by Gwyn Headley
When we ask fotoLibra contributors to rummage through their attics to find old photographs that can never be taken again, this is what we hope they’ll come up with. FOT3028 is just an average, everyday shot of a mass funeral in Hawai’i.
It was taken by the grandfather of our next-door neighbour in London. He was a travelling organ builder, and this was taken from his organ loft at the funeral.
But look carefully at the yellow circles. What he wasn’t to know, and which has only later been uncovered by posterity and diligent research, is that this is the only known photograph showing Elvis Presley and the Emperor Hirohito of Japan in the same picture!
What a find. This will rewrite history.
by Gwyn Headley
I’m London Welsh, fiercely proud of both Wales and London WGC*, but even I sometimes get the feeling that Great Britain Ltd pays a little bit too much attention to the Great Wen.
London Wasps play their rugby in Coventry, 100 miles from Charing Cross. When Yvonne was flying, she flew me into London Lydd, which is 80 miles from Charing Cross in the opposite direction. That is a BIG city.
Wouldn’t it be easier for all concerned if England was renamed London? Just a thought. After all, the rest of the world knows this sceptred isle as England, with not a thought for poor Wales or Scotland.
I was driving through Belgium last October when I heard a radio sports announcer previewing the forthcoming Belgium – England Davis Cup tennis tournament. I wondered how the Murray brothers would like that.
Where am I going with this? It’s the news that the Royal Photographical Society’s archive is to be moved, along with 400,000 other photography-related items, from the National Media Museum in Bradford to the V&A in London, to be replaced by a light show.
Whatever the merits or demerits of this move, we can be sure that the 400,000 objects out of the NMM’s 3 million strong collection being taken from Bradford will be the pick of the crop, leaving behind assorted knurled focussing knobs from a few old Thornton Pickards and a couple of Box Brownies.
When the NMM opened in 1983 it was called the National Museum of Photography, and it was hailed as a brave new initiative to devolve a part of Britain’s artistic heritage out of London. I worked with them on a number of projects, notably with Brian Coe and the Kodak Gallery (there’s a Harlech connection for you — Kodak’s first UK boss George Davison built his summer house in Harlech).
Now the best of the best is being shipped to London, which already has more and better museums, theatres, art galleries and entertainments than anywhere else in the world, leaving Bradford with a light show, an IMAX and a couple of curry houses.
As a proud Londoner, I say it’s simply not fair. We’ve got enough down here. Why do we have to have more? Make Bradford a destination for all photographers!
London’s got it all. It doesn’t need this. Bradford does need it. Please think again.
*World’s Greatest City
by Gwyn Headley
For over 40 years psychologist Merrill Elias and his team has been tracking the cognitive abilities of over 1,000 people in the north-eastern United States. The study basically observes the relationship between blood pressure and brain performance.
There have been seven waves of research so far, each one lasting five years, and in the sixth wave, 2001-06, Elias’s team decided to ask participants what they ate.
Researchers compared cognitive tests on participants who reported eating chocolate at least once a week with those who ate less.
The results were remarkable. The chocolate eaters had significantly superior visual-spatial memory and organisation, working memory, scanning and tracking, and abstract reasoning.
In other words, people who eat chocolate are better at multi-tasking, looking at things, remembering numbers and a host of other benefits.
“Our study definitely indicates the direction is that chocolate consumption affects cognitive ability,” says Elias.
It’s clear that if chocolate consumption enhances visual awareness, then photographers and picture editors should be bolting the stuff down.
We are well known in the picture business for handing out large bars of chocolate at trade fairs to picture editors in exchange for their business cards. It seems we were doing right all along.
Stand by therefore for the fotoLibra Enhanced Visual Perception Chocolate Bar, coming as soon as the highly qualified fotoLibra team has conducted extensive empirical research by scoffing as much chocolate as we can find.
by Gwyn Headley
Every invoice we send out for a picture sale contains the same wording: ‘Please send two voucher copies to fotoLibra at 22 Mount View Road’ and with a very few honourable exceptions it is routinely ignored. Of course we can’t enforce it; most of the time we’re more than happy just to have made the sale.
But a line has to be drawn somewhere. And this is it. We have been providing the images for the labels on a series of rather upmarket Scotch whiskies recently. Each whisky has been paired with a famous author. So far we have sold them images of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert and Alexandre Dumas. But not Marcel Proust. I don’ t think Proust was much of a whisky drinker, more of a crème de menthe merchant.
Here’s one of the bottles with the fotoLibra image on the label:
And here’s what they have to say about this particular malt:
“This Authors’ Series is a range of limited edition and exclusive single malt whisky, created by the prestigious blenders and bottlers, Hunter Laing Ltd. Each whisky has been paired with a famous author, ensuring that the unique taste and character of the malt has been inspired by the author’s life and work. Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling & Edgar Allan Poe are the first three expressions that have been released.
“This particular expression is an Ardbeg 21 year old, matured in 1993 and bottled in January 2015. This limited edition whisky is one of only 120 bottles, which have been drawn from a Refill Hogshead cask, and bottled at natural cask strength of 56.4%. Ardbeg fans will not be disappointed, as this rich and peaty expression has all the typical Islay attributes, whilst the the character of Rupert Kipling shines through. Charles MacLean said: ‘Deep amber in colour with moderate beading. The first aroma is of lanolin and damp, untreated wool, even a hint of sheep dip, with roast chestnuts in the background. Oily and surprisingly sweet to taste, with fragrant woodsmoke in the aftertaste. Faintly waxy with a drop of water, backed by charred wood. Smooth and sweet, with hessian and washed out creosote.’
“Each bottle is presented in a brown leather box, embossed with gold medallic text, which adds to the luxurious feel of the product. The bottles are also individually wax sealed with a stylish monogram design.”
I’ve been sitting by the front door since January last year waiting for our two voucher copies to drop on to the mat, but bizarrely enough they have failed to materialise.
I think I may have discovered why. This particular whisky costs £900. Per Bottle! And it’s not even a litre! That’s €1,150, or $1,275. Blimey.
Because it’s not a whisky, it’s an Expression.
It didn’t make the News at Ten but a seismic news event has just occurred in the picture industry,
Corbis, the picture library set up by Bill Gates, has been sold to Visual China Group and henceforth will be distributed by their former arch rival Getty Images.
I’m not really an industry commentator, more of an industry worker, but I can see this will have a massive effect on the picture buying world, and not necessarily all bad. If you want an industry commentator, Will Carleton of Photo Archive News is the tops.
Minnows like fotoLibra can’t possibly compete with this megabehemoth on price or range. We have nearly a million images, a number which when we went into business a dozen or so years ago would have made us a monster.
And unless we stop paying contributors — we have no intention of so doing — we can’t compete on price with microstock agencies or with special deals done by Messrs. Corbis and Getty.
Where we can make a difference is with unique one-off images, photographs which can’t be taken again, the reason we set up fotoLibra in the first place. We wanted to access the photographs in your attic, your shoe box inheritance, the stories of all our lives.
Of course we were swamped by the digital revolution, but we struggle gamely on. We do tell all you fotoLibra contributors that historic images are really popular and remember, anything taken before the year 2000 can be uploaded to fotoLibra without any charge. At all. Ever.
If it’s in a box in your attic, you’re paying its rent. If it’s in a digital file on fotoLibra, it could be helping to pay yours.
We sold a photograph to News at Ten last week. It was an old photograph of a castle before the recent floods. Getty and Corbis hold huge curated collections, not one-offs like that.
Who’d a thought it?
The fotoLibra site was down from about noon on Sunday 17th January to this morning, Monday 18th. Apologies for that. The problem was down to domain name system renewal propagation, which has now been sorted out.
When we started fotoLibra back in 2004 we got the fotoLibra.com website, and we had to pay some company in America to point people towards it — to make sure that an IP address, a series of numbers, in our case 184.108.40.206, would resolve into fotoLibra.com. We paid them for two years. Hey — we didn’t know if we’d still be around in 6 weeks, let alone two years.
Two years later we were pretty confident. Things were going well. So we renewed the DNS service for another ten years.
And promptly forgot all about it.
Yesterday, when we logged on to fotoLibra and saw a holding page offering the domain name fotoLibra.com for sale, our first reaction was outrage. The second was self-blame. We contacted Network Solutions to demand to know why we hadn’t been told. They assured us they had sent renewal notices on November 30th, December 11th, December 28th and January 11th.
They were not able to reveal the email address to which the renewal notices had been sent. I see all correspondence through the email box we registered with Network Solutions, and I saw nothing. Of course, it could have landed in Junk. I get about 600 junk emails every day and before deleting them I speed scan the senders to ensure I haven’t missed anything I recognise.
Which reminds me — if you contact fotoLibra and you haven’t had a reply within 24 hours (longer at weekends) please send your email again, because it may have fallen into the Junk folder.
Anyway, because they hadn’t heard from us, they cut us off. I was watching Harlequins vs the Cardiff Blues when our technical development manager rang. “The site’s down. DNS service not renewed.”
It was then we discovered that our broadband service was also down. I couldn’t get on line, I couldn’t see the site. I rang our ISP, the wonderful Zen Internet, to hear a recorded message to say the Crouch End district was suffering an outage. Outage? Outrage!
So the elderly 3G phone was pressed into service, and I finally, after long delays and several hours picking through a tiny keyboard, managed to renew our domain name system. User names, contact details and passwords all seem to have changed over the years, but we managed.
Then comes something called DNS Propagation. It takes time to circulate info across the world wide web, and as I write the fotoLibra site is up and running on my computer here in London, on Network Solutions’ computers in the States, but not on Yvonne’s computer across the room from me.
It will all have resolved itself by 9pm GMT at the very latest.
I’m very sorry about this. It’s not my fault but I feel I’m to blame. To stop this happening a second time, please could you all make a note in your diaries to email me in December 2025 to remind me to renew our DNS through Network Solutions?
Well, that might be pushing it a bit, but I’ve always wanted to write a headline like that.
We take care to vet every image uploaded to fotoLibra. The first hurdle of course is quality; images must have a minimum pixel dimension of 1750 and a resolution of 300 ppi. (PPI and DPI deniers — I know your arguments, but the majority of fotoLibra sales are for print use and they need to be 300 dpi). If you read this blog about PPI/DPI you’ll see that one of the reasons we demand 300 ppi is to prevent porn being uploaded.
We hadn’t thought of drugs.
Someone I’ll call Eugene had. He appears to be from the Ukraine, but that’s easy to mask. What he did was very simple and (I’m reluctant to say it) quite clever. He simply uploaded photographs of drugs to fotoLibra and offered them for sale. In the Image Description field he wrote “Ve vant to build strong lasting relationship mit customers like you” and followed it with a Skype contact.
Ingenious. Had the images remained on fotoLibra they would very quickly have been picked up by search engines (all our keywords are indexed so search engines can crawl and find them easily) and anyone searching for, say, Hygetropin on the web would have been able to find it nicely displayed on the squeaky clean fotoLibra site together with handy details of how to purchase it.
We spotted the images within an hour of upload. Not much discussion was needed. We simply deleted them.
Yvonne (and if you’ve had dealings with Yvonne, you’ll know she makes Jacqui Norman look like a pussycat) wrote to our hopeful new member:
fotoLibra is a professional picture library selling image usage rights to publishers, advertising agencies and so on. We are not a shop window for online drugs’ salesmen; we have therefore removed the images from your portfolio and cancelled your membership.
Curses! Foiled again!
by Gwyn Headley
fotoLibra promises to pay our contributors within 30 days of receipt of payment. But there’s a big difference between selling a picture and getting paid for it.
On June 17 last year a London council got in touch to say that they were looking to purchase an image from us. They asked us to please fill in an attached Supplier Form so they could set us up on their finance system.
We filled in the form and sent it back to them the same day.
On April 24 this year the council got back in touch, saying “We are finally ready to purchase an image for our new museum. As soon as we have your quote I will raise the purchase order.”
We confirmed the price quote the same day.
On April 29 the council wrote “We’re having a few finance issues but hopefully we’ll get them sorted soon and send you a purchase order.”
The purchase order arrived on May 8 and the image was immediately supplied to them.
We invoiced the council on May 18. They got in touch to say the invoice had been forwarded to the accounts department “who can take up to 30 days to make payment.”
On July 21 — 57 days later — we chased them for payment. “Sorry for the delay, I’ve chased it up for you,” was the reply.
On August 27 we chased them again.
There was no reply till September 2, when we were told “Finance are claiming it is not their fault, but a problem with the finance software. So I am chasing the people who run the software. Sorry for the late payment.”
The same day our purchaser got in touch again to say “Apparently I need to raise a new purchase order as the last one was incorrect. There’s no need for you to create a new invoice.”
Again on September 5 she wrote “The new purchase order should be approved on Monday. No need to invoice again.”
On September 22 we sent a copy of our statement to the payments address.
On September 30 we wrote to them saying: “We still haven’t seen any payment. Please give us a contact in your finance department.”
Immediate auto response: “I no longer work for ***** Council. Please resend email to blah blah blah.” The email was resent.
5 October: We sent a statement of overdue account.
On October 20 a physical letter was posted to the Finance Department quoting both purchase orders, the invoice number, a copy invoice and description of the work.
On November 3 at 13:20 we contacted the Finance Department and the Purchasing Department to ask why we had received no reply to our emails or letter. “Unless we receive payment of £*** within 15 days we will initiate court proceedings against you,” we suggested.
A reply came from the purchasing department at 15:43. ” Very sorry, please accept our apologies. We are unable to forward your invoice to our Finance Department as they can only process invoices they receive from you directly. Please forward your invoice to the Finance Department at this address” [giving us an address we’d never seen before].
So we sent the invoice to the new address quoting both purchase orders, the original and the new one.
On November 5 we had an email printed in red. “Invoice rejected for payment due to insufficient information. Purchase Order Number not present, not clear or invalid.”
We immediately sent a revised invoice quoting only the second Purchase Order Number.
They responded on November 16. “Due to the time relapse [sic] could I re-audit your bank account details. Can you provide details on letterhead signed by person in authority in PDF format. [no question marks]
This was sent 3 minutes later.
On November 17 they replied “I have audited your account and removed the payment hold. Your invoice should be selected in the next payment run. This should be tomorrow, so the payment should be with you by next Monday.”
That’s Monday November 23rd.
Our breath is bated.