The one that got away – Cambridge Photographer


I received an email this week from my husband’s cousin.  It was like so many I have received before.

“Hey – I just saw this come up on my Facebook feed on a mommy group I’m part of.  I thought this was your picture.  I thought this was Oliver”.

And it was.

I felt like I needed to write this blog post to bring some awareness to image theft and just how far reaching this issue can become.

Not so long ago I had one of my images used without my permission.  An image of my son, shirtless – his 4 year old self on a river bank.

Someone took it upon themselves to take this image and overlay a quote onto it.  This was done without my permission.   Once this quote was added the image went viral.  I started receiving messages from friends and followers saying that they’d seen the image appearing on friends Facebook pages.  I even received an email request from a man in the US who wanted to purchase a copy of the print from me.

I did reach out to the person who added the quote.  I expressed my concern and told her at the time that what she is doing is wrong.  Adding inspirational quotes to images that are not hers.  No credit at all to the photographer.  No permission asked.  I advised her that she needed to beware of what she was doing.  I asked her to remove the image – but it was too late.  I had no idea the damage that was to be done.

Today when I do a google search on the image the result is astounding.

25, 270,000,000 results


My son who is now 9.  Who does not like to have his photograph taken and will only allow me to post on Facebook with his permission.  My son who was losing sleep about his school field trip to the park with his class because they were going to have to walk past my studio where the very same portrait is hanging in the window.  Embarrassed that his friends would see it.

How do I break this news to him.  I feel like I have betrayed him.

When I review the google results for this image it’s appearing on Mommy blog sites, boys schools, african adoption sites, children’s clothing sites among others.  Of course I reach out when I can but the truth is that this image has absolutely gotten away from me now and there’s no telling where it could be.

Let’s not also forget the monetary aspect of this image.  Because it’s so far reaching there’s no way for me to know if anyone is making money off of this image of mine.  Is it being sold as a poster?  Published in a book?  Could I have been sitting on a gold mine that has been pulled out from underneath me?  I guess now I will never know.  It’s been altered and shared and essentially is no longer mine.

Please.   Image theft is real.   Think about this when you share a quote – think about taking a photograph to use on your website.  There is a photographer out there behind that image.   And in this case , also a little boy.  That is him.  My boy.  And every time I see this image come up it truly breaks my heart.

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Anita Opper - I found that beautiful photograph on a large Facebook page when I first started writing Zen to Zany. I asked that page if I could share the photo. They said it was fine and there was no name or copyright on the photo when I shared it from that page.
I was notified shortly after that it belonged to a photographer and immediately removed it from my files. Unfortunately it had been shared by other people and it was then out of my control.
I am also a writer and an artist and I have seen thousands of my images and paintings on other pages not only without the Zen to Zany name but with my own signature as the Artist removed and other people putting their names on my work. If you google Zen to Zany there are images on thousands of pages, blogs, websites, tumbler, flickr…. so many I cannot even count them. I know the dangers and the chances we take when one of our images is posted anywhere. Once posted they are out of our control. I have had many correspondences with other Facebook pages which used hundreds of my images without sharing them or acknowledging them as mine. It was sickening. I am sorry I used that photo and I was contacted 2 years ago about it. As I said I removed it from my files and have never used it again.
There is an inherent problem on the internet with images and almost impossible to track down who first obtained what image and how. I know I cannot possibly trace my own work…but I know how it feels to have your work stolen.
Once again, I can only apologize and hope that you understand what happened with that photo. I used it ONCE on my page and that was it…it was then removed and there was no name on the photo when I used it. I was new to Facebook and ignorant of what I could use and could not use and was given express permission from the page where I first found it. It was not done intentionally to hurt, to steal or to infringe on your rights. I am sorry it upset you but I do know exactly how you feel.
Anita Opper
Zen to Zany

hulahoop - Anita. Thank you for your response. I do believe in the digital age we are in people see something on the internet and think it’s just theirs for the taking. So the prints that you are selling on your page. Do you own the rights to all of those images? I do believe that there was the watermark on the image when it was shared.

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