds looking at the images in the display at the Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror)  where images and text described the Nazi  pogroms against Jewish shops and businesses culminating in the infamous Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass in 1938.  Jewish owned businesses on the Ku’damm had been closed by the police three years earlier.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
A bear seen through a gap in the Wall at the Topographie des Terrors

Now at night the Ku’damm is largely closed and dead in any case, the fashion stores (a kind of living death by day) shutting their doors early and the cafes and cinemas now largely gone after Berlin life moved back closer to the city centre when the wall came down. It’s wide, full of chestnut trees and poorly lit by London standards, and most of that light was coming from shop windows, shining from behind the bears making photography a little tricky.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I put away the Leica M8, a hopeless performer in poor light even with the f1.4 35mm lens and hardly usable in colour above ISO640, and relied solely on the Fuji FX100. Reviewers tell me it is slow to focus in low light, but the bears weren’t moving and I had few problems.  Almost all the pictures were at full aperture (f2) and shutter speeds varied from1/13 to 1/80.

Generally even wide open there was enough depth of field and of course more than would be got on a full frame camera. With the actual 23mm lens (35mm equiv) on the FX100 focussed at 3.0 metres things should be sharp from 2.45 to 3.87 m according to the on-line DOFMaster calculator.  With a true 35mm lens on full frame you have to stop down to f2.8 to get similar figures.

The Leitz 35mm f1.4  is a decent fast standard lens (45.5 mm equiv), but for similar DOF you need to stop down to f4, while a standard lens on full frame would have to be closed down to f6.4. Unfortunately the 21mm f4 Voigtlander lens I have (27mm equiv) although a very useful focal length is a little slow for low light.

So when working with smaller sensors you can take advantage of wider apertures, and the same is also true with wide-angle lenses. Put the two together and with the 23mm f2 of the FX100 you can work at full aperture should you wish to much of the time. There is however a slight improvement in sharpness on stopping down to F2.8 and probably f4, and of course there are times when you do want greater depth of field.  But the point is you need to think about apertures rather differently than we used to when working with smaller sensors.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

In fact the figures understate the difference in practice. This long line of bears (above) is actually acceptably sharp (at f2.0) from the closest bear more or less to the end of the line.

I was working at ISO 1600, though when the light got really low I should perhaps have switched to ISO3200 and possibly tried out . I was working without flash, and there was a great deal of light in the shop windows behind the bears and very little on their fronts and faces, which were underexposed by a stop or two (and most were taken with exposure compensation set at -1)  and need some coaxing in Lightroom while the bright backgrounds have to be brought down considerably. There is quite a lot of noise in these images, but it isn’t unpleasant and there is still plenty of detail. It’s still quality we would have sold our souls for in the days of film, though Alamy QC might beg to differ.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The main problem I had was that once started it was seriously addictive and I had to photograph them all. Even though a few were lost to camera shake or incorrect focus I now have enough pictures of the beasts to make my Berlin holiday snaps a case of bear-dom boredom. Though there is a cow and an elephant too.

Mike Russell (1953-2011)

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I was sorry to hear the news of the death of photographer Mike Russell who I know both as ‘Mike’ and as ‘Minimouse’ although I never knew why he had adopted this alias as there was nothing ‘mini’ about him, except perhaps his ego. In a profession where there are too many prima donnas, Mike stood out as a guy who was always concerned about others, always had a smile on his face and a welcome, someone it was always a pleasure to meet when photographing events on the streets.

Mike persuaded me to overcome my opposition to the ridiculously authoritarian ‘media policy’ of the Climate Camp and spend a day on site as one of the media team at Blackheath, and it was largely due to his efforts that despite the anti-media hysteria of some campers that there is such a good photographic record of what were some of the most significant environmental protests in the UK – and I should really have listened to him earlier.

Our last exchange only three months ago was a minor argument and ended in a typical suggestion from him “let’s get together over a beer and talk about it”, but sadly we never did.  I and others will miss him on the streets.

More about his career in photography and aspects that I was unaware of, particularly his early adoption and pioneering of digital photography on the EPUK site, and his pictures on his website, including some from Climate Camp – in what he described as “An unashamedly self-indulgent collection of photographs that I’ve enjoyed taking” – are certainly worth a look.

Picture Police?

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Would your pictures pass the picture police?

© 2008 Peter Marshall
Police Aesthetics Squad at work?

When police aren’t busy arresting people for posting slightly tendentious Facebook status updates, killing people with those ‘non-lethal’ tazers, or indeed doing their very useful job of protecting the public, they are apparently busy making aesthetic judgements,  at least in Long Beach Los Angeles, according to an article in the Long Beach Post (LBP) which was picked up by APhotoEditor a couple of days ago.

Sander Roscoe Wolf, a LBP columnist and photographer whose brief detention and questioning by an officer while photographing decaying paintwork of chemical tanks at a refinery led to the story, apparently passed, as according to the first report on this story in the LBP, after the officer had checked his driving licence and looked through the pictures on his camera, he was told he was welcome to remain and continue to take pictures.

Local police chief Jim McDonnell gave the LBP statement about the affair, saying that that “detaining photographers for taking pictures ‘with no apparent esthetic value’ is within Long Beach Police Department policy.” But he went on to contradict himself, explaining that while police have no specific training in judging whether “a photographer’s subject has ‘apparent esthetic value,’ officers make such judgments ‘based on their overall training and experience’ and will generally approach photographers not engaging in ‘regular tourist behavior’.”

Surely taking photographs  ‘with no apparent esthetic value’ is exactly regular tourist behavior‘? Followed of course by uploading them by the bucket-load on to Flickr.

The case and it’s report has aroused a very lengthy series of comments on the LBP,  hard to read for the incredible pig-headedness and bigotry displayed by many.

Taking photographs is not in itself a suspicious activity – as the NPPA are reported to have written to the police department to stress,  and it is in any case not one that many potential terrorists are likely to indulge openly. With so much satellite imagery on-line as well as StreetView there is little need, and most likely terrorist targets are now festooned with CCTV cameras, making any loitering in their vicinity a risk terrorists are likely to take pains to avoid.

Police – even in Long Beach as the LBP reports – are required to have a “reasonable suspicion of criminal activity” before they make a Suspicious Activity Report on non-criminal activities – such as using camera or binoculars, asking questions or taking notes, and it seems unlikely that the officer who approached Mr Wolf would really have been able to sustain a claim to this.  It isn’t enough to suggest – as the police department and their attorney do – that it is all in the mind of the officer; paranoia or gut feeling is not enough and there have to be grounds that would lead a reasonable person (like me!) to suspect the actions, and any officer should be prepared to justify this.

There are the usual discrepancies in this case between the officer’s and the photographer’s account of exactly what happened, with the officer’s story perhaps reflecting more about what should have happened if he had followed correct procedures.  It’s a pity that the use of helmet cameras by police is not more widespread, although as an article in The Register commented, “Police thus far seem torn between being able to show their side of a story when they’re in the right and perhaps stitching themselves up in other situations.”

© 2010, Peter Marshall
‘I’m a Photographer Not A Terrorist’ at New Scotland Yard, London July 2010

Of course this case is just one of many – and a few others add their experiences in the comments. Here in the UK we are continuing to see similar things happening, and various organisations have been formed to protect the rights of photographers. I’ve posted several times about the activities of I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist, and Facebook users may like to look at the Amateur Photographer Rights Watch page set up on 2 Aug by “the world’s oldest consumer weekly photographic magazine” which launched its Rights Watch campaign in 2005 after an innocent AP reader was accused of helping to plan a missile attack on Canary Wharf in London by taking ‘reconnaissance’ photographs.

PLUS Makes Progress

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I’m pleased to see that “PLUS, the Picture Licensing Universal System, which will provide a single world-wide system for describing licences and to embed licensing information as metadata in images” which I mentioned here on my post More on Metadata in June 2008 is still making progress and has now reached the stage when I think all of us who sell (or try to sell) our photos should be signing up, at least for a free account. But becoming a supporting member will I think soon be an essential business expense.

I registered my interest back in 2008 and in April this year was invited to sign up for the registry and some of my details are among those of 5000 rights holders on the registry that is now online for beta testing.

There is an excellent long article by Tony Sleep on the EPUK web site – five pages starting here –  which every photographer should read.  Some of the comments also help to understand what PLUS is and what it can do for us, although others are less helpful and perhaps more about protecting certain commercial interests.

PLUS has been set up as a non-profit body, a co-op existing on funding from those who use its services. You can register for free membership – as I’ve done so far – and this will put your name and contact details into it’s database permanently. In itself this is worthwhile, but to get the full benefits of PLUS once it is fully up and running will require an annual fee; most individual users will get a reduction through belonging to one of its supporter organisations (or as a student/educator) bringing this down to $75.

I haven’t paid up to become a supporting member yet, but there are definite advantages, in particular in getting a unique PLUS ID (particularly for me, when there are just so many Peter Marshalls.)  More, you can chose your own “Custom Member IDs,” featuring your business name or any phrase, which will be linked to  your PLUS Member ID and can be used as a more memorable alternative. These are being issued on a first-come basis, so if you want a popular name or phrase you should join at once. Soon you will also get access to the digital asset management features of the PLUS Registry allowing registration, identification and management of images and licenses. Supporting membership also lets you add to your member profile for example allowing you to display a description and web address to your basic contact details.

Your registration is persistent: in other words PLUS will keep the information after you leave membership – perhaps because of retirement, change of career or death (when the record may be of interest to your heirs.)  Of course you will no longer be able to add further images once you leave.

There are two great strengths to PLUS. One is the wide range of support it has across the industry and secondly that it really does (or rather will) cover the whole field of image supply and use including contracts. Sleep describes it as “a grand design for a sustainable photographic ecology adapted to the internet age, evolved and refined over a decade of bridge-building and dialogue with thousands of companies, publishers, agencies, industry groups, lawyers, conservators, museums, art buyers, academics, creators and representative organisations from around the world.”

To make the most of PLUS you do need to join up, and to keep paying your annual fee for as long as you are creating new images. Photographers will also probably want the Lightroom plugin which costs £35 and enables you to embed PLUS information in your images (you can get a free trial version, but this only lets you export a single image at a time.) However it seems possible that later versions of Lightroom (and other software that some photographers use) may incorporate this natively, or that free plugins may become available.

PLUS is still a work in progress.  It has the support of many if not most of the big players, including many photographers’ organisations, but it also needs to attract large numbers of image creators.

A  shorter article on the BJP site by David Hoffman makes the advantages to photographers more clear.  PLUS offers a way to guard against your images  becoming “orphans.”

It now seems virtually inevitable that governments around the world will make it free (or very cheap) and easy to make use of images where “reasonable diligence” is unable to locate the copyright holder.  PLUS is I think our only real hope of protection against this.