CREATIVE

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

A: I’d probably be a farmer if I wasn’t a portrait photographer, but living in downtown Manhattan wasn’t conducive to agriculture to photography it is!!!

Q: What art technique do you use, and what motivated you to use that technique?

A: Well I couldn’t paint, write, draw, act, or carry a tune to save my life so photography was kinda my only option for a creative outlet. Photography for me wasn’t even so much as an artform, I used it more as a tool. It got me backstage, on a mountain, in a helicopter or free lift tickets it was really only later on that I found out it was an artform.

My father had been a hobby photographer for years and when he gave me a camera it just came naturally for me. I picked it up very quickly and sorta hit the ground running at full speed.

Photo by James Douglas

Photo by James Douglas

Q: When did you decide you wanted to be a creative photographer? And has the internet become a good or bad aspect to life as an artist?

A: I’m not sure I ever made a conscious decision to become an artist it was more of a moment when I realized I had become one already. At a creative briefing with Ogilvy and Mather one of their Creative directors turned to me and asked me what I thought about the shoot. Classic spit take moment after I looked around the room and realized he was talking to me and that my artistic opinion was being valued…pretty cool moment for a 24 year old ski bum.

Q: What do you dislike about the world of photography?

A: I wish creatives would check their egos at the door and chill the fuck out. Art is so often made much better when you collaborate with other artists and that’s only ever possible when you realize that you can’t do everything yourself. There’s many aspects of photography that I can’t do and probably even more that I shouldn’t.

Q: What is the toughest thing about being a photographer?

A: Realizing that you’re actually a business.

Photo by James Douglas

Photo by James Douglas

Q: What’s your message to the World?

A: My message to artists around the world is to stop trying to be what you think an artist ought to be and comparing yourself to others. Once I let go of trying to be another type of artist I found myself and my voice.

There’s a very interesting quote often attributed to Oscar Wilde that I employ in everyday of my life…”Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

INFRINGEMENT

Q: What was your first case of a piece of art being infringed upon?

A: The first one I really remember was when I had one of my ski photographs stolen from me and used in a local magazine to advertise a small clothing companies line. The best part was that the athlete in the shot wasn’t wearing anything from that company and they didn’t even take the time to photoshop the other labels off the clothes. After a phone call to their offices they actually apologized and cut me a check for the usage. No harm no foul!!

Q: How did you feel about someone stealing your artwork and making money from your hard work?

A: I try my best to not get all bent out of shape about it… I definitely don’t lose any sleep over it. It gives me an opportunity to unleash my pitbull of a lawyer who relishes in the opportunity to teach a valuable lesson to individuals who may be woefully ignorant of the laws.

Photo by James Douglas

Photo by James Douglas

Q: Do you feel it’s a necessary part of the market, to allow for free advertising?

A: Nothing is ever truly free… advertising has value, exposure has value and even a tweet has value. So it’s up to us to decide how much that value costs. For me and my studio if I decide the value is less than the cost I will make an effort to correct the situation, but if the value is more than the cost…giddy up!!

Q: What would you say to the infringers if you had the chance?

A: My lawyer has a bigger house and drives a nicer car than you do.

Q: How do you think this situation could be resolved?

A: I once had 57 images of mine stolen by an advertising agency and I imagine they simply thought I would roll over and take it. My lawyer filed 57 separate lawsuits in 7 different district courts on 57 separate days. If the named defendant didn’t show up to each and every court date the judge would rule against them with damages. Needless to say, the agency paid the fees that were originally owed and settled damages out of court to my satisfaction. So I actually made far more money off that infringement than they could have ever hoped to make.

Q: Have you ever been approached about infringement you have caused, or sent an email?

A: I actually did a photoshoot with the cast of the broadway musical Wicked. We recreated their iconic illustration marquee poster by splashing green and white paint on the two lead actresses. I was unaware that they had trademarked that pose and while it wasn’t an exact replica their lawyers weren’t about to let me sell it as a fine art piece. They did say it was a cool photo though!!

Q: How often do you discover infringements on your work? With what tool do you discover them? And in what way are they infringements?

A: I don’t find a lot, partly because all of my work when being delivered comes with a significant amount of legal jargon concerning copyright and usage. I will use google image search about once a quarter on some of my newest commercial work, especially when celebrities are concerned. Can’t have one of my client’s competitors using my images to promote a rival product.

Photo by James Douglas

Photo by James Douglas

COPYRIGHT

Q: What is your view on copyright?

A: I absolutely love copyright… it’s so overwhelmingly on the side of the creator that there’s really no argument for infringement.

I’m not sure how I could improve it but if I could improve anything I would try to raise the awareness of what the Copyright Act of 1976 did and how artists can utilize it to their advantage. Young artists need to know more about what rights they actually have.

Q: Have you ever innocently, or without knowledge of copyrighted laws used other’s material for your own work?

A: Not to my knowledge, that’s not to say that every single song on my computer got there through the proper channels… whoops!!

Q: How do you protect your own work against copyright theft?

A: Whenever I deliver images to a client, including the ones in this article, they come with strict guidelines for usage and copyright information. The client cannot even access the images without consenting to the parameters set forth by my studio. I also like to bring it up before a shoot even begins when working with either new or naive clients.

Some artists like to watermark their work but I just see that in a similar light to putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa… not that my images are that good but you get the point.

Photo by James Douglas

Photo by James Douglas

Q: Do you think companies on the web do enough to protect artist’s work?

A: No. Hell no.

Q: What do you think about Creative Commons and Public Domain?

A: Total rubbish but a necessary evil in today’s society.

Q: What do you think of artists that abuse the feature of CC and PD? And copyright “free” aspect of the internet?

My father always told me that you can’t argue with stupid. So I just let my lawyer do it and crack a beer open on the back porch. it’s more fun to watch my tomatoes ripen than have that discussion with someone.

Final Words:

I know that so many creatives focus so heavily on their art thinking that it’s the only thing that matters and that simply isn’t the case. Having a much more well rounded sense of the entire industry will help you in countless ways to create a stable business. If you yourself can’t grasp the concept of art as a business then hire someone who can.

Photo by James Douglas

Photo by James Douglas

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Cindy says:

    Good interview. Gotta ask, who is your lawyer? I think many artists would love to turn over infringements to their lawyer and “crack open a beer” instead of dealing with it on their own all the time.

  • Rob Snow says:

    Thank you for a very interesting interview. Some differences of opinion, but overall the aspects of life of an artist seem the same. The one thing I would say is that the willingness to open up art on the internet is probably based on two factors. 1) If you have a steady enough income and a good lawyer to do this copyright activity for you, that you don’t have to worry too much about others making money from your work and 2) the type of work being placed on the internet, and how useful that is to the counterfeit markets. I can see you artwork/photographs are very specific in usage, where as art can be manipulated for phone cases, pillows, etc much more easily and will a greater market.
    All-in-all I would like the world to be a better place and that morality was the first thing that came to people’s minds rather than “Oh, I could use/sell that.” But then again we are in a capitalist market and it’s a painful lesson to realise their are dishonest opportunists out there. After all the DMCA was brought into affect so big business could keep it’s money after small-time thieves used their services to make illegal incomes.

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