The Problem With Creativity and the Internet

Before I started this blog, I created a Tumblr “blog” as I heard it was a good place for beginners and a good way to show off your photography to lots of people for free. It took me about 9 months to realize that if you want to take yourself somewhat seriously as a blogger, Tumblr is not the place for you, and if you want to showcase your photography, it’s not that great a place for that either.

WordPress has a feature called “reblogging.” Tumblr also has this feature. I’ve been on WordPress for I think two months and I have yet to see a reblogged post on someone’s blog with the exception of one blogger who reposted a photo of mine because he liked it. In this post, there is a link to my page and if you click the photo, you will be taken to the Flickr page for that photo. This is fine with me. In fact, besides my post, I didn’t see any other reblogs on his page. On Tumblr, there are “blogs”, in fact the vast majority of those that I have seen on Tumblr, which consist entirely of posts reblogged from other pages. There are other “blogs” where the “creators” post nothing but pictures they found on the internet, often without credit. There are Tumblr themes which remove all text from a post and prevent click-through links. So there are “blogs” consisting entirely of photos not owned by the blog creator, and posted without any credit or link whatsoever. People even go to the extreme of deleting existing text and/or click-through links in the posts. The worst part of it all is, when someone like me posts on their page asking about credits, links, or asks why they consistently post things which don’t belong to them, they just snap back, “I don’t care, leave me alone.” One page I saw even had in the FAQ page, a post which said something like, “5. Stop whining about “you change the source, die bitch die bitch bitch bitch” that’s annoying, go fuck yourself, you are wasting your time.” OK, that was the exact text. This blog was all nude photography, but every time someone asked her to post a photo, not even a nude, of herself, she would complain and reply publicly to stop asking.

Earlier today, I went on a rampage on my own Tumblr page in a text post. Then, realizing most of the people who read it would unfollow me or just come back at me trying to defend the blogs I spoke of (I did not name names), I deleted it and instead went through every blog I follow and got rid of all the blogs of the type I have just described. I have also decided to block everyone who reblogs one of my posts without credit or link. I may soon just leave Tumblr altogether. We’ll see. It has kind of replaced Facebook for me, in being able to rant to no one in particular, since I deleted my account in December. So, in a way it is somewhat healthy for me.

So, back to the title and the reason I started typing. Tumblr is an example which has made me realize the big dilemma of being a creative type (or wannabe, like me) on the internet. A photographer, writer, artist, musician, architect, etc, without an internet presence, is pretty much wasting his/her time. There is no method of getting your work “out there” that is anywhere near as effective as the internet. Sure, you may know a guy who works at a publishing office, or a woman who knows the art director of some magazine, but IF that contact even comes through, you are only getting your work to a certain market. Not to mention, not a lot of people read the photo credits in magazines or do research on the author of an article. If they do search that artist out, they will do it on the internet. This brings the whole situation full-circle. The internet is without a doubt the best way to get your stuff out there. I am a self-proclaimed amateur photographer. My Flickr photos have 16,000 views, which is really a small number for someone who posts as much as I do. Where else are several thousand people going to see my photos? Where else are people going to be able to buy my prints than through an internet site? How else is someone who wants to commission me going to see my work and initiate communication with me?

Here comes the dilemma part: By posting your work online, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of millions of people being able to steal your work. Now, I don’t consider the act of posting someone’s work on your Tumblr page as stealing, but it is not helpful for the artist in the least, nor is it really showing them appreciation. Let’s say you post a photo on 500px.com. Someone who has a Pinterest (I feel as if I’ve ripped on Tumblr enough) page sees your photo on 500px.com. She likes it, she saves a copy of it to their computer for their desktop photo or whatever (I am guilty of this myself, but I am not making prints, selling, or sharing as my own work). She decides this photo would be a good post for her topic-specific Pinterest page. She uploads the image from her hard-drive, instead of by link from 500px.com. A month later, this image has 500 likes, reblogs, comments, the account holder has 25 more followers. None of the people who saw this image knew where it came from or who made it. So 1,000 people have seen this image, at least 500 liked the image, but the you, the photographer, don’t see any new customers, clients, or appreciation, and you don’t even know your work is on Pinterest for thousands of new potential buyers or clients to see. When a guy who runs an art gallery sends the Pinterest girl a message asking how he can get ahold of the photographer, she just says, “oh I don’t know, I found it on some photography site.”

On a hot rod forum I frequent, I’ve seen people post about seeing stickers with another member’s cartoons on them being sold on ebay by some company the poor guy has never heard of. This guy is struggling to sell prints, but this douchebag in Michigan is making money off his ‘toons by selling stickers with his characters on them. I’ve seen Flickr members post screenshots of their images on someone else’s account. The copied image has tons of comments and favorites, yet the person didn’t have anything to do with creating the image. I’d be willing to bet if a potential buyer or someone who wanted to pay him a commission sent him a message, he’d jump on the opportunity to make some extra cash off that copied image.

Bottom line is, be careful where and how you post your content. So far I am extremely satisfied with how WordPress is working out for me. I have a few respectful followers, I get a few likes and comments on every few photos I post, and nobody posts my photos on their own blog. I don’t feel the need to worry about my work being copied on here and there is an infinity of creativity here. Every post I’ve read or viewed on WordPress has been original to the poster and I have yet to find a page that consists mostly of reblogged content. There isn’t AS MUCH content as Tumblr, but if you took away all the folks who have nothing original on their so-called Tumblr blog, there would probably be much more quality work on WordPress. In fact, it is actually hard to find a 100% creative blog on Tumblr. However, don’t be surprised to see watermarks or “signatures” on my next batch of new photos. The internet is a big and mostly ungoverned place, and the last thing I want is for someone else to receive credit for my hard work, or to display my work without my name on it.

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7 thoughts on “The Problem With Creativity and the Internet

  1. Hey Chris! You’re absolutely right about tumblr, I rarely post up any of my original work there because I never know who is going to steal the idea. I only post updates or random photos now and then, and use it mostly to chat with new friends or when I’m bored. Now though I started a WordPress blog, and I have to admit, it is pretty cool. It does have some tumblr-like elements (as well as blogspot) but it does seem more secure.

    • Hi Mary, it’s nice to see you found my page 🙂 So far I haven’t found too many similarities between Tumblr and WP besides the following and reblog thing and it seems not a lot of people actually reblog. What really bugs me about Tumblr is that if you reblog something, you can completely edit the post and take all links out. Plus the thing with people trying to be creative by just gathering a bunch of other people’s stuff. Kinda like twitter, there’s too much content just for the sake of content. I think you’ll find WordPress a pretty cool place once you get used to it. There’s a lot more control too. I put a letter in the mail for you I think on Thursday so be on the lookout. It has a huge Civil War commemorative stamp on it. I bought a sheet last week.

  2. Yes, I do like WordPress so far, I also like that it has an android app so now I can update on my phone wherever I can get wifi. This is particularly useful because it makes it easier to blog and keeps me from getting bored haha. I received your letter yesterday (an even commented on the awesome stamp at the end) and finished replying today, I plan to mail it out tomorrow morning. You should get it in the next three to five days. I know, I don’t like how people wipe the URL and artist data from reblogged posts, I find that incredibly rude and careless.

    • I’m surprised it got there that fast. I think I sent it on Thursday afternoon. I’m having a problem with a couple magazine subscriptions…I haven’t gotten Popular Photography in 4 months! They said the last one they sent was returned as non-deliverable but the same week I got an advertising letter from them. I’m worried it’s affecting my regular mail too but I have no way of knowing if so. I talked to the supervisor Friday but all they can do it put a watch out for the next issues which won’t be til the end of the month. I’ve had more problems with my PO Box than I’ve ever had with delivery. You’d think it’d be pretty easy since when it gets off the truck it’s already at its destination.

      • Yeah, I think the mail is flown to CA from the Texas airport, because through land it should take at least five days. I also have a subscription with Poets & Writers and sometimes it takes them a while. My apartment building has small mailboxes in the front of the complex, and so far I haven’t had any issues. Hell, once a pen pal of mine wrote my address wrong and it still got to me. It sucks that your P.O.Box isn’t functioning as well as it should, why can’t you use your home address?

      • I think most of our mail down here flies into San Antonio. We have three large international airports in the state so I think most of it gets flown in. I don’t use my home address because my house doesn’t really have one. It’s a 450 sq-ft guest house behind my landlord’s house. I could use his address but I just like having my own. When I get stuff from Fedex or UPS it gets sent to his office but for my regular mail I prefer having my own box. The post office is on my way home from the expressway anyway.

      • Oh, I see, that makes sense. Here there is the San Francisco Airport and Oakland as well, so mail gets to me pretty fast sometimes. (Unless it’s a weekend or holiday, then it takes forever.)

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