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Sunday, 10 October 2010

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>Carol M. Highsmith, Palm Springs, California. Mid-century modern home
built by the Alexander Construction Company.

Crediting the name of construction company and skipping the architect, is similar to labeling a photograph with the camera and film used etc., and not mentioning the name of the photographer. At least the photographer, being an artist, should have tried a bit harder and show some empathy.

Surrendering her copyright? She shouldn't be calling herself a "photographer."

Here's the Washington Post article, Carol Highsmith, on a 16-year quest to photograph America for the Library of Congress, which includes a photo gallery.

(I'll be curious to see how many comments you get opposing her work due to her choice to "donate all of [her] work, copyright-free, for eternity.")

Mike, if you get to a Washington Post article from a Google search it will include the full text, so one way to construct a link to wapo articles is to do a Goole “I’m Feeling Lucky” search for its title. In this case, something like: http://www.google.com/search?q=Carol+Highsmith,+on+a+16-year+quest+to+photograph&btnI

Awesome! - Yep, just yesterday I was listening to Gordon Hutching's videos, he was commenting on the original meaning of the word "amateur." She definitely is an amateur in that sense, someone who, even if later in life, found out what she wanted to do, and did it no matter what, just for love. And we're so lucky she did it.

Haha. The term > timeless images< makes me nervous ;-)

"*Normally we make every reasonable effort to link to the original source for an article, but Washington Post articles are behind a registration wall and can't be linked to directly."

If I enable cookies, I can get to the articles on washingtonpost.com without registering:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/07/AR2010100707619.html


----
rich

This whole story is beautiful

Is that the sound of nails being hammered into the coffin of the photo stock sales market ? Who needs to make a living anyway? It's over-rated.

"Surrendering her copyright? She shouldn't be calling herself a 'photographer.' "

Why not? It's her copyright, can't she do whatever she wants with it? If she wants to donate it to the nation, why shouldn't she?

Many other photographers have done the same, in this and in other nations. To name one: the heirs of Harold Cazneaux (called the "greatest Australian pictorialist") donated the rights to all his pictures to the Australian nation.

Mike

"It's her copyright, can't she do whatever she wants with it? If she wants to donate it to the nation, why shouldn't she?"

Mike, I'd say that any photographer who gives up their copyright devalues all photographers's work.

Submitted respectfully...

Considering how many young photographers pay for reviews, exhibitions, contests etc. just to get their work out there, this doesn't seem such a selfless endeavor after all. If I have enough money at the end of my career, I may do something similar to leave my legacy behind while getting some free press and promotion.

What an amazing project, and what a brilliant idea donating the work to the national archive. It will guarantee her work be saved and valued by generations to come. I can't think of a better outcome for anyone involved in the arts.

Wow. That is just wonderful. I wish we all had the physical, economic and philosophical wherewithal to engage in such socially valuable and generous ventures. I know I don't; it's a reminder that I am not as wonderful a human being as I would wish.

This is a great thing, truly a great thing.

pax / Ctein

I don't really see where she is 'selling out' at all. She has come up with a great, marketable idea that allows her to pursue her passion and have it bankrolled by patrons. Part of the marketability of the idea is that the images are being donated without copyright restrictions to the Library.

She may not be earning a salary, but as evidenced by the $175,000 benefactor covering Alabama, she doesn't seem to be spending her own money to do this project. (Not that spending her own money would make it wrong!)

Seems to me that most professional photographers would love to be able to draw up their dream assignment, get various people to cover all of the living, travel and shooting expenses and go have at it. And as part of the assignment, the Library of Congress guarantees that your images and interpretations of what you have seen will live on for generations. Sounds like a pretty great gig to me, a professional photographer.

John Gillooly
Boston

I'm wondering about the Desert House. You know, the Kaufmann one? The one designed by Richard Neutra? The one that is one of the most important in 20th Century American Architecture? Right up there with the Robie House and Falling Water?

Labelling it as a 'Mid-Century Modern home built by the Alexander Construction Company' is like taking a photo of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and labelling it as a 'Church, built by stone masons, from 1160 to about 1345, or so.'

That is, technically correct, but totally lacking in context.

I know nothing of this woman or her photography, but I must admit to being quite impressed by her talent for promotion (and especially to have raised $175,000 to cover the cost of photographing just one of the fifty states!)

>>Crediting the name of construction company and skipping the architect, is similar to labeling a photograph with the camera and film used<<

If we are talking about 1950s mass housing, that's really not the case at all.
Whether or not you like the product, housing innovation in the 50s was very much driven by the construction companies, not the architects.

A more apt analogy might be crediting Pentax for the 43mm Limited, rather than Jun Hirakawa ?

>>any photographer who gives up their copyright devalues all photographers's work.<<

So all gifts devalue what is given ?
And if not, what makes copyright a special case ?

The problem is that this work being out there free to use in any manner does devalue photography ,and the harsh reality is many of us are finding it harder and harder to earn a buck so we feel it personally.

Mr. Atkins, a short stint following copyright issues has learned me that the best way to make sure that your work will be forgotten is to lock it up (virtually) forever. As soon as the rights seem to be held by someone, reuse of the work is usually not worth the bother.

By stating clearly that her work is free to use for everyone, chances that it will be used increase enormously. That she will be credited is obvious, because she is the source of the message that the works are in the public domain.

I would bet that years from now, her work will still be shown and her name will still be named. How about your duly protected work? Will your work die with you?

Submitted equally respectfully...

Rob Atkins wrote...

<< "It's her copyright, can't she do whatever she wants with it? If she wants to donate it to the nation, why shouldn't she?"

Mike, I'd say that any photographer who gives up their copyright devalues all photographers's work.>>

By that token, all surgeons who perform free operations for the poor and all lawyers who work pro bono for deserving causes are devaluing the work and threatening the livelihood of other hard working surgeons and lawyers. Ahem.

I think what she is doing is wonderful and public spirited and I wish her success and fulfilment. Sometimes photographers have an inflated sense of their own relative importance in the grand scheme. After all if she were doing this for a newspaper or an agency, they not she would own the copyright. Would that be better?

A lot of questions before one can say that by donating something it is good.

a) To document life of a place (Amercia here), is one photographer important? Some event might be important. But who is that one compared with say the hive mind of flickr. What is the unique message/feeling/view points/... ?

b) By given them free, would she destroyed some photographer who would to earn some $ to sustain their life

c) Is her photograph good? In what sense? By whom? Why anyone care? I am not saying that she is bad but why have to keep hers but instead of say ...

Ctein has said it very right but because the big FREE FOR ALL glory distortion field, his conclusion is not to the point. The real message is that if one has to work that hard, it is NOT normal to send this all off. If one has to a community good, one has to think through these.

For example, can these can at least generate some revenue to some photography students? Some photo fund for some needed photographer? In terms of knowledge would this help?

Or, instead may I repeat to crowd out them with a Hasselblad H series camera with its expensive big lens and perhaps big bag.

Sorry, I have a hard time to swallow this. Not a professional in this field but would appreciate how difficult life it is now for them. Not in America or cannot say I can even imagine what an American think of how to document their way of live etc. But is it have one women view to perserve history because she has the time and resource to spare. Those landscape picture is that America? Somehow something is not right.

BTW, I am fully support Open Software (if you kind of know the difference ... but less of Free Software) That is because they have thought through it at least. But is this lady thought through it. What is her point of view of having a lasting community on photography ....

Not improving community knowledge, not improving pool of fund for those who need, ... , just sorry not in.

Even a Nikon project documented the towns or another photographer who use twin lens to document his neigbourhood is much better.

I will skip hers!


Dear Terence,

The harsh reality is that any time someone give a free gift to someone else, there is the real possibility that someone else has been done out of a sale.

I find the idea that me trying to make a living should act as an inhibition to someone else being generous to all of society, well, frankly, repugnant. I never want to live in such a world. It is a harsh enough place, as is.

pax / the-artist-formerly-known-as-a-photographer**

**(well, hey, I AM in the Twin Cities right now--gotta go with the local culture [vbg])

"... all surgeons who perform free operations for the poor and all lawyers who work pro bono for deserving causes are devaluing the work and threatening the livelihood of other hard working surgeons and lawyers. Ahem."

Doctors and lawyers occupy a different economic reality than most commercial photographers. They can more easily donate their valued services.

Nigel wrote:
>If we are talking about 1950s mass housing, that's really not the case at all.

which we are obviously not, please look at the picture more carefully. this is designed by one skillful architect, it has nothing to do with mass housing.

>>nothing to do with mass housing<<

It might not have been cheap, but they turned them out in the thousands:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Construction_Company

And the post war revolution in US housing was undoubtedly driven by the construction companies, who didn't employ idiots as architects.

I think my Pentax/Hirakawa analogy stands.

There's that Frances Benjamin Johnston again (Highsmith's inspiration). Any relation, Mike?

Well, I, for one, am relieved and happy that the person who hired herself for this amazing job seems to be a very good photographer. I'm sure the quality of the work has much to do with why some people are so vehemently pissed off that she's giving it away.

What the Post article doesn't mention might further anger these people--Highsmith began donating her life's work to the Smithsonian in 1992, including images taken as early as 1980. The archive is at 5,000+ images and counting as I type this.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/highsm/

Copyright in the US at least doesn't contain a morals clause. Copyright is primary goal is to protect the good of the public, not the good of the artist. Besides stock photographers are taking food out of commissioned photographer's mouths.

The naming of Alexander Construction Company is appropriate in that an "Alexander House" is how the homes they built are known. Much like Joseph Eichler's last name is an eponym for the houses his company built (mostly) in Northern California. Both the Alexanders and Eichler were striving for a higher design aesthetic than "1950s mass housing" usually implies and their product was sold under the developer's names, not the names of the architects that did the design. Same way most people think "Apple" and maybe "Steve Jobs" when they hear "iPhone," not Jonathan Ives (plus many many others).

If the house in question is the Kaufmann Desert House, the caption would appear to be just plain wrong.

The Marc Adamus pic is amazing.

Richard Neutra, the famous astro-american architect is the designer of this house.
It is called Kaufman desert house and considered one of his masterpieces.

>>it has nothing to do with mass housing<<

Well, it's not Levittown, but the Alexander Construction Company did build over four homes a week, from 1947 onwards.
It's telling that they have their own wikipedia entry, while their architects don't:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Construction_Company
"...These houses, collectively known as "Alexanders," have come to be appreciated for their rational designs, modernist style, and innovative construction and are now highly sought after..."

Nigel, thanks for the ACC link. I wasn't aware of their dedication to modern architecture. I'm sure Palmer & Krisel, the architectural firm which they hired (not-in house, by the way-so Pentax analogy is not a good one) were grateful for having such a good client.
But since when wiki is the benchmark, and why does it matter if they weren't that famous?
http://www.psmodcom.com/Architects%20Pages/PalmerKrisel/PalmerKrisel8.html
They were the creators of the building. Now, without good clients and builders, architects are nobodies. But there is an order of crediting buildings, just like movies: Would you call Godfather Albert Perry's Godfather or Coppola's?
Anyhow, we now know that ACC has nothing to do with this project. Funny, I actually tried to find out the contractor/builder for the Kaufmann Desert House, but couldn't. They deserve some credit too for such a fine job!

ok, now we have the full credits!
According to this book, the contractors were: Waale-Camplan Co.
& Smith, Inc.
Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House:
An Annotated & Illustrated Bibliography
(Uncorrected Proof – Not for Sale)
downloadable here:
http://so-cal-arch-history.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Kaufmann-House-Bibliography3.pdf

"Doctors and lawyers occupy a different economic reality than most commercial photographers. They can more easily donate their valued services."

Really? So it is only ok to donate services or products to society or charity if the median income in a particular industry is what you perceive to be "high" but not if many people in that field are struggling to get by?

I respectfully beg to differ. A donor's income or industry is utterly irrelevant. It is a free country - and it is that photographer's choice to donate her work, regardless of her motivation or her impact on competitors.

Besides, photography is a career choice - no one is forced to become a photographer. It is an industry with zero barriers to entry and anyone, for any reason, can enter the field and set his/her own prices. Even if that makes it harder for those already in the field to survive.

Thanks, Roni, for sorting that out (and reminding me of the perils of pontificating on something I don't know a huge amount about...).

We'll just have to differ on the role of architects as innovators in home design, though. In my (admittedly limited) experience, it varies tremendously; there is no hard and fast rule.

Well, I'm getting better at famous houses. I paused at the caption of the "Palm Springs" residence and I thought "that looks like the Kaufmann House!" A second later I scrolled down for the debate. It seems like the place can be approached by mere mortals. (It's not behind a locked gate)
Mike

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