Exhaustion, Obsolescence, and Self-Worth
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 24, 2014
In May, designer Jason Santa Maria published an article speculating on what course his career (and life) would take should he ever stop designing websites. Considering the impressive trajectory of his career, the article was notable. Santa Maria is a Senior Designer at Vox Media, founded of Typedia and A Book Apart, formerly worked as creative director of An Event Apart and Typekit, served as an AIGA/NY vice president, authored On Web Typography, and currently teaches at SVA’s Interactive Design program. What would make an individual with such extraordinary experience question his future in his chosen field?
In “What’s Next,” Santa Maria explains that he’s preparing for the possibility that someday he won’t be able to (or interested in) continuing his career in web design: “I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that there will be a time when I don’t want to, or can’t — due to fatigue or professional obsolescence — work in this industry anymore.” He worries that his own fascination with bygone skills, such as handset typography, and his drive to explore deeply into topics will leave him off-guard as technology progresses. He concludes by speculating that “[f]lexibility in work habits and in thinking, rather than languages and programs, might be our most useful skills.”
However, in a follow-up article, “Correspondence with an Ex-Designer,” Santa Maria reveals a deeper disquiet that lead to his soul searching. A reader named Ruth responded to his earlier article by describing her journey from designer to sheep farmer, reassuring him that “(w)hat’s next — all depends on you, what motivates you and what makes you happy — there will always be new challenges, but that is what life is all about...” In his response, Santa Maria spoke of his “exhaustion [that] comes from the industry often taking more from us than it gives” and his growing sense of disconnect. Again, he found that Ruth’s reply was on target: “Keep working on it — it is important to you, in your own personal development — that development is important — not the expectations of anyone else. Self-worth is so important.”
With the daunting external factors facing creatives — marketplace pressures, client expectations, the unceasing need to up one’s skills — the exchange between Santa Maria and Ruth is particularly reassuring. It highlights the commonality of professional burn-out, and provides some insight into the personal strength individuals can draw from. Here’s to hoping that Santa Maria continues to find his inspiration, and in doing so, share his story.
Photograph of Jason Santa Maria used with permission.
For the Font- and Dog-Obsessed
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 22, 2014
A fun diversion was published by William Wegman, the artist whose iconic portraits of his dogs Man Ray and Fay Ray brought the Weimaraner dog breed to new heights of popularity in the 1980s. In mid September, Wegman posted on Facebook a short video of his latest crew of Weimeraners patiently modeling letterforms. Up to four dogs stretch, nose to tail, and curl their lanky bodies to create the letterforms as Wegman recites the alphabet.
Wegman has a long history of featuring his dogs in videos. One of his first productions from 1975, Dog Duet, shows Man Ray and Fay Ray oddly staring about the studio space with great intensity. Only at the very end of the short film does Wegman reveal his trick: a tennis ball, moving about off camera, to the great interest of the dogs. An earlier film clip, Spelling Lesson (1973) has Wegman correcting Man Ray’s spelling. It’s an intriguing peek into the wonderful relationship between the artist and his muse.
Chronicling the (Extra)Ordinary: Tiny PMS Match
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 18, 2014
The Pantone Matching System has gone from being an invaluable tool for designers to a cultural meme. The Pantone company is capitalizing on the public appetite for designer-chic by producing color-swatch themed goods, from iPhone cases, to mugs, stationery, and pencil cases. The creative community has taken inspiration from the iconic swatches, producing their own variations based on superheroes, skin tones, beer, chocolate, and food – both using food to create swatches, and matching food to swatches.
One inspired take on the Pantone system is cataloged in Tiny PMS Match, a blog created by designer Inka Mathew. For the past year, Mathew has been color matching objects from her daily life to Pantone swatches. Since the objects need to fit within a Pantone swatch, they are tiny, nondescript items that ordinarily would be overlooked: seeds, buds, a Froot Loop, a worn toy fish. But as photographic subjects, framed by their swatches, they become imbued with beauty and mystery.
The blog archive also serves as a touching visual journal of everyday life. For example, her travels are chronicled in the swatches, as a French thimble, an English souvenir, and seashells make their appearance. Family life is revealed in a Barbie shoe, children’s vitamins, and a wedding ring. Even the changing seasons are reflected, as the buds of local flowers are replaced with blossoms, seed pods and autumn leaves. It’s a lovely meditation on the extraordinary beauty to be found in an ordinary life.
Images © Inka Mathew. Used with permission.
Google, Photographers Settle Litigation over Books
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 10, 2014
NEW YORK, NY – [SEPTEMBER 10, 2014] – A group of photographers, visual artists and affiliated associations have reached a settlement with Google in a lawsuit over copyrighted material in Google Books. The parties are pleased to have reached a settlement that benefits everyone and includes funding for the PLUS Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping rights holders and users communicate clearly and efficiently about rights in works.
Further terms of the agreement are confidential.
The agreement resolves a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Google in April, 2010, bringing to an end more than four years of litigation. It does not involve any admission of liability by Google. As the settlement is between the parties to the litigation, the court is not required to approve its terms.
This settlement does not affect Google’s current litigation with the Authors Guild or otherwise address the underlying questions in that suit.
The plaintiffs in the case are rights holder associations and individual visual artists. The associational plaintiffs are The American Society of Media Photographers, Inc., Graphic Artists Guild, PACA (Digital Media Licensing Association), North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, National Press Photographers Association, and American Photographic Artists. The individual plaintiffs are Leif Skoogfors, Al Satterwhite, Morton Beebe, Ed Kashi, John Schmelzer, Simms Taback and Gail Kuenstler Taback Living Trust, Leland Bobbé, John Francis Ficara, and David W. Moser.
The case is American Society of Media Photographers, Inc. et al. v. Google Inc., Case No. 10-CV-02977 (DC) pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
About Google Inc. and Associational Parties
Google is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information. Google’s innovations in web search and advertising have made its website a top Internet property and its brand one of the most recognized in the world.
Founded in 1944, The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) is the premier trade association for the world's most respected photographers.
The Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) is a national union of graphic artists dedicated to promoting and protecting the social, economic and professional interests of its members and for all graphic artists including, animators, cartoonists, designers, illustrators, and digital artists.
PACA (Digital Media Licensing Association) is a trade association established in 1951 whose members include more than 80 companies representing the world of digital content licensing.
NANPA, the North American Nature Photography Association, is the first and premiere association in North America committed solely to serving the field of nature photography.
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) represents more than 27,000 photographers and photographic artists from dozens of specialty areas including portrait, wedding, commercial, advertising and art.
Founded in 1946 the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is the “voice of visual journalists” promoting and defending the rights of photographers and journalists, including freedom of the press in all its forms.
The American Photographic Artists (APA) is a leading national organization run by and for professional photographers.
Google is a trademark of Google Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.
On Gods and Macaques: Who Owns the Monkey Selfie?
Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 20, 2014
If an Indonesian monkey in the middle of the forest on a remote island takes a selfie with an English photographer’s camera, who owns the copyright? While this sounds like a pseudo case history dreamt up by a creative law professor to present during a lecture on intellectual property, the story, and the rights issue raised, are very real. British wildlife photographer David Slater spent a number of days stalking a group of crested black macaque monkeys. As the animals became accustomed to him and his equipment, they approached the camera, setting it off. The resulting self portraits, showing the monkeys grimacing at their reflections in the large camera lens, are hysterical.
The photos were an Internet sensation when they appeared on a number of news websites such as the Daily Mail in 2011. (Slater licensed the images through his agent, Caters News Agency.) Recently, the images hit the news again when several of the images, marked as public domain, were published by a Wikimedia user in their “free media repository,” Wikimedia Commons. Slater requested that Wikimedia remove the photos, and the organization refused to do so, stating that the photographer cannot claim to own the copyright since he didn’t actually snap the photo.
So who does own the copyright? Attorney Leslie Burns addressed the issue in her blog post, “On the Monkey Selfie.” In her article, she cited Wikimedia Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer Katharine Maher, who is quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “What we found is that U.S. copyright law says that works that originate from a non-human source can’t claim copyright.” Burns disputes the basic premise presented by Maher, stating that since the photograph was taken in Indonesia, on a camera that belongs to a UK citizen, US copyright law hardly applies.
Guild Advocacy Liaison Lisa Shaftel expressed a similar view on the Copyright Clearance Center’s, “On Copyright ,” SoundCloud channel. In her opinion, US Copyright law is not relevant to the claim. Shaftel makes no conclusions as to who owns the copyright. However, she dismisses Wikimedia’s claim that the photograph is public domain, stating that the organization is making unauthorized use of the photo.
Burns dug up a case history that could have some bearing. In a second blog post, “More Monkey Business,” she cites the case of Urantia Foundation v. Maaherra. The case hinged on some text that was purported to have been authored by celestial beings. The court looked closely at whether the work was copyrightable, since authors were non-human. The court decision stated “…so as long as a human (or humans) did something to contribute to making this work, then the copyright did exist and vested in those humans.” Burns proposes that were Slater a US photographer, whatever work he did to the images – converting the RAW files, culling the photos, cropping or tweaking the color balance – would confer upon him copyright ownership since the photos were actually snapped by a non-human.
Of course Slater is not a citizen of the United States, and US copyright law is not applicable here. However, the conditions under which the photos were taken may be very relevant to the outcome of the case. Despite earlier stories which reported that the photos were taken without his intervention, Slater’s back story claims that he set up the conditions which enable the monkey-selfie: encouraging the macaques to come closer, adjusting the settings (auto-focus, shutter speed, etc.) to be optimal, placing the camera on a tripod the monkeys would approach, and even steadying the tripod with one hand.
While some may question Slater’s story, what isn’t up for debate is the impact having the photos available on the Wikimedia site is having on Slater’s bottom line. As Petapixel reports, “Whether or not the letter of the law agrees with Slater’s claim is up for debate, but one thing is certain: he’s missed out on a lot of potential licensing fees thanks in large part to the photo being uploaded to the Commons.”
Photo © David Slater. Used with permission.Previous Page Next Page
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