Is it right to publish the private works of famous photographers?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by hoffy, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. hoffy

    hoffy Subscriber
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    So, I came across this one:

    https://www.theguardian.com/artandd...ul-leiter-nude-friends-and-lovers-in-pictures

    TL;DR, a new book of previously unpublished work by Saul Leiter has been recently released.

    Here is the kicker - the majority of these photos were Leiter's own private work, that he didn't show or had only shown to close friends.

    So, I'm curious to understand what peoples thoughts are on this. I know in the past, I have been very enamoured with Vivian Maier, but I see this as very different. These photos that Leiter had taken were intimate and private and I would suggest, he had with held them for that reason. It really has me questioning the motivation behind this and whether their publication is the right thing to do. But in that breath, I feel like a contradiction.

    Thoughts

    (PS - I often also disagree with alternate takes of musicians being released. Quite often, they add absolutely nothing to their body of work.)
     
  2. Sirius Glass

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    Generally dead people do not complain a lot. There are probably not much in the way of legal barriers, if any.
     
  3. OP
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    hoffy

    hoffy Subscriber
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    This is not a question of legalities. It is a question of ethics and respect.....
     
  4. awty

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    I cant see any difference between this and Vivians pictures, both done without the persons consent so someone else can make money. Guess thats the way it is, best they destroy there stuff before they die if they dont want it to happen.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2018
  5. Eric Rose

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    Ethics and money do not generally coexist.
     
  6. Peter Schrager

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    There is a show of these photos now at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in new York
    I think they are great photos and should be shown...better they should rot in some box?
    Shows a completely different story about Leiter
     
  7. blockend

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    I haven't seen the show so can't comment on the quality of the work. However generally speaking, all the great photographers are highly curated and the work we've come to know them by represents a tiny fraction of their output. Someone retrospectively choosing a different set of images may enhance their reputation, or destroy it, depending how good an editor they are.
     
  8. Jim Jones

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    Yes, indeed! The increasing lack of ethics and respect contribute to many of today's problems. If the titillating commercialization of anyone's private photos is encouraged, what next?
     
  9. Wallendo

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    As long as appropriate model releases are on file, I have no issues with this. A photographer can destroy negatives at any time, and photographers, painters, writers, musicians have destroyed unwanted work throughout history.

    I don’t know the circumstances of his death, but a photographer can control the disposition of his work through a will.
     
  10. darkosaric

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    This reminds me on one short SF story that I have read long time ago: in short - one alien visited Earth, and talked to one girl only, and left. Government took the girl and asked what was it about - and she refused to give any answer. She just told them that the conversation was personal and private.
     
  11. pentaxuser

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    I presume that after his death someone became the executor/owner/custodian of these negatives and it was that person who released them for publication or whomsoever was deemed to be the new rightful owner. If the deceased had expressly forbidden the use of these in a will,then they would not have been used. I would have thought that if the executor had no idea of Mr Leiter's wishes the executor would have sought out those who might be affected by their publication, assuming there is/are people still around who are affected but there would be no legal obligation on the executor's part to do so. Indeed the executor has a legal duty to dispose of and realise in monetary terms all the deceased's worldly goods for appropriate distribution.

    The situation may not be as simple or as black and white(no pun intended) as might first appear to be the case.

    pentaxuser
     
  12. rpavich

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    I guess it depends on how you define what is ethical or not.
    According to the dictionary description: Ethics is "conforming to accepted standards of conduct" and it appears that there is no accepted standard to compare it to.
     
  13. slackercrurster

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    If it is legal, do as you like.
     
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  15. jawarden

    jawarden Member
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    Leiter discussed these images in his documentary, and there was a project to publish them in the 1970s that was never finished. But he printed three thousand nudes at that time for the project (this from the introduction to the new Steidl book, which I recommend). That major '70s printing session is where these images come from, so I don't believe he had any problems with sharing them.
     
  16. BradS

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    A collection of poorly executed "art nudes" accompanied by slick marketing....Yawn.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2018
  17. barzune

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    What a pathetic world we live in, that common courtesy and common sense should be replaced by politicians and lawyers.:sad:
     
  18. AgX

    AgX Member

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    This is a very good point.
    Over here the depicted persons would have to be asked. In certain circumstances even after the death of them their family.
     
  19. MattKing

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    Why would you think that lawyers wouldn't be just as interested in right and wrong as anyone else? I'm retired now, but when I was practicing unless I was retained to deal with the legal issues, my opinions on issues of ethics and my conduct are based on what I think is right and wrong.
    There are large overlaps between what is right and wrong and what is legal and not legal, but there isn't an exact match. Lawyers do make some of their money on the inconsistencies, but that doesn't mean that they aren't human, with principles and values.
    On the subject of this thread, I'm torn about what I think about this, but I lean toward publication.
    My thoughts are strongly influenced by the fact that Saul Leiter was a prolific photographer who published/shared publicly a large body of work, much of which consisted of photographs of people.
    These photos are clearly of people who knew Mr. Leiter well, and who therefore would have been fully aware that they were likely to appear as subjects in his published work.
    As far as I am aware, none of these photos were taken surreptitiously.
    While I think that it might be prudent and courteous to have obtained the consent of the subjects of the photographs (or their executors), I do not believe that, in my legal environment, it would have been legally necessary to do so.
    With the possible exception of those subjects whose images are used to promote the book.
    And by the way, a direction in a Will to an executor as to the use of something like this is basically advisory. It is an expression of preference, but rarely creates a binding trust condition. Such a request will assist an executor, but complying with it will only be possible if to do so is consistent with the executor's legal duty to maximize the benefit of the other, enforceable trusts provided for in the Will.
     
  20. Peter Schrager

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    I think Saul Leiter would have been happy to see the work published. the subjects are probably long dead...looks like they ere his girlfriends or mistresses or something to that effect. these were not posed nudes and show a delicacy that is rarely found in these types of pictures.
    have a great day everyone!!
    Peter
     
  21. jim10219

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    Exactly.

    I don't understand why anyone would think it's disrespectful to release these photos now. When I die, they can release everything I've ever done. I'm human. I've done some questionable things that I'd rather not relive. But when I'm dead, I don't have to relive them. And I'm not trying to run from them. I'd just rather skip the public embarrassment.

    To me, it's disrespectful not to release them. By not releasing them, you're basically dehumanizing him and saying he wasn't a person with desires, flaws, provocations, and sins, but rather he was a brand or ideal. A thing like a corporate entity or a machine. Does Mozart's "Leck Mich im Arsch" make him any less of a genius? No! It humanizes him and endears him! It connects him to us in a way that his more standard works cannot. It allows his work to be interpreted more personally, so when he wrote about heartbreak or wonder, you knew he was writing about the times he felt those emotions, and just about how those emotions were supposed to be felt.
     
  22. nmp

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    The book was published in collaboration with the Photographer's estate. As long as the there were model releases from the people in the pictures, there wouldn't be any legal issues.
     
  23. Alan Edward Klein

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    If there was a legal issue, why would they have been published? Wouldn't the gallery or publisher be aware of these laws as they are experts in this field.
     
  24. Sirius Glass

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    +1
     
  25. MattKing

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    I can think of a lot of charitable pursuits that would put this statement in question.
     
  26. OP
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    hoffy

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    That is why I am in a bit of a quandary about it all! I loved the fact that Maiers work was published and we got to see it. I feel like a walking, talking contradiction......

    Interesting take on it. I suppose, if you review or see the images that a photographer keeps to themselves, you may get a true feeling of what actually goes through their mind and what they personally like.

    OK, then that is a bit different. If it is something that he had always intended to publish, then yes, it does change my opinion.
     
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