The anonymous photographer

100 Photos that Changed Canada

The book is called 100 Photos that Changed Canada. The premise is obvious. Or at least it should be.

The book’s description on the publisher’s website goes like this:

Over 30 writers enrich the photos with in-depth commentary, creating a complex tapestry of experience that is nostalgic, entertaining, sometimes shocking, but always memorable. A book full of reminiscences, a book to browse through and share, this beautifully designed gallery of images offers a fascinating, often personal, perspective on great moments from our history. With introductory comments by Charlotte Gray, Deborah Morrison and Mark Reid, and noted contributors from across Canada, this will be the gift book of the fall.

Contributors include Christie Blatchford, Michael Bliss, Tim Cook, Peter Desbarats, Will Ferguson, J.L. Granatstein, Rudyard Griffiths, Tina Loo, Peter Mansbridge, Ken McGoogan, Christopher Moore, Desmond Morton, Don Newman, Jacques Poitras, Dick Pound and Winona Wheeler

So the photos are paired with stories about them, written by some big-name writers. Those writers get mention in the blurb about the book, and their biographies are in the book, as well as being attached to the texts written by them next to the photos.

But while the writers are put on a pedestal for their works of art, the people who took the 100 photos that changed Canada are getting the shaft.

Simply put, the photos don’t come with credits on them. There are no biographies of the photographers who took those photos, and no discussion of the stories behind the photos (like, say, how they were taken), because the photographers weren’t even contacted before the book’s release. Instead, the photographers are listed on a “photo credits” page, as if they formed part of the bibliography. They’re footnotes in the stories of their own photos. Except footnotes would appear on the same page.

CBC.ca has a slide show of a selection of these photos. It includes a giant picture of editor Mark Reid at the beginning. It goes on for six minutes and 43 seconds about seven photos used in the book. Each photo is given a title and gets a nice long description by Reid. At no point, not in Reid’s description of the photos, nor in the title graphics that precede each one, is the name of the photographer mentioned or displayed.

Similarly, CTV’s website also has a slideshow. Every slide includes Reid’s name, but not one mentions the name of the photographer who took the photo.

People don’t go into photojournalism to make money. They don’t go into it to become famous (photo credits are usually hidden in corners and are smaller than bylines). They do it because they have a passion for the art. They don’t ask for parades to be thrown for them.

But if you’re going to publish a book about what you pretend are iconic photos, to diminish the role of the photographer to this extent is simply disrespectful.

Considering your name is on the cover of the book (even though the work inside was created by others), clearly you understand the value of credits.

9 thoughts on “The anonymous photographer

    1. Fagstein Post author

      To be clear, this isn’t a case of lack of authorization. The book has the proper copyright clearance for the photos. It’s a question of etiquette.

      Reply
  1. Jim P

    I heard Don Neuman interviewed last week on CBC radio with Bernie St. Laurent about the photo’s he chose/ wrote about. It sounds like it will be a book everyone should have on their coffee table.

    Reply
  2. wkh

    What the hell? Are you SERIOUS? That almost sounds like an Onion article. I hope the photographers sue the shit out of them. I’m totally boycotting that book.

    Reply
  3. Mississauga Blogger

    Many of my images have made national TV newscasts but folks sitting at home don’t know who I am.
    Cameramen/women, editors, writers and most of the off camera staff rarely are acknowledged and we know that before we sign on.

    Although you think a book celebrating these great photos could have a tiny little credit attached to it.

    Reply
    1. Gilles

      This underscores the fact that artists (in whatever genre) should always steadfast to make sure they get proper recognition and compensation for their works and ideas.

      Reply
  4. Guy Beaubien

    The book is a disgrace and an insult to all photographers. Shat amazes me is that some of the photographers whose photos are in the book have spoken in defense of the author. It appears that their just tickled pink to get their photo in the big smoke. It never amazes me how cheaply photographers can be bought off.

    I do know some photographers who have photos in this book who are absolutely disgusted not only by the lack of credit but also by the photo editing. That is to say a weak photo was chosen when better frames were available from the same photoghrapher.

    I absolutley can’t believe ( and I use this as an example) that the author did not bother to interview Allen McInnis about his photo of the Montreal massacre. I know Allen and I know the details of his coverage and those that don’t are being deprived of good information
    that would have enhanced this book.

    Excuse me while I barf.

    Reply

Leave a Reply