Sunday, January 17, 2010

Keep yer (virtual) mitts off her. She's mine!

For a while I've been subscribing to Google alerts, which sends you an email whenever a search term you've specified pops up on the web. It should be no surprise that mine is set to check for Enoch Bolles, and the other day I opened a link to see this image smiling back at me. Which was a total shock. You see I happen to own this painting. No, someone didn't break into my study and snap a pic of her. Nothing quite that invasive. This image was one of many included in an article I wrote about Enoch a few years back for Illustration Magazine and due to the generosity of the publisher Dan Zimmer, I got to keep the copyrights to the article. A few people have since quoted from it and I've been noted, which is truly appreciated. Obviously, someone had to have scanned the balloon girl from the article, posted her and now she's all over the web, crosslinked back and forth so much I could never untangle the mess to figure out who was the culprit.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind Bolles getting the publicity. In fact it's the main reason I've been doing this blog for the past year and why I'm still trying to publish a book on him. It wouldn't be a stretch to assume that anyone who regularly visits this blog will agree that Bolles deserves more recognition, both for his pinups and his work in commercial illustration. So when someone uploads an image from this blog and links it back to here I'm truly grateful and will thank them for the shout-out. But this is different and frustrating. Some of the other paintings I used in the article cost me a small fortune to have photographed and I promised the owners I would not use the image for any purpose other than for publication. Clearly, it's only a matter of time before they start to show up too, but at least in this case I can still be a bit preemptive, and display her in appropriate context to an appreciative audience. I'm sure some of you also recognize the pose, the painting was a "comp" for the October 1941 cover, which in my opinion falls far short. For one the girls' outfit was reworked to hide her navel, still a big no-no on the cover (though they quit bothering to airbrush them from the interior photos years earlier). Second, it appears that the engraver cut out part of her hair-do to keep it from blocking the logo, which was a big mistake. The other change was to the balloons, which look more like balls in the final painting.
Talk about ironic, just seconds ago I got a new Google alerts, I checked the link and it's packed with Bolles images yanked from this site!


Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Jack, you've touched on a difficult subject.

Blogging has blossomed (mushroomed?) into gigantic proportions for the concept of sharing images. The vast majority of image bloggers want to share for just for the sheer fun of sharing. But they, we, I don't own the images or the copyrights, or have direct permission for the images that we post. We do it with the general notion of 'fair use', but boy that's a loose legal term, generally meaning 'I'm not making any money off this'. I like to think of it as 'education', because we all learn, in varying degrees, from that we see.

Anytime we scan an image from a book or magazine, we have to know that the publishers have also spent small fortunes acquiring those images, whether the work was commissioned or bought from existing sources. By publishing the work, it becomes available to the world to sort of do with it what they will. Treasure it, ignore it, throw it away, clip it and file it, clip it and frame it, trace it, scan it or make paper dolls from it. But if someone tries to make money from it, then that ain't right (although used-book sellers and ebay sellers and other online auction sellers certainly can make big bucks).

So bloggers, who are generally sharing their hobby are also generally infringing on other people's hard work. Where do we get our scans? From the books and magazines of our collections, both antique and modern sourced. How do we decide which are proper to use? Most all have copyrights, though the older may have lapsed.

I find myself having to make moral calls and sometimes feeling like I'm rationalizing as I do so. "Well, everyone else is doing this," things like that. I generally refrain from scanning from modern periodicals but mostly because I'm thinking that the image isn't rare--everyone has access to it at this time (I do make exceptions if the images are of exceptional quality). I certainly have been tempted to scan from Illustration Magazine, but have refrained for that very reason. But I may succumb to the temptation if it will illustrate a missing section of my story. Will I be wrong to do so? And if so, am I wrong to scan from all the other sources? And if I'm wrong, then are all the other thousands of image bloggers?

Personally I also refrain from posting any Bolles work, because I don't want to 'scoop' you, since you have a finite inventory, and a dedicated story.

My blog uses the images with the hook that they are part of my professional and personal life, thereby being an 'autobiographical' part of my story. But in theory that's what most people are doing as well.

I'm not trying to argue against your points. Possession of intellectual property is a vexing concept.

I even feel possessive of all the images in my collection that are now in thousands of virtual collections all over the world. I'm jealous that they now have, with an hour of clicking, what I've spent a lifetime accumulating. How dare I? This stuff doesn't really 'belong' to me. But really, I'm a communist when it comes to education. Knowledge and information should belong to all. Yet I know that the creator of information has the right to own it exclusively for a while (on a different level, and if you look at it in a funny way, colleges and universities seem to own knowledge, while doling out bits of it over a period of years for astronomical sums of money).

As I said, it's a difficult subject.

Thanks again, for what you share.

Gary Underwood said...

Jack, Congrats on acquiring the original balloon girl, she is a beauty!!!

Jack R said...

Hi Thomas,
I knew I would be wading into muddy waters when I made this post. First, let me say that you should never hesitate to post Bolles or repost images from this site. You've been a big supporter and I appreciate it. That's all I could ever hope for. I also appreciate the care and nuances that are evident in your post. Thanks!!

Yes, I have a difficult time in understanding the sort of mentality that has created and sustained several huge web-sites that amount to nothing more than visual acquisition. It's clear there is a digital divide between generations when it comes to intellectual property and it is one that like you, I have a hard time wrapping my head around. My own particular issues could be reduced to 'citation' and 'attribution' which are terms I have a professional fixation with, being in academia where the rules of citation are governed by both ethical and legal proscriptions (not that these rules have yielded me so much as a nickle. from it. You publish an article or book chapter and you also sign away your rights). So my main issue is one of attribution and perhaps also, discovery. Your own blog posts are a great example, they are full of insight and unique context, they relate and associate the visual material in an original and new perspective never before presented. So when people simply pull images from your site without even giving the viewer the chance to find the source and have an opportunity to relate and respond to the material you've worked so hard to create seems an affrontery to me.

Now having said this, I'll be the first to admit that very few if any of my posts qualify in this regard. All I'm hoping for is that people can link back and find out that Enoch Bolles was much more than just an odd name.

Anonymous said...

Don't stop posting such articles. I like to read stories like this. Just add some pics :)

Jack R said...

The pics will come!

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Lp said...

I've just spent an hour browsing and reading your blog here. I arrived via google trying to find the source for the motorcycle gal. I saw a small thumbnail of it somewhere, with just enough lettering to guess the full magazine title.

I've never heard of Enoch Bolles (don't hurt me!) but having always been intrigued by pin-up girl illustrations (what woman didn't long to have an hourglass figure with a tiny waist, 6' long legs, a luminescent face, and perfect hair and teeth?) I'm sure I've seen some before. I had to stay and read awhile.

So why I was compelled to leave a note? I wanted to thank you. Being an artist and ever curious I always need to see the details. Many of your images are large so I can go in and take a closer look. It's especially interesting to see in the balloon painting... the brush strokes and lines (and lucky you to own it).

It's getting rarer to see a nice sized image becuase of all the lifting. So thanks much for that and for all the in depth info about all of the images in general. What a great resource.
I learned a lot and enjoyed my visit here very much!

Jack R said...

Wow, what a nice note, I'm glad you enjoyed this blog and I hope you continue to find things you enjoy here.

Anonymous said...

I just adore files that are really high res and great art to boot. Canvas treads usually drop out of badly scanned art and that is a shame. As usual the girl is young, beautiful, full of life and ready for anything... I just adore these great posts... Thank you.