I think I should repeat at the top of the blog a comment I myself wrote to the "Recent Books of Interest: 2" post about Street Photography Now:
Lest we get carried away here, I might point out that the photographers in the book didn't do anything wrong, and Thames & Hudson is a very good publisher generally, who have done a large number of excellent books. So we need to watch the width of the brush with which we are doing our tarring.
I've now heard from several of the principals involved with the book, among them Johanna Neurath, Design Director at Thames & Hudson. Johanna commissioned and worked on Street Photography Now, which she characterizes as "a 5 years labour of love!" Among rather a lot else, she says:
There is an extensive list of resources at the back of the book which includes websites and books, exhibition catalogues etc. etc. So I really can't understand or accept the accusations of plagiarism that some are making.
I can however, well understand and accept the accusations of discourteous behaviour, which as I said above has already been addressed in private. And again not an excuse but a fact that most of our energies and much collaboration went into making sure the featured photographers were happy with the way they were presented in the book. With nearly 50 featured photographers, hundreds perhaps thousands of e-mails and meetings approving picture edits and layouts as well as the quotes and text, often under great time constraints, before a happy consensus was reached.
The fact that a minor controversy exists about one dimension of the publishing project doesn't necessarily mean that taking sides on that one little issue should polarize peoples' opinion about the entire enterprise. I hope people realize that when I made the final comment in my original post, I was speaking as a web-writer whose work gets ripped off continually; maybe I've never have mentioned this, but a small but significant chunk of my time is taken up by the tiresome business of attempting to muzzle some of the more egregious content thieves who simply steal my work without even a nod to fairness or ethical conduct.
...But that's me, is the point here. It's a personal reaction because of who I am and what I do with my time. It doesn't have to govern your response to the book.
I should also repeat my belief that this is not an issue of copyright and not a legal matter at all. It's merely a question of what constitutes standard journalistic practice.
In any event, I'll ask Johanna to send me a review copy, and if she does, I'll give it a full and, to the best of my ability, fair review. Seems like the least I can do, to compensate for my part in stirring this particular pot; because one of the core principles of this little corner of the web is to champion the work and the interests of photographers.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Steve Rosenblum: "I was composing this comment when this new post appeared. Personally, I am glad that it did. I have always been a person who tries to reserve judgment until I have had an opportunity to review the primary data at the root of a controversy. Yesterday, after reading your initial post, I went to my local Borders and read through Street Photography Now myself. After doing so, I purchased the book.
"I agree with many of the TOP commentators here that the editor made a mistake in not directly attributing the work of Michael David Murphy in compiling and presenting the interview material that was 'borrowed' by them to make this book. I prefer to not get tied up in the arguments about whether this behavior represents plagiarism or copyright infringement. I am old-school about this sort of thing, and disapprove of this kind of behavior. I would say that it is certainly 'discourteous,' as Ms. Neurath states, but also pretty tone deaf for people/company that lives and dies by selling intellectual and creative property.
"However, my reaction to the book itself is that:
1. It is clearly a true labor of love. Those words occurred to me before Ms. Neurath mentioned them here; it is quite obviously so. It is also obvious that this project had to have taken years to accomplish as well as likely thousands of miles of travel and a few bajillion emails and letters with the included photographers.
2. The text is illuminating and reflects deep thought and a genuine reverence and affection for the subject matter.
3. The production values of the book also reflect a similar reverence for the material. It is a lovely book as an object onto itself. As a book lover, I appreciate the choices and fights that likely went into that.
"I would wager that most TOP readers have not heard of, nor viewed the work of, most of the photographers presented in the book (unless they are true diehard devotees of international street photography). I have always loved street photography and own several iconic photographs, and I certainly did not know of all these people or their work. In this regard, I believe that the authors and publisher have done the photographers and the rest of us a real service in bringing them to our attention. Yes, you can sift through the work on Flickr and other forums devoted to street photography, but, there is still something to be said for looking at a curated collection and for seeing printed versions of the images.
"I suspect that the principals' initially tone deaf and defensive responses were triggered by the prospect of such an immense and worthwhile project disappearing without a trace because of this error in judgment. It reminds me of the reaction of any new parent to an objective bystander's observation that perhaps their newborn pride and joy is not quite as beautiful as they perceive him/her to be. An understandable, very human, reaction, though still wrong in my view. They should have just immediately apologized both publicly and privately without equivocation. They seem to be coming around now. I would suggest that they make their apologies for "discourteous behavior" public in a direct manner, since books are quite public, their market is the public, and it is the public that has reacted with offense, not just the Blog owner.
"I would ask my fellow TOP readers to consider the totality of this work, go take a look at it, and then judge the matter for themselves, as you have proposed to do. They have registered their anger, it sounds as though the book's principals are trying now to make amends, and the photographers who are the subject of this book can use the attention. In my humble opinion, it is a worthwhile and important photography book."
Featured Comment by John Camp: "Things are not always simple—it's perfectly possible for a book to 'appropriate' text and still have terrific photos and good production values. But your (Mike's) original judgment was that the text problem could be a deal-killer for you; Ctein took a severely dim view of it, and so did I. Could it be that we agreed on this because we're all writers, and we all know how hard it is to get out those simple words, and to accumulate and develop the ideas behind the words? If it had happened that several photos had been used without permission or acknowledgment, would we all agree that we could just kiss and make up? I doubt it...From a writer's point of view, it should be more than just a little embarrassment, a trivial oversight...
"But, things are not always simple, and I do love good street photography. If this collection is really good, I may buy it for the photos. But I'll still be pissed about the words."
Featured Comment by Ctein: "What John Camp said. I, too, will give the book a look, before comfortably settling into complete intransigence."
Featured Comment by James Bulloch: "I'm in general agreement with the majority thoughts in the original post: sharp and immoral practice by the publishers, the original act made even less defensible by the rather odd response by Johanna Neurath that either there were more important things to worry about, or that they were frightfully busy around publication time (depending on interpretation).
"There is however something I find a little ironic about this controversy. I don't particularly care for street photography as a genre, and thinking about why I feel that, it's because I find the basic premise rather discourteous when there are recognisable (if unknown) people as the main subject. If someone took my picture while I was on the street without direct permission, and that picture later becomes published (without any consent of mine) and adds to the renown and lustre of a photographer, I would feel aggrieved. At an extreme, I recall watching (I think on this site?...memory fails me) a 5-minute video of a well-known NYC street photographer who specialised in 'in your face' photography of passers-by. [Bruce Gilden. Our link is broken for some reason, but you can see the same video here. —Ed.] Perfectly legal, I'm sure, but also perfectly understandable if the unwilling subject had reacted rather badly (I would have, even if he was using a Leica).
"To sum up: in my opinion street photography should be a two-way street, as far as consent and attribution is concerned."