Monday, February 23, 2009

Visual Plagiarism: The Strange Case of Rosie Hardy

Last week on Flickr the floodgates opened when one of its most popular photographeress' Rosie Hardy was accused of plagiarism in a number of her photos. A person, know only as "Harry", brought it to light, posting RH's pictures on his/her own stream next to the DeviantArt and Flickr photographs that she was accused of plagarising (his Flickr account has been removed three times, but he's continuing on his blog)..he also mass posted comments in other peoples photostreams to make them aware of Rosie's crime....

What ensued was the opening of a gigantic can o' worms. Rosie mostly ignored "Harry", deleting his comments, "Harry" became more determined and rallied his troupes, discussion threads were started both on Flickr Central and the very popular Female Self-Portrait Artists' Support Group (entrance only to members) and soon contained hundreds and hundreds of postings veering from disappointment at Ms Hardy and calls for an apology, to sane discussion as to what merits visual plagiarism, to more stalker-type aggressive behavious towards the artist in question. And in return accusations of "natzism" and "bullying" hurled back by RH's supporters. The leading ladies of the FSPASG have produced (and I would like to add here rather fantastic) photographs in support of "Harry" with "I Love Harry" written across their naked chests (see Quizz... , :anna: kezzaroo ). Hardygate was born and things got kind of crazy. RH publically apologised with a suicidal type photograph and is now "taking a break" from Flickr.

Now, rather than sit on either side of the fence I put my anthropologist hat on, take a step back and look at it through my specs and say "that's interesting, I wonder why they are behaving like that" (I know, I'm so annoying). On a personal note I've been following Ms Hardy's stream for a while, and after seeing the similarities between some of the photos I have to say I am a bit disappointed, it would have been respectful to credit. I find this Harry person kind of strange, he seems to hold a personal vendetta here, and some of the posters in the forums clearly like to shout a lot (quite easily spurred on by Rosie's rather nauseating online relationship with Aaron). But what most interests me is the ferocity around this topic, akin to some kind of hysterical smear campaign that goes on and on and on....What is evident is that RH has become a bit of a scapegoat for something that has been bubbling around Flickr for a while...fear of having personal creativity or 'ideas' stolen. When does inspiration become plagiarism, where is the line drawn? And can it be drawn in cyberspace, a place that spans countries and cultures? For instance it is a misconception that plagiarism is a universal understanding. In many cultures it is regarded as a form of flattery and even encouraged. And are we now post-originality? Anyone who has any background in literary theory or postmodernism will understand the phrases 'everything is a tissue of quotations' and 'nothing is original'....In the age of the Internet is it possible to control plagiarism, is it time to move away from owning ideas to who can express it better? I'm mean...I saw a clone picture once, then I made one myself. I just searched clowns on Flickr and found some akin to my clown picture (you know people in make up and wigs).....shit!!! Am I in trouble???? Sure, I see in the case of RH there are obvious heavy influences that should have been credited, but some of the comparisons people have found are simply clutching at straws, like the paparazzi looking for anything to bring her down. Look hard enough and you will find something you could claim to be 'too' similar.

She's 18 years old, about to embark on A'level exams with hundreds of people calling for her withdrawal from a major part of her life, if I was her I'd be rock bottom, and her apologetic posting on flickr shows just that. Is it all a it all a publicity stunt (Harry IS Aaron???) as some of her adversaries are claiming. I can't say for sure but I doubt it. It's just a kid who got it wrong in a very public way, but what do you expect if you make yourself a Flickr celebrity when plagiarism amongst artists is still seen as the ultimate are going to be sussed eventually. What has it achieved at the micro-level, they taught a young girl a hard lesson, made her cry, at a macro-level, it raises some pretty big questions.

So I love you? In a sick way I love the chaos you have I about to take my top off for way honey.

I would like to credit absolutely everybody in and not in my life for every photo I have ever taken...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Creating Clone Images

Some people have asked me how I put together "Breathe" - good news, the photo editing work is dead easy (climbing the tree itself...well that's another story)!

Clone pictures are pretty commonplace now on Flickr, there are groups dedicated to them or look at the excellent work of Miss Anelia. I guess you could say they are symbolic of the multiplicity of the self....I just happen to think they are quite fun! This isn't the first one I've made, but I prefer this one.

There are many ways I imagine that you could create one (more tutorials at the bottom) but here's how I did it:

1. Find a tree (preferably one you can get up and that isn't blowing in the wind too much).
2. Set the camera up on a tripod - I had mine on programme setting stopped down a notch, nothing too difficult here.
3. Climb tree
4. Either with the aid of a trusty other or a handheld remote take loads of pictures (I mean loads - I took about 150) of you in different positions (being careful not to fall out of said tree). The trick is not to move the camera a mm! Keep it set on the tripod. Be careful though, if someone comes up and nicks your equiptment you are not in a very good position to go after them in hot pursuit!
5. In photoshop choose one picture to use as a base image, then using the lasso tool select yourselves on the other images and paste them into position, each on a new layer on the base image. Works better if you feather the selection for each.
6. Use the eraser and blur tools to go around the edges and neaten up.
7. Flatten layers
8. I then used the Orton method on this image and played with the tone mapping and curves to create the 'look'.

...In total about 2.5 hours work, voila! Piece of Pie!

[The reflection in the pond was created by copying part of the image, flipping it round, distorting it horizontally using the lens distort filter, pasting into position and decreasing the opacity]

Oh did I mention I have a new website...

Other Tutorials
How to make clone pictures using Gimp

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Web Site!!!!

I now have a website!! This is my portfolio and a place to put specific projects I have worked on, there are password protected galleries for the commissions I get (and it also has an online store!)

This photo is in honour of my new website and is called "Breathe".

Thursday, February 12, 2009

National Darwin Day

It's National Darwin Day so I feel I must post seeing how I've just been to the Galapagos. There are some nice things on the web I've noticed. Firstly I'm very impressed with Darwin on Twitter, and there are some nice articles on the BBC website, including this one with pieces of footage from the Galapagos. Of course the Galapagos feature prominently, touted that it was Darwin's observations of the Giant Tortoises and Finches here that influenced his theory of evolution. National Geographic however have published an interesting article saying that really it was his experiences in Argentina and a trove of fossils which gave him his initial musings. One of my photos is even being used to illustrate a story. Amongst all this news coverage however there are articles warning of the threat of tourism on this beautiful archipelago. Whilst it is still the best preserved in the World, if the tourism it is attracting continues the uniqueness of the Galapagos and its species will be lost forever.

I now feel a pang of guilt. I was one of those tourists, having been my dream for years to visit the Islands. My experience of tourism in the Galapagos was generally very positive. The guides were very clear as to how we should act - pulling people back if they strayed from the paths or too near the animals, making sure that only one or two boats visited an Island at any one point. It certainly didn't seem very touristy. Many of the Islands remain uninhabited, no shops, no cash points, no restaurants. We were hosed down every time we returned to the boat to ensure we didn't carry anything between the Islands and given talks on preservation and the impact of people, how measures were in place to ensure they were protected. Eco-education was the aim of this trip. But the figures are there: a four-fold increase in visitors in the last 20 years, and most worryingly an increase from 112 recorded alien species in 1900 to over 1,300 today. The aircraft cabins are sprayed before landing on Baltra but evidently some insects are getting through and causing havoc.

Shutting off the Islands to tourists could cause serious economic problems for Ecuador, but now it seems that a new balance must be found to ensure that the Galapagos remain as they should. I shamefully feel so lucky to have visited such an amazing place and understand first hand why it should be cared for.

1. Hood Mockingbird
2. Cactus Finch
3. A tourist boat in the Galapagos

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It really pisses me off when I comment on a photograph on Flickr asking how the photographer achieved so-and-so effect and they just say 'it's magic' or 'it's a secret'. I mean it's not like without enough googling I couldn't find out, it's not rocket science. Stop being so precious and be a bit more friendly - gripe, gripe!

My latest faves on Flickr

1. Vol 1.0., 2. I, 3. Poppies, 4. Gravity, 5. The Trailer, 6. Cotton Candy, 7. no reply, 8. gala., 9. black square sun hype–ĮReally eclipsed by housing blocks, 10. Untitled, 11. tagged, 12. Cactus, 13. breathe, 14. yes, boss, 15. day three hundred fifty nine. a lady always dresses for her body type..., 16. if you'd just take off your mask

Monday, February 02, 2009

A curious spectacle to behold

Near the springs it was a curious spectacle to behold many of these huge creatures, one set eagerly travelling onwards with outstretched necks, and another set returning, after having drunk their fill.
- Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species

National Geographic has the most amazing photograph of Giant Tortoises in it this month (Go here then photo gallery and it's the last picture). It's the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species this year so the nature/science mags are falling over Darwin. I'll leave my lecture on Darwin and the Galapagos (or not so much the Galapagos it seems according to NG) until I get my mocking bird and finch photos together, but a quickie on these gentle giants. During his voyage of the Galapagos Darwin met the English Governor, Nicholas Lawson of Isla Floreana, who told him that he could tell with certainty which island a tortoise had come from by the shape their shell, supporting Darwin's view that a species had adapted to the habitat in which it lived. It took Darwin a while to get excited by this however as he failed to collect any of the tortoise carapaces in the islands he visited. Darwin and the crew of the Beagle simply ate the tortoises that they captured and threw away the shells.

National Geographic's NG's photograph made me go back to my tortoise pictures and look at them a bit more closely to see if I could salvage anything (I originally discarded all 104 of them as they were too bright, out of focus....), and on second look a few were pulled from the trash can. This creature was incredible, it is only really possible to see how big they are by looking at one next to me! They look ancient. Well I guess they are. The photograph below shows' a c.90 year old Lonesome George', he is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, and is labeled the rarest creature in the entire world.

You can get the entire current issue of National Geographic online, free! And there are photo competitions!!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Galapagos: 'Imps of Darkness'

The Marine Iguana is only found on the Galapagos Islands so I felt very privileged to meet them! They look so prehistoric and are a pretty scary sight, Charles Darwin himself on first encountering them wrote:

The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them 'imps of darkness'. They assuredly well become the land they inhabit.

These 'imps of darkness' warm up on the lava rocks all day to create enough heat to plunge themselves into the sea to swim to their daily supply of marine algae. I was so shocked to encounter one whilst actually in the sea that I didn't get a was like having a dinosaur swimming towards you!

Galapagos: Sea Lions up close and personal

Wildlife photography isn't really my thing, but you can't help but get excited by what you find in the Galapagos Islands. Located in the Pacific Ocean about 1000km off Ecuador, the Islands are home to an amazing array of wildlife...sea lions, iguanas, blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, albertros', sharks, sea turtles, and what's more you can get really close to it all (but of course don't touch)! So it's an incredible place to have a go at photographing birds and animals, they just seem to want to pose for you! This was my first real attempt at wildlife, I was incredibly lucky to be bale to practice in such an amazing location. Advice I had before i went was right, I didn't really need a supersonic lens, the Canon 70-250mm was just fine, although at max range it was a little hard getting everything in focus and sharp. Unfortunately because I couldn't really see my photographs properly before I got back I didn't really notice whilst I was out there. A lot went in the trash can.

I prefer my Peru photographs, but that's just me. If wildlife is your thing, have a gander (I'm not going to saturate my flickr stream with bird photographs) and there will be more on their way in my SmugMug website when I get that up - watch this space! To start with Sea Lions...naughty things, I nearly had my bum head butted quite a few times crouching down to photograph these fellas!