The first line of this Associated Press story is perfect:
“Even by the standards of the woeful Chicago Cubs, this was an unusual error.”
The AP was right. Last month the team revealed that a 1927 photograph of Charles Lindbergh included in a new mural at Wrigley Field was actually an image of the famous aviator at Comiskey Park, then the home of the Chicago White Sox.
From the AP:
Team spokesman Julian Green said the photograph of the triumphant Lindbergh was incorrectly labeled as photographs were gathered to mark the anniversary season. The mistake was first noticed by a blogger and the Cubs soon concluded that the scene depicted the South Side home of the White Sox, not the North Side home of the Cubs.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the caption of an image of Franklin D. Roosevelt at Wrigley Field–taken before he was elected–describes him as the President. “We are now reviewing all of the photos,” Green told the AP.
These errors shouldn’t spark outrage, but it’s disappointing to see a franchise with such rich, interesting history neglect to fact check. Doing so may take time and effort, but it will end up preventing situations like this one.
Recently, an exhibit opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy” features the former president’s paintings of world leaders. Among many others, there are portraits of Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, and Hamid Karzai. But, as several news outlets pointed out, the oil-on-board paintings seem to be based on images found on the Internet. “It appears as if they are all lazy reproductions of some of the first Google image search results,” Animal New York pointed out.
Now, it’s unclear whether President Bush just Googled the leaders and used the first pictures that popped up. We’ll probably never find out if that’s what really happened. Regardless, the issue made us chuckle a bit. Photo research is what we do every day. Many projects that we work on involve licensing photographs. When the revamped U.S. passport featured new illustrations, it was our job to make sure we tracked down the reference photographs the government artists used to create the fresh artwork. Those kinds of photos must be licensed properly. If not, problems can crop up–sometimes ones you don’t expect.
So if you’re an aspiring artist and in the mood to illustrate a public figure–whether that’s an athlete, movie star, or politician–make sure you know the origin of your reference photograph. If you’d like to sell your painting, just call us. We’re happy to help you through the licensing process–even if you’re not a former president.
Our photo researchers spend countless hours tracking down and licensing images from all over the world. It’s their job to make sure whoever shot the photograph receives proper credit, no matter how obscure the photo is. Needless to say, it’s been interesting watching the proliferation of Twitter accounts dedicated to historical photographs. Rebecca Onion of Slate recently tackled the issue. In addition to the fact that many of the feeds—like, for example, @HistoryInPics—feature remarkably similar streams of photographs, some of the accounts seemingly are unconcerned with accuracy and attribution. This, as Onion explains, is quite disturbing:
In recent weeks, the attribution practices and accuracy of these feeds has become a source of consternation around the Web. Gizmodo blogger Matt Novak published a series of posts pointing out that many of the most-retweeted photos (Nikola Tesla as a swimming instructor; JFK and Marilyn Monroe cuddling) are fakes. The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal tracked down the proprietors of the most-followed history pic account, @HistoryInPics, and learned that they aren’t much interested in where their images come from (“around the Internet”) or in providing any kind of attribution. Sarah Werner, digital media strategist at the Folger Shakespeare Library, posted a heartfelt plea to readers of her blog, asking them to leave the historical pictures accounts behind. The post has had its own share of viral success.
The Internet is an incredible resource for history and photography buffs. There are millions of images and documents available. But sifting through it all isn’t easy, especially when so many sites and social media accounts don’t adhere to rigorous standards. And if certain images are fake or not properly attributed, it’s not just web surfers who suffer. The practice robs photographers of the recognition they deserve.
So, if you enjoy history and you spend time on the Internet, be very careful. It may be fun to peruse something like @HistoryInPics, but you may not be getting what you came for. After all, if the stated purpose of a Twitter feed is to showcase photographs from history, the content on display should be historically accurate.
Of all the organizations PhotoAssist has worked with since our inception, the International Spy Museum might be the most intriguing. In preparation for the museum’s launch, we spent two years tracking down 1,000 photographs, documents, and drawings. The museum, a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Washington, D.C., has been open and going strong for more than a decade.
Last week, some interesting news broke: The Spy Museum is headed to a new location. According to several reports, plans call for the museum to move from its spot on F Street NW to the Carnegie Library. From the Associated Press story:
Museum officials told The Associated Press on Monday they will propose a redevelopment of Washington’s historic Carnegie Library with the city’s convention center authority, Events DC. The project would include new 40,000-square-foot underground space for exhibits and a new glass pavilion to house a District of Columbia visitors center, cafe and museum store.
Peter Earnest, the museum’s executive director and a former CIA agent, said the Spy Museum has outgrown its space since opening in 2002 in downtown Washington.
What’s particularly exciting about the move is that the Spy Museum aims to become a nonprofit organization. That’s the goal of founder Milton Maltz and Malrite Co., the company that owns the museum. “They realize it’s an important institution and want it to go on,” Earnest told the AP. “They think the best way to assure that is to give it to the community.”
The Spy Museum is a fascinating place. It will be interesting to see what its future holds.