I've been thinking about St. Valentine's Day; how commercialized it's become and how it may seem fraught for individuals who aren't part of a couple or in a committed relationship. Yet I defy you to show me one person who isn't in a relationship involving care and concern for each other. And that's the sentiment that infuses Valentine's Day - love! It doesn't have to be romantic love to count, contrary to what the marketing mavens would have us believe. Roses and chocolates don't have to play a part.
Birds of paradise, Kathmandu, Nepal.
For Valentine's Day, I've taken spring bulbs and flowers to my neighbours who shoveled the snow while my husband was in hospital and to friends who have been incredibly kind and helpful since we moved here.
David and I will spend Valentine's Day at the hospital, where he is having more surgery. We are looking forward to celebrating his improved health soon. After all, that's what really matters: looking after each other. In all our personal relationships, showing love, care and respect for each other on a regular basis means more than hearts and flowers on just one over-promoted holiday per year.
At the florist this morning, a heart-shaped stone had been covered in tiny red rosebuds echoing the heart shape - thus softening the "heart of stone." I asked the florist if Valentine's Day is a big celebration here. "A little bit, but it's not like in the States," she replied. "The Dutch are more cool; more reserved in their emotions."
Whatever your nationality or tendency to wear your heart on your sleeve - even If you aren't feeling the love - these photos may bring a smile to your face.
Laughing Buddha at a monastery in the Himalayas, Nepal.
An effervescent smile, Swayamhunath Temple, Kathmandu.
Young married woman, Bungamati, Nepal.
Happy couple, Bungamati.
However you're spending your day, take time to notice and appreciate the thoughtfulness and consideration of those close to you....and share the love!
I hope you have the opportunity to see the Oscar-nominated documentary Five Broken Cameras. I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Five Broken Cameras truly is an extraordinary account of peaceful resistance against Israeli settlements encroaching on Palestinian land. This is a story close to my heart as a journalist, having lived and worked in the region for years.
The film was made by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi. It won the World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Five Broken Cameras is an unembellished chronicle of family life and how children are affected by conflict.
I collect black-and-white vintage photographs and am lucky to have an Henri Cartier-Bresson original, as well as original photographs by Christian Lemaire, Dorothea Lange, Samuel Gottscho and an Edward Curtis portrait (plus some more modern signed photographs by Peter Turnley). This site presents some fascinating images from the Indian Sub-Continent. And have you seen Photographium? I could spent hours looking at these historical photographs.
"Study the science of art and the art of science." - Leonardo da Vinci
Imagine the determination, effort and time it took master stone-cutters to create these complex interlocking Islamic symbols at Reales Alcázares de Sevilla. (Click image to view detail).
Did you know that even the artist, inventor and original thinker Leonardo da Vinci was plagued with self-doubt? He overcame such difficult moments through writing affirmations in a notebook. Among them: "Obstacles do not bend me." "Every obstacle is destroyed through rigor." And my personal favourite: "I shall continue."
If you get the chance to visit Château du Clos Lucé - the home in Amboise, France where da Vinci spent the last three years of his life - don't miss it! The chateau contains working models of many of da Vinci's inventions. And there's an underground tunnel leading directly to King Francis's Château d' Amboise, 500 metres away.
Screenshots taken Wednesday. All these photos are mine, "pinned" without permission.
Many of you are fans of Pinterest and maintain numerous boards containing "pinned" photos you find on the web. But I don't want even one of my photos on Pinterest. Until Wednesday night, there were about 100 of my photos and probably more on Pinterest, all pinned without permission (and a few without credit). Pinterest removed the images after several email exchanges, in which I provided specific links to each individual photo.
Over-exposure is bad for business
I receive no benefit whatsoever from having my photos displayed on Pinterest boards. Contrary to popular belief, Pinterest doesn't drive traffic to my blog or to my website. And I firmly believe that too much exposure is bad for business. If you see the same image 50 times in random places, it begins to lose its impact and financial value.
The internet rapidly is becoming over-saturated with images, making the unusual and exotic seem unremarkable and commonplace. I want to choose the places and publications where my photos appear; I don't want them "pinned" randomly on glorified community bulletin boards, alongside dozens of other images of varying quality.
Section 107 of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) includes this passage examining a factor in determining "fair use" of an individual's work: "...The effect of the use upon the potential market
for, or value of, the copyrighted work." Accordingly, copyright law provides that the copyright holder decides who uses their images and any fee to be charged.
For over a year I've tried to stop my photos from being "pinned." I reluctantly put Pinterest's "do not pin" code on my blog (akin to locking my door to prevent burglary). I've wasted hours of my time and energy compiling links to every individual photo I can find and providing said links to Pinterest staff, asking the images be removed.
Last weekend I was forced to delete my 500px photography account, as there seemed no foolproof way to stop those images being grabbed for Pinterest. It is unreasonable that I have to spend so much time and effort - and delete a separate showcase for my work - because of multiple instances of copyright infringement on Pinterest.
Since writing my first piece in December, 2011 about copyright issues with Pinterest, the over-use of images on Pinterest, Indulgy and the like prompted my decision to prevent my photos from being used anywhere without permission. Whether you like it or not, pilfering a photo is the same principle as swiping a record or grabbing someone's manuscript. It's my original work - not yours - and you don't get to decide what to do with it.
I wouldn't presume to visit your office (virtual or real) and remove something from your desk for my personal use. I wouldn't take the play you've written or the dress you've designed and use them however I like. That would be stealing! So why do so many people stubbornly cling to the misguided notion that if a photograph is posted on the internet, it's free??!!
Google aggregation of images
Of course it's not just Pinterest at fault for pushing photographers to be ever-vigilant about unfair use of images. Despite lawsuits by photographers' groups, Google's search engine grabs images from blogs in scaled down "thumbnail" size, then links to them full size, with the tiny disclaimer tagline "Image may be subject to copyright."
Unlike Pinterest, Google lacks ability to scrutinize its content. Pinterest's control over its own content makes it responsible for monitoring copyright infringement - particularly as photos copied are a "mirror image" of the original copyrighted photographs. Under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, this is not considered fair use!
"Copyright law protects the fruits of creative efforts, called "original
works of authorship" in legal terminology. A copyright owner enjoys the
exclusive right to reproduce the work, distribute it, display or
perform it and to create derivative works from it, as well as the
ability to transfer any or all of these rights. Copyright protection
generally lasts for 70 years beyond the death of the original
author. Copyright's purpose is to stimulate the production of creative works by giving authors a financial incentive to create
new works. Examples of copyrightable works include blog posts, photographs, videos,
podcasts, news articles, musical
compositions and computer software." - The Citizen Media Law Project
Every time I search - here on a Paris board - I find more of my photos.
My Marie-Antoinette-related photos were "pinned" on at least three Pinterest boards.
Some images "pinned" from my 500px account; sadly, I was forced to delete it, due to rampant Pinterest "pins."
This "pinner" gave someone else credit, even though my watermark is clearly visible on the photo. Ask permission before you "pin" someone else's photo. It's a small courtesy that can save all concerned from future legal problems.
Today I had to disappoint a publisher's assistant, who asked me to read a novel the company is about to publish. To put it politely, the book seems meant for those with a romanticised view of Paris, who seldom - if ever - travel. Probably the book will be released to reasonable success, but only to a limited audience, in my view. In good conscience, I couldn't recommend the book, but telling her that made me feel bad. It's my Southern upbringing and focus on good manners: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
Speaking of manners, for purchases made from my online shop, I always include a little gift. I've noticed that less than five percent of recipients even bother to acknowledge this little extra, much less thank me. Seems good manners are falling by the wayside in a world of increasingly short attention spans.
When clearing out books in my office, I came across a hefty volume on Middle East peace, given to me when I first started out as a reporter at the United Nations. The book is signed by most of the principal players in the conflict. Sadly, all but one are now dead, without seeing their dream realised. And it seems the peace process is dead as well. So in disgust, I threw the book in the recycle bin.
I felt upset, as today has proved to be one quiet disappointment after another. I started looking through my photo files, hoping to find something to lift my mood. And I came across these examples of exquisite craftsmanship at Reales Alcázares de Sevilla. Centuries ago, artists took the trouble to create extraordinarily beautiful works of art, often in obscure places that few people bothered to look (i.e. the ceiling in a corridor, above).
Hand-painted intricate tiles (top photo) were applied to a wood base that's today riddled with woodworm. But the room is still standing, despite the centuries that have passed and the ever-changing occupants of the palace. As a World Heritage site, it just needs a little maintenance and no doubt will last for more centuries yet.
So maybe the Middle East peace process isn't dead, but temporarily stalled. Maybe I'm wrong about that publisher's book and it will entertain many readers and bring both author and publisher success.
(And maybe, just maybe I will stop obsessing over things that I can't control. One can only hope)!
Little Treasures Made by Hand
Have you heard about my friend Pia Jane Bijkerk's latest book project Little Treasures Made by Hand? Learn how you can participate here. I own three of Pia's books; all are beautifully-photographed and packed full of information and delightful stories. If you're not familiar with Pia's lovely books or her fabulous blog, you're in for a treat!
Thankfully, the ice and snow melted this week, replaced by grey skies and rain. But February brings us one month closer to spring - at which time more house renovations will commence.
The steam engine zinc weathervane once graced the roof of a Paris chateau. The vintage metal train on the windowsill also is French. This is the view from the second-floor "Light Room," so named because of the Cecilie Manz-designedCaravaggio lights that dominate the small space. At some point we'll probably knock down the wall between the "Light Room" and my office, creating one large room.
When the Caravaggio lights arrived from Denmark, it was obvious I had underestimated their size. So I bought a Dutch vintage industrial table and the room now serves as a small media library/workspace. The 1930s French mercantile cabinet holds DVDs.
My collection of art and pottery from Santa Fe also is in this room. Sadly, part of it "went missing" in the move from Paris. The chairs and stool are vintage Tolix. Six of the chairs (only two are pictured) are from the Pauchard family's private collection and marked VA for "Villa Autun," their home in Burgundy, France.
The "Louis Louis" desk chair in my office was a gift from my talented friend Di Overton (check out her stylish creations at Ghost Furniture). The black-and-white Paris images are by photographer Peter Turnley.
This is a portion of my office (the linoleum floor both here and in the "Light Room" has to go! We're still considering alternatives). The 30-drawer chest painted in Farrow & Ball's Down Pipe, was handmade by Luke Ellis of Kent & London in Whitstable, England. The chest holds my cameras and photography gear. The vintage French chest next to it stores office supplies.