Credits and Lost Visibility: Don’t Do This!

In the artistic community the practice of giving credit is essential. It is a sign of respect to those who created the piece and often a legal requirement. But beyond that it is also a way of supporting the artists - an essential key in increasing our visibility. That’s why many photographers send me images to share after a paid shoot, even though they aren’t contractually obligated to do so. They know that if I choose to share their image in my portfolio or social media there’s a good chance that some of my audience will decide to check out their work, or maybe even follow them. That’s also why I make an effort to credit every photo I post, and why every image on this website has full credit given in the alt text. (I’m not perfect though - please bump me if you realize I missed someone!)

I’ve actually had people tell me that my website would look better if I requested images without watermarks, but I’d much rather offer my co-creators visibility than erasure.

With this in mind, it’s incredibly confusing to me that Model Mayhem, arguably the leading industry portfolio site, has chosen to absolutely ignore the importance of crediting artists. Ironically they made this mistake in a how-to video releasing their latest feature of ‘verified credits’.

The images they used were of a good friend of mine, the amazing model Christine ‘Idiivil’ Adams. (Shot by photographers Fotokai and Michael Magers, and featuring the work of hair and makeup artists Melanie Leandro and Karen Bates-Ashley.) Rather than giving Christine proper credit they chose, knowing full well who she is, to call her “Molly Mayhem”.

This would have been excusable in two circumstances: If they had asked her permission to name her differently, asked the photographers for permission to use the images, and credited all parties at the end of the video everything would have been fine.

Alternately, they could have bought the rights to the images and and used them without credit, the parties having been remunerated. Instead, they chose to ignore the parties involved and use images without granting proper credit, risking the anger of community members in good standing. Given that these images were used in a marketing video, I’m amazed this decision got past the legal and PR departments. 

I’m sure we can all agree that this was a terrible decision, but let’s take a closer look at how this will affect the parties:

Christine is an amazing model and is becoming well known in the community, so I and perhaps many others recognized her immediately. But statistically there must have been at least several thousand people who watched this video, loved her look, and had no clue where to find her. They might find out who she is when other community members who know her discuss the video, but unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that most people figured out who the other parties involved were. It’s significantly more difficult to recognize photographers and makeup artists than a model from the images they help create.

Now, Model Mayhem may realize they made a mistake and choose to credit the video properly. But here’s the crux: in many issues like this it’s already too late by the time changes are implemented. The video has already drawn the bulk of the traffic it will generate, and most people won’t go back to watch it again. The five artists who were prominently featured in this video have already lost their chance to be acknowledged or possibly hired by anyone who might have found them in the first few days of the video’s release.

That visibility can’t be regained, and because of the bad taste that will leave in these artist’s mouths MM has likely lost the chance to work with them again, even if they do give credit belatedly.

Visibility and branding is everything in this business, and timing is critical. Connections are made eclectically and every new opportunity counts - a video like this could very well gain an artist a job or two if people like what they see, but even more importantly the artists would have gained followers, who could have eventually been converted into new clients.

It all comes back to visibility, and in an online landscape that revolves around social media, information is moving so fast that anything posted becomes irrelevant within hours. This means that there is a small window of opportunity for visibility, and even less of one for fixing mistakes. Forgetting to immediately credit a participant in an image you post in your portfolio is one thing. Choosing not to credit artists in a high profile video that’s being posted to a huge audience is quite another. 

How can Model Mayhem fix this? I recommend a public apology across all their platforms with full credit to all participants and a revision of the video. I also recommend rethinking their policies to be in line with their communities’ core values. Regardless of legality, had Model Mayhem been on top of and in tune with the needs and desires of their customers they never would have shown such disrespect, especially in a video about the very practice they violated. 

As for you, regardless of your role in (or out) of this industry please be conscious about granting credit where it is due. Credit your co-creators when you post images, and if you share the work of an artist you love make sure to add proper credit and a link to their work. It may very well make a difference.

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre. To see more of Eleanor’s work you can visit her website.

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