Monday, May 27, 2013

The Plague of Pinonymity and How to Stop It



Who took that photo of Ewan McGregor? No idea. But I'm sure the photographer would prefer to have her/his name credited. The number of pinners on Pinterest who like photography enough to create boards and boards of photos but apparently not well enough to bother attributing those photos simply astounds me. And don't get me started on Tumblr, which seems to be the most frequent source of those orphaned photos.

If you have come to this blog, chances are, you like photography. Maybe you have your own blog, or tumblr site, or pinterest account. If so, consider what you can do to rescue photos from pinonymity.

Don't just repin if there is no credit line. First, click through to see if the link gives the name of the photographer. Then, when you repin, you can add the name.

In this case, the pin took me to jeaninebrito.tumblr.com
Ok. Fingers crossed.....NOOOOOO!! Worst possible outcome. The pinner didn't pin to the stable URL. This meant that I had to go to "archive" and search back all the way to June 2012 to find the photo:

What do you think the odds are that her post included a photo credit? Slim to none. So I clicked through to "above-the-charming-clouds" and eventually to the source which—surprise—had no credit.

Open google images and drag the photo into the search bar. You will get a result like this:
See that image at the top? That's the one I dragged into the image search bar. Click on "All sizes" under "Find other sizes of this image" and you get this:


You can then click on individual images and go to the sites that have posted them, hoping that somewhere, somebody gave an image credit. Most of the time, you can find a reputable source that gives the photographer's name. In this case, most of the results were repins or tumblr reblogs—none of them attributed. What's the responsible thing to do? Don't repin it. 

But if you absolutely can't resist repinning a photo with no credit, at least acknowledge your desire to know by writing "photo by?" or "photographer?" or something that might make other people stop to think for a moment that there's a person who took that image that you like so much.

I'm not going so far as to say that every pin needs a photo credit, although I'm sure some people will accuse me of hypocrisy for having a double standard. The person who took a photo of that light fixture on eBay, or that ring for sale on Etsy, for example, likely operates under the assumption that their photo will not be credited—not that product photography can't be a work of art (I'd buy a coffee table book of Modern 50's catalog in a heartbeat.) Same goes for most stock photography once it has been licensed. Or, to use a personal example, my DIY dictionary print post has been repinned hundreds and hundreds of times without photo credits and I don't care in the least, because the photos in the post are not meant to be "photos" (i.e. my "photography"); they are meant to be purely descriptive visual guides to a DIY project. In fact, I would probably be embarrassed if someone thought that the shapshots in my DIY post were meant to be art.

However, if you are pinning a photo to a board like "Black and White Photography" or "Photos I like" or "Portraits" or anything where the photo is the object (i.e. is meant as art), then credit the photographer. It may take extra time, but if you stop and relabel a casually posted, non-credited photo, you might just help eradicate "pinonymity."

Now who can tell me who took that photo of Ewan McGregor?

3 comments:

Strawbleu said...

But that's not what the internet is about. If, instead, the photographer had digitally watermarked the image and Pinterest added in a method to expose that Meta data (along with any exif), then wouldn't the situation be improved?

We (humanity) created a system that made it easy to share, but without adding in a simple, transparent and 'sticky' meta embedding solution.

What amazes me is how long it's taken us to (still not) do something about it.

marc said...

Thanks for commenting :)
I agree that the internet is not well adapted to preserving information. Personally, I hate watermarks, but I know they can be effective for certain purposes.

michaela said...

Hi Marc!
I agree. I have tried to search through the often very long "re-pinned from" lists to find that they turn into some kind of weird loop, long lists of "repins" without ever reaching an original source.