The Stolen Photograph

I guess if you photograph long enough it’s bound to happen. You’ll have a photograph stolen. I just didn’t expect it to be in so egregious a manner.

I posted a blog about the presidential election last November. It was simply a post about my experience voting in a working class neighborhood in Tampa, Florida. It was fairly straightforward and was presented with no agenda. You can read that post here and decide for yourself. One of my favorite photographs was a young boy in his mother’s arms as she waited in line. The wait was quite short.

I recently received an email from a person who had discovered the image floating around on Facebook. The photograph had been abused. Here is the image making the rounds.


Included in the email from the person kind enough to bring it my attention was this line, “The need to streamline voting for *all* voters is, I think, clear; this caption assigned to your photo did not seem to me to reflect the spirit of the very nice photo collection you shared.”

The part of this that was most disturbing was not just the stolen photograph, it was the implication that this photograph was made in Alabama or Mississippi by a group that wanted to oppress minority voters, and that it was used to further a political agenda. In dialoging with the person who brought this to my attention, I found out that it was posted to this Facebook page, of which I took a screen shot.

The abused photograph on the aforementioned Facebook page

It’s sad to me. Here was a photograph that simply celebrated our democracy. It was stolen and then added to a Facebook page that the normal person would surmise is a page that spreads more than just a political message. Perusing the messages associated with this photo and others, it’s clear that the dialogue falls far short of polite civil discourse. It will not restore your hope in America. I did receive a note from the owner of the site, who said that he didn’t steal it, but found it on Google already changed. I’ll have to work with Google on that.

It is, in my opinion, a sign of the times and there’s a lesson in it. The next time you see some cute little saying designed to sway your political interests, you might want to do a little research to determine whether or not it’s based on fact. In this case a photo designed to celebrate our commonality was used to fan the flames of divisiveness and I consider that somewhat tragic and the ultimate act of thievery.


9 thoughts on “The Stolen Photograph

  1. Indeed, I’m sorry to hear that. It might be hard sometimes to discern (as somebody looking for pictures to use in blogs and the like) what’s free to share and what’s not. I think Google is fairly good about it if it can find copyright information along with the picture. Do you have a CC license on here? In case you don’t know, you can create one here: and paste it into a textbox in your WP dashboard. Of course you automatically have copyright, even if you don’t state anything, over your own pictures, but it’s a good safety measure. What I have found, as a blogger who often looks for pictures to use, is that Flickr seems to be a good place to locate (and state copyright information) for your pictures. I don’t personally use it, but I hardly ever see pictures I find on flickr on Google when I’m doing an image search.
    I hope this doesn’t happen again.

  2. This is really terrible especially how your photo was changed and used! Being out on the web with all our photos and work is frightening at times. I hope you can catch who did this. Very sad indeed.

  3. Yes, this is the sad problem with our instant communication ability created by technology. And yes, you should make sure Google didn’t make it available, because they’re supposed to have some strong privacy protections in place. Also, it’s a shame if it was someone following your blog. And as suggested above, would be worth your while to put copyrights on photos you post, then if you see them elsewhere, easy to go to court.

  4. It’s bad enough that your photo was stolen but to be used in such an inaccurate way makes it twice as bad. Sorry to hear this happened. Wow, I guess our photos are never completely safe regardless of copyright.

  5. It’s gotten a lot worse. It definitely didn’t seem to originate with the Facebook page. It’s all over Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. I have filed a formal grievance with Google and will do the same with Facebook and try to minimize the damage.

  6. Well, good news. As of this morning 03.05.13 the maligned photograph has been removed from Facebook and Pinterest. Now awaiting word from Google and Tumblr. Making good progress.

    The message I received from Facebook this morning:

    Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We have removed or disabled access to the third-party or user-generated content you have reported to us for violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. We understand this action to resolve the intellectual property issue from this report.

  7. Wow, that sucks. I’m sorry about that. I know there are programs to “lock” photos so they can’t be downloaded, but I guess people can just take screen shots instead. As an artist, I’ve heard many nightmare stories about portfolio pictures being used to print cards and even “paintings” that are then sold in other countries 😦 Good luck with your research.

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