The beauty of asking permission

by Brenda Wood

Many a conversation has been had about copyright and legality, which usually ends in an emotive or confusing climax.

However, there is another side to asking permission that can be extremely rewarding.

In preparing for an exhibition in Dalby recently for Spectrum Textile Arts, the artists decided to create a special display pertinent to the Darling Downs area.

I have a new found fascination with sunsets and storms so I decided to continue with that.  But just any old sunset wouldn’t do.  They had to be pertinent to the area.  Not living locally in Dalby, was not a problem however, as the internet makes global local.  A hashtag search on Instagram revealed a dearth of images taken in the Dalby locale. 

Even though I was only going to use the images as reference I felt it was still proper to ask for permission.  My process was to take a screen shot of the image, along with the username, so I knew who owned each image.  I electronically messaged each user explaining who I was and what I wanted to do.  I marked each image with “message sent” and “permission received” so I had a record of contact.

Dalby DDD display with Didactic crediting photo artists

The feedback was positive in so many ways!  The photographers were open and generous to their use, with only one, a professional photographer asking to be formally attributed.  I was determined to make mention of each photographer in the official exhibition didactic, as part of the fun is the story behind the art, so I was happy to oblige.

The positivity didn’t stop with granted permissions.  I learnt a little bit about some of the photographers and the story behind some of the shots.  One in particular is particularly poignant.  After finally making a connection with Instagram user Kerri-Anne Sanders (unfortunately too late for the exhibition),  I was told that although she lived in Emerald, she had taken the photo in Dalby with her father, on the anniversary of her mothers death. She believed her Mama was “letting the light shine through” that day.  It was a powerful image and knowing the backstory made it all the more relevant.

Mama shines ver 1 by Brenda Wood

Now, you might say my pieces are so dissimilar to the original images that I didn’t need to seek permission and perhaps drawing the designs afresh and altering some of the elements meant they were used as reference or inspiration only.  But had I not sought permission I would not have felt confident to exhibit the works without the fear of emotive repercussions. 

The icing on the cake is that the photographers have all had the bonus of having their work appreciated and taken into another art form. 

Tagging the users on social media in progress photos along the way added to the beauty of sharing for both parties.  They get to tell their mates that an artist is reproducing their work in ink and stitch and I get to share my work with likeminded artists who work in another medium.

In this day and age of constant contact there is always a way of finding a photos owner.  It may take more than 1 message and you might have to contact them after trolling through Google, FaceBook, Instagram, twitter and Linked-in, but the results are worth it.

Text Box: Figure 4 Mama Shines Vers 1

There is no greater disappointment than creating an art piece without permission, then having to exclude it from display.

The only times I have been refused permission is by high profile photographers.  So if you see an image in National Geographic for instance, it is unlikely permission will be granted free of charge.  Photos of this calibre are often under license agreements.

Photos used with permission don’t always have to be attributed.  A photographer will usually stipulate if they want it.  But almost all people I’ve approached have always wanted a photo sent to them of my finished piece.  I consider it a thank you for them saying yes and am always happy to oblige.

There is huge curiosity about what we talented sewists do.  People marvel at the inventiveness and depth of topics that we tackle.  Many questions are asked about how I achieve the pieces and when I add that they include stitching they are blown away.

Where to find photos:

There are plenty of places to find photos without infringing copyright.   Unsplash has the generous tagline of  “Unsplash. Beautiful Free Photos. Gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers.”  While you are there, why not upload some of your own photos to share !

Google search using criteria such as
CC creative commons, Image settings by usage rights.

Note: “free” photos often still require payment.  Check the useage rights on each photo or site.

Photo Credits: Brenda Wood

Photos used with permission, with Thanks to @Kerri-Anne Sanders, @Sunset_Huntress – JW, @The_Honhon – Chris Honnery, @Pennys_Photography – Penny, @Butch_aa – Ben, @Jessica_____X – Jess O’Connell, @Cactusinspace – Jonas.

This article was originally published in the Down Under Textiles Australian Magazine.

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