Right To Copy

[Originally posted to devaintArt Feb 11, 2007]

As digital artists we are faced with the questions and concerns of digital copyright every single time  we post to the web.  Visit any social site where art is commonly posted and you will find ongoing  discussions ranging on everything from steps you can take to protect your work, sharing information on known violators, what you can do when you find your work has been copied, what constitutes fair use of your or other’s work, to sometimes even whether  you are giving up your rights simply by posting to the site.  Fortunately on many popular sites like deviantArt, Flickr, and MySpace, your rights are fully preserved (although deviantArt and Flickr both provide the option of choosing a less restrictive Creative Commons license).

It is that latter spirit, the Creative Commons notion that “Creativity and innovation rely on a rich  heritage of prior intellectual endeavor”, in which I ask you to consider a story that challenges the  very notions of copyright and plagiarism.  

“[Copyright] is taken as a law, both in the sense of a universally recognizable moral absolute,  like the law against murder, and as naturally inherent in our world, like the law of gravity. In fact,  it is  neither. Rather, copyright is an ongoing social negotiation, tenuously forged, endlessly revised,  and  imperfect in its every incarnation.” – Jonathan Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence” http://harpers.org/TheEcstasyOfInfluence.html,  Harper’s  Magazine Features

 Lethem’s piece is an exploration of the vital role that “plagiarism” has had on art, and the dangers that  the ever increasing stranglehold of copyright law present to creativity and culture.  Much of what he provides as examples lean more toward the fair use end of the spectrum than on outright duplication, however even in that nebulous realm of cut-ups and mash-ups he examines the strangleholds that large corporations and organizations are exerting on the creative and cultural heritage which underlie nearly every aspect of modern culture.  He presents the notion that all art is a gift to future art, and ultimately argues that all art is drawn from and built upon things which have come before.  He does not suggest that we should give up the rights to our works, but asks us to reconsider how far those rights should really extend.


[Originally posted to deviantArt Jan 20, 2007]

Today was a very good day…  I’ve enjoyed FotoFusion so far, even ended up with some free filter software from yesterday’s class (because I pay attention!  Zone 9 – 247), but today was a really good day.  Two photo shoots – one in the morning a spontaneous shoot with some kids in Veterans Park, and one in the evening, a nude shoot with 5 models on the beautiful grounds of a ritzy West Palm home along the Intracoastal – and my first portfolio review, very positive.

The morning shoot was with Colin Finlay, and it was about shooting in natural light.  As we were wandering around, this little boy sleeping on a tire swing caught my eye…  I approached the mother and her friend to ask if I could take some shots (a big victory for my reserved self, I might add).  it ended up with almost the whole group shuffling around him and some other kids.  The boy on the swing, Russel, barely stirred the whole time, another little boy with him, Tommy, was the opposite.  He was quietly expressive, and very spontaneously draping himself over the playground equipment.  I learned that they were both not feeling well, which is why they weren’t in school.  Some really great shots.  I also made a possible business connection with a passing jogger in the park who was looking for someone to shoot food for her healthy eating business.

The afternoon shoot was with Vince Versace (no relation AFAIK) and Kevin Ames.  It was challenging in that the light fairly low, and there is a more than a few shots that I truly regret losing to the blur because my shutter speeds were too slow (I shot aperture mode most of the day).  Nevertheless I do have more than enough good shots to not embarrass myself and not feel like I wasted my time and money; regrettably I will not be posting any of them because we signed an agreement that we would not sell or publish the pictures, even to the web – it was a learning experience, and apparently the sponsors have had some legal troubles arising from past shoots.

Looking back on the shoot, it was great experience.  I was not at all uncomfortable or awkward as I feared, and I hit a groove that more than once Vince talked about – seeing the form, not the naked.  I’d be dead if I didn’t realize that there were naked women right in front of me, but it was only occasional moments where I was aware of nakedness for it’s own sake, and much of the time I was thinking angles and framing and composition.  Throughout the shoot there was a former model helping with lighting and making suggestions on poses and angles and working with the models.  I need to try to find out her name again, because she was just great and I have an embarrassing memory for names.  In fact, I have committed the unforgivable sin of Forgetting the Models Names!  Not entirely true, but more true than not.  I will find out, tho, when I send along some of the shots for the models to see.

The portfolio review was with Ed Kashi, and I was very pleased to hear that he didn’t really have an negative comments about my portfolio – in fact he made a point of saying he wasn’t going to really go into the photos because he felt I definitely have an eye for color and composition.  I’ve been told this before, but it is very gratifying to hear it from someone in the business rather than friends and family who aren’t up on technique, or who are and may be biased.  😉  But I love ya!


[Originally re-posted from MySpace to deviantArt Aug 6, 2005]

I have a quote in my profile at deviantArt: “If you stop shooting beauty because it’s cliché, you will have nothing left to shoot but ugliness.”  That is my response to the idea that pictures of sunsets and flowers are overdone.  I had bought in to that idea for a while, and it made me question my efforts at those subjects.  I almost felt guilty for posting pictures of “cliché” subjects.

The point of that statement is not to disagree with the idea that those things are overdone.  There are people who believe that just because the subject is a sunset or a flower, that it is automatically a good picture.  Not true.  Anybody can point and click.  Not everyone can compose a striking image.  If that were true, the images I have on my wall here next to me – a butterfly and a frog, both by a very talented nature photographer – wouldn’t really be worth what I paid for them.

But this is much like the discussion over whether the presence of cheap digital cameras diminishes the value of the works of the dedicated photographers.  Just because there are a lot of pictures of sunsets and flowers, doesn’t mean that there are a lot of good pictures of those things.

I do agree that one measure of a good photographer is the ability to take good photos of everyday things, but I don’t necessary hold that as a requirement when making the judgment.  After all, there are plenty of people doing great shots of volcanoes and deep sea creatures that deserve credit.  


I think the real answer is that there are two requirements for a “great” photographer.  The first is technical proficiency.  The second is the artistic element, the photographer’s eye.  The second element is the tricky piece when trying to make statements about which subjects do or do not mark the work of a great photographer.  One photographer may be technically proficient at shooting still-life, but outstanding at capturing candid street scenes.  Another may do acceptable studio portraits, but excel at capturing the height of action at sporting events.  In the end, you can only judge a photographer on their body of work, without prejudice for the subjects within.

Distrito De la Libertad

This cocktail is inspired by the Tegroni and the Distrito Federal, which are tequila based versions of the Negroni and the Manhattan, respectively. It’s also inspired by the three bottles of booze I purchased recently which sat on my counter, challenging me!

The drink uses Jose Quervo Resposado Tradictional to mellow the heat of a blanco tequila, but give a little more punch like a rye, rather than a bourbon. It blends with Vigo Amaro from Philadelphia Distilling; this local amaro gives us the “Liberty” in “De la Libertad”, and takes the place of the herbal notes from the vermouth in a Manhattan, or the bitter herbal punch of Campari in a traditional Negroni. Vigo Amaro is not quite as potent as Campari is, and is likely to be more palatable to amaro newcomers. Then the mix is finished off with a splash of DiSaronno. The combination of liquors is both a nod to the long history of Italian immigrants in Philly, and the many restaurants that inspires, as well as the large Mexican and South American immigrant population that is the back-bone of restaurants all across America today.

  • 2 oz Jose Quervo Respsado Tradicional
  • 1 oz Vigo Amaro
  • A bar spoon worth of Di-Saronno
  • Finish with a good quality cherry in syrup, like Luxardo or Amarena


[Originally written 03/05/2013]

Today I received a LinkedIn invitation from some Brokerage Services Manager I’ve never heard of from some company likewise, and a Russian bride solicitation from someone calling herself the “impassioned panther Swetlana”. I think I trust Swetlana to be more honest about what she wants out of the relationship…

The Forge of Amerca

[Originally written 11/06/2013]

Just a thought…

America is a nation born of and defined by revolution. The war for independence; the civil war and freeing of the slaves; women’s rights; civil rights; marriage equality… These shape us. This does not mean that we are always the most progressive nation. In fact, our insistence on democracy, and the integrity of the individual, guarantees that we must struggle for the best in ourselves. The important things are won by struggle, and valued above all else because of the hard fought victories. Because we fight for what matters most. And we cannot be a great nation – at least not one that upholds the ideals it was founded upon – without that struggle.

It means the America we value will never be free of struggle. We have been described as a melting pot, but in truth we are more like a forge. We take raw material and we purify with fire and with muscle and with temperance. But it is hard work. And there is much impurity in the raw material, so we must return to the forge again and again, ever purging and shaping into something better.


Nothing is original, if by that you mean ‘without reference’. Even if you managed to create something wholly out of your own head, you are sum of everything that has come before. Everything is built on the foundation of your experience.


Everything is original, if by that you mean ‘never before’. Even if you act with intention to duplicate an image, no one has captured exactly this light in this place at this time – and no one ever will again. Everything is uniquely new in the ever-present now.