Vogue has employed some of the most famous photographers from around the world for the last 100 years. So when a member of Vogue Spain’s social media team decided to lift photos from the Instagram account of a well-known photographer, Twitter users were shocked.
Two tweets from New York based-photographer Sion Fullana show how Vogue Spain’s Instagram posted two of his photos on the magazine’s own account without any sort of citation. Fullana explained how he discovered Vogue’s misdeed in an interview with the Daily Dot.
“For the last weeks I had been on a hiatus from Instagram, and I had decided to turn my account to private, just so I can monitor who follows me. So I just go once a day and check those messages. I think that I was looking at the profile of someone that was adding me, to see who else were they following, and I discovered for the first time there was a Vogue Spain account. So I was curious in a positive way and checked their profile. I realized they only followed 21 people, including myself and my husband Anton.
As I looked through their images, I saw the photo of the dog, which looked so familiar. At first I thought it was Anton's (because we were together that day and we both photographed our own version of that scene), but then I dug in my own feed and realized it was my own image. Moments later, I also discovered the other image, of the mannequins, and my reaction was even stronger upon reading the caption, which stated it was taken in Paris, when I had shot this at the High Line in New York.”
Vogue has since apologized for the incident on its Instagram account.
Stealing photos online has become the norm on places like Tumblr, Canvas, and Reddit, where users regularly feud over original content. Last October, for example, CollegeHumor was accused of stealing original photos from Reddit after one photographer saw his work appear on the entertainment website.
Vogue called Fullana on Monday morning to review the incident. Afterward he discussed Vogue’s apology and how he plans on protecting his work from now on with the Daily Dot.
Daily Dot: Looking back now, what do you make of the whole incident? Has this become a growing problem for you or your colleagues?
“I think it reflects a growing problem in the communication/journalistic industry where people tend to take the work of others for granted. Many media outlets have become so badly accustomed to people giving away their photos or videos for free, many times without even crediting the author, that some people think they can take whatever whenever without permission, credit or compensation and that it will be fine. I am well aware that if you post an image to the internet you run the risk of having it ‘lifted,’ but one thing is having an amateur blog post a photo of yours, and another one very different to have a big name company or media do a commercial use of your work, or to grow their own brand. It's something that happens all the time nowadays, and I always advise people to fight this bad practices, by either reporting abuses and seek compensation or by refusing to give away free work unless the compensation in exposure or networking opportunities will make up for it. Any media supported by advertising can afford to pay image usage rights, however minimum. So let's stop the excuses and break the cycle."
DD: What do you think of Vogue’s apology?
“I am glad they took a tiny first step in the right direction. But I realize from the comments in that photo by people asking what happened that—as always in journalism—you need to contextualize so people can understand what happened. Saying ‘I made a mistake, I'm sorry’ if no one knows what the mistake was doesn't help to show others that it's a bad practice to use the work of others uncredited as your own.
“I had a phone conversation with a reporter at Vogue Spain today, and I explained that I believe their audience needs to hear where they acted wrong and be assured that mistake won't be repeated. It's also been mentioned as a possibility for compensation that they offer me a remunerated assignment to show some of my work on their site. That would be a perfect way to say "we turned something wrong into something positive" and I'm looking forward to hearing from them with their proposal.”
DD: How do you plan on protecting your work in the future?
“I normally hate having to watermark my images that I share online. So I'm not sure I may take the step, that I believe detracts from the enjoyment of a photograph when you show it. But this experience, when seeing how viral the story has got in only two days, shows you the true reach of social media to report a bad practice. So I believe it's positive that we police any abuses and share them to make sure companies understand it's just not OK to act this way.”
Photo via @SionFullana