Stealing is easy: being original is hard

Every now and again, something happens which reminds you that the internet isn’t the respectful, creative, collaborative place that we rather naively hope it is, but is actually infested with people who seek to exploit, destroy and undermine the work of others.

It’s not that surprising, unfortunately, but it is a bit disappointing.

Take my 2006 camphone photo taken on the tube, of a girl reading a book:


Or rather, don’t take it. Admire it. Link to it. Comment on it. Favourite it. Tell me you like it, you value my work, you think it’s funny/clever/well-composed if you like, but don’t take it and pass it off as your own work.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this (hasty and rather crap resolution due to being taken with a camphone) shot being included in emailed & blogged collections of “great trick photography photos” and the like. Here are just a few of the places it’s been spotted over the years. Without exception in these circumstances, the image is used without permission, with no credit or link to me (therefore falling foul of Flickr’s terms of service as well as my wishes as the creator of the work). Sometimes it even appears with someone else’s watermarked copyright notice on it, which I think is cheeky, to be honest.

Found while walking

Part of the brilliance of a photographic observation game like (which I wrote about the other day in the context of synchronicity and gaming) is that – as the name implies – it encourages you to be observant and notice things when you’re out and about in the context of your everyday life.


Paul Mison wrote about recently saying that it’s “helping [him] to look around” and that’s absolutely the same feeling I have.

I’ve got a long history of capturing random spotted/found/noticed things and moments from my commute and daily wanderings, stretching back many years – and not just photographically, either. Sometimes with the camera, sometimes with words, sometimes just by making a mental note – it’s the habit of receptiveness to the world around that’s interesting.

This relates to something else I wrote a while back about super-noticing:

Super-noticing is something which happens a lot if you’re trained to be receptive and observant, but also if you’re thinking about a particular thing.

This in turn relates to another earlier post about the ethnographic discipline of pattern recognition:

Part of the toolkit of ethnography and anthropology in general is observing patterns. This could be patterns in behaviour, appearance, ritual, language or otherwise. The anthropologist’s job is to spot the patterns and try to understand what (if any) significance they have, especially in relation to social or cultural environment, or other prevailing conditions.

The discipline of noticing stuff is part of what makes receptiveness and observation useful in life, as well as in anthrolopology and social gaming. But it’s good to have a particular outlet (or should that be inlet?) for the activity. As I wrote in the super-noticing post,

“Flickr is great for developing a discipline around noticing, too, and Flickr groups in particular – if your eye is receptive, then every journey out into the world can be filled with potential squared circles and little fellas and malapostrophication and more.”

Well, turns that hyper-receptiveness up to 11, but inverts it – it’s not about seeing the patterns so much as the anomalies – the things you spot which shouldn’t be there, or stand out, or catch the attention because they don’t belong, or are otherwise notable. Noticeable. Noted.

Once you start playing, it’s very difficult to stop noticing things. Above and below are just a few of the things I’ve noticed while out and about, captured with my phonecam, and filed to

Walking away



Oops. It all went a bit quiet there for a while, while I was on holiday. Sorry.


We went to San Francisco to visit my lovely sister and brother outlaw, and spent a lovely week and a bit wandering around the city; meeting up for food and banter with various friends; watching unexpected 1940s-themed burlesque in a jazz bar in Haight Ashbury; exploring Golden Gate Park and Noe Valley and the Mission and Japantown and other areas both new and familiar; drinking margaritas the size of our heads and summer ales from local breweries; going to the baseball; clothes and art and sushi rolling equipment shopping; watching lovely movies (Up in 3D a particular highlight); picnicking in Napa valley (the wines (and views!) at Artesa are phenomenal, especially the Meritage, and I highly recommend the deli at V.Sattui) plus a night in Sausalito (nested holidays rock) and more pleasant pootling around the Bay area (eating at In’n’Out – I had my burger animal style, natch, but don’t ask how many calories are in the chocolate shake) and playing minigolf in the blazing sunshine.

You're looking the wrong way

This building, viewed from the roof of SFMOMA, looks like something Gothamesque

Speaking of sunshine, everyone we spoke to before we went said in dubious tones “San Francisco in August? Better pack your thermals” and “don’t forget to bring a jacket” and “well, you can forget the sunglasses”

So we did.


And then we got there, and it was balmy and beautifully sunny every day and we ended up having to go shopping for more summery clothes (me) and sandals & sunglasses (P) plus silly hats to wear at the baseball (both, but you’ll never see the photos) and sunscreen. Phew!

Now, I’ll accept that we were staying on the traditionally “sunny” side of the city, but even our local resident experts had told us it was pretty chilly, and that the fog belt was heavy every afternoon. But the reputation for fog and summer chills wasn’t fulfilled in the slightest.

So it came as something of a relief when, on our last afternoon, we drove up to Sutro Heights for a picnic on our way to the airport for our flight home, and discovered the whole of Ocean Beach wraithed in white fluffy stuff. So that’s where they’d been hiding it all week.

Some photos here – more to come when I’ve recovered from jetlag a bit.

Anyway, I’m back. What did I miss?