If You Are Taking, Are You Giving Back?

Last Sunday I wrote about how the geisha and maiko I photograph would feel if they saw their images posted on some Tumblr blogs and Facebook pages, and this week I'm going to write about how I feel as both a photographer and as a human being when I find that people have used my photos without my permission. As a human being, I have feelings like everyone else, and I think one of the worst feelings to have is the feeling that you are being used. I think most of us feel used when people take things from us without giving back.

Up until now, I believe that people who have been posting my images on Tumblr and Facebook have been taking from me without giving much back, although I don't believe that most people have been doing it maliciously.

I've been having a really good conversation with the owner of a Tumblr blog this week who has been posting my images. She thought she was helping me by posting my photo with a link to my blog and website, and I believe that her intentions were sincere.

However, what she didn't know is that I've been tracking visitors to my site with Google Analytics and Wordpress Jetpack, and I usually get only 1 or 2 visitors a day from Tumblr to my site, and about 10 on a good day. Some of my images she has posted on Tumblr have more than 100 likes and reblogs, so clearly most of these people are not visiting my site.

As I said to her, I am not blaming her at all for this. I just want her to understand my point of view. I don't get much traffic to my site from Tumblr, and some people are posting my images on Tumblr on blogs that would really embarrass the maiko and geiko I work with. I see no benefit at all to the geiko and maiko, and very little benefit for me.

So, how can you give back? How can you help yourself, help me, and help other photographers whose work you admire? Here's what I'd like to see more of:

1. Before you post one of my images somewhere else, post a few comments here on my blog so I get to know a little bit about you. I'm not asking for compliments. I just want you to share your thoughts and interests with me. We all feel more comfortable with people we've spoken to a few times than we do with total strangers, don't we?

2. If you do want to share my photos on Tumblr, I'd prefer that you don't share every photo I post here, and I prefer you share a link, not the actual photo. I ask for you to share a link because I think the people who reblog images on Tumblr to blogs with graphic sexual content will be less likely to take a link.

3. If you do post a link, share a little information about me with your followers so they will want to visit my blog and site, too. Again, I'm not asking for compliments, just something like "John Paul Foster posted an inteview he did with an otokoshi on his blog today. I learned some new things from it, so you might want to read it, too."

That's pretty much all I'm asking for. If you share my work with others, just share a little bit of information about me as well and visit my site once in a while and share with me in return.

If you really enjoy my work and want to give back even more, you could review one of my books or link back to my blog or site. These things would really be helping me, but I would rather people do these things because they sincerely enjoy my work, not because I've asked you to.

I'm glad my post from last week has started some new ideas and conversations. I hope they will continue. As always, thank you for reading.