Photography, art, and copyright

abstract image

Drowning Fields adapted from an original photograph by Slawek Staszczuk http://www.photoss.net

Since re-entering the art world recently (long layoff, politics, diversion, good-career-anyway-so-never-mind!), I’ve discovered something I hadn’t known which is that many people work from photographs, replicating the image with superb (or varying degrees of) accuracy, or placing on it their own interpretation. Many use their own photos for this, after all, it’s got to be more comfortable painting a landscape back indoors than struggling with the elements on a windy hillside, and do cats ever sit still when you need them to? But some don’t, they use images from the internet or cut from magazines and, from what I can tell, many are unaware that using those images is a breach of copyright if they pass them off as their own, and especially if they go on to enter them in competitions or benefit financially from them without crediting the photographer and getting their permission to do that. It’s a bit like someone re-typing one of my stories in a different font or rendering it as a poem and then cashing in on it without mentioning that it was mine in the first place, and since that’s plagiarism so must be using photographs in that way.

The image then: This is based on a photo from a magazine which my local art group has chosen as a project by which all of us can display our different skills. Most will never see a public platform of any kind but you know me, I was born with an Enter button pre-installed just waiting for the internet to happen! The photographer is Slawek Staszczuk and his website is www.photoss.net. Our agreement is that my adaptations of his work will not be used in connection with any commercial venture or for any profit which, to my mind, includes even local art competitions, and that I will send him links to wherever they end up – something he may regret asking! I’d include his original for comparison but since I’ve no idea what magazine it came from, I can’t request permission so you’ll have to take it from me that it’s very beautiful, full of luscious greens, and about as far from my interpretation as it’s possible to get. As to what ‘Drowning Fields’ means, you’ll not be surprised to find there’s an ecological message paddling around in there about rising sea levels. It’s probably easier to pick out in the colour version*, executed in Rebelle2 software, where you might spot a seal, a whale, turtles, and coral. The monochrome skinned down image above was further filtered in Procreate on my iPad.

I have paint and I’ve even used it recently but heck, I couldn’t resist importing the picture and running it through some software for added oomph! It’s called Beach Huts and it’s on the Rebelle* site next to this one. The sky top left quarter is unadulterated paint and pastel.

*My grandly titled gallery for Rebelle based work is here.This software is very easy to use, unlike some of the more elaborate programmes such as Paint Shop Pro’s Painter/Essentials. The paint behaves like paint, it runs and blots and drifts about, it merges unless you dry it, and you can do that with a click which is a whole lot easier than a hair dryer! What’s more, there’s no palette for cats to wander through, or water to knock over (or absently take a swig from instead of your coffee), and no disposal problem for leftover oils and acrylics. And if your eyesight is becoming a tad iffy, you benefit from being able to zoom right in while you dot in the tiny details. Perfect!

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