The power of ten

I missed the actual tenth birthday of this blog/me blogging but I can’t let a milestone like that go unmarked, can I?


Originally started as a place to store and share links, this blog gradually became a place to playfully interact with the world, and over time that turned from introspection to exploration of the world, media, experiences and ideas. I don’t think I’m alone in that kind of journey with blogs.

I am immensely (unreasonably, perhaps even pathetically) proud of having been blogging for so long. I can say confidently that I was in at the beginning, when all this were fields. I was here before many of you young whippersnappers who have gone on to eclipse me, and blogging, and the web entirely in their success and influence. I don’t put my early involvement down to canny prescience about the way the web was turning so much as an inevitability given my proclivity for tinkering with web things, my early academic and personal interest in communicating online and my inability to shut up. Blogging and me; it was only a matter of time and technology before we found each other.

I was there. I remember the start, and the hype, popularisation, commercialisation and ubiquitisation which followed. I couldn’t possibly have known it at the time, but my blogging was to introduce me to dozens of interesting people, influence others to start doing it too, cause interesting opportunities (and worrying situations) to develop. Blogging has become part of what I am, what I do. I blog now for the same reasons I did in early 2000: because I can’t not tinker with and publish to the web.

Ten years ago, I was embarrassed to mention having a blog in polite company, because it was so difficult to understand – not just what but why. These days, even both my parents have blogs. It’s not a weird niche oddball geek thing anymore. It’s so normal it’s almost passé. Good.


Four Stories

On Friday I attended The Story, a London conference about stories and storytelling.

The stated proposition for the event laid it out as

a celebration of everything that is wonderful, inspiring and awesome about stories, in whatever medium possible. We’re hoping to have stories that are written, spoken, played, described, enacted, whispered, projected, orchestrated, performed, printed – whatever form stories come in, we hope to have them here.

The Story is not about theories of stories, or making money from stories, but about the sheer visceral pleasure of telling a story. Whether it is in a game, a movie, a book, or a pub, we’ve all heard or told or been part of stories that have made us gasp, cry or just laugh.

There have never been so many stories, never so many ways to tell them. The Story will be a celebration of just a small sample of them.

It was an interesting day which has already been well documented elsewhere, but after the event I found myself reflecting on the content and which bits I’d enjoyed and craved more of, and which less so.

Sleeping in someone else's bed

You know, of course, that hotel rooms have multiple occupants. Multiple sequential occupants, that is – unless you’re staying in a supercheap eastern European hostel like I did in Budapest in 1993, where the number of occupants definitely outnumbered the number of bunk beds, and where you had to pick your way down corridors lined with coccoon-like sleeping bagged sleepers in the middle of the night if you needed the loo.

So you know, logically, that the hotel room you occupy for a night or longer was stayed in by someone else before you, and will be the resting place for someone else again after you. That’s the point of hotel rooms. That’s how they make their money.

But part of the deal of staying in a hotel is that while you’re there, you get to ignore the fact that you’re sharing a sleeping area with the microbes of hundreds, thousands of strangers.


If it’s a good hotel, they clean it properly before you arrive. They change the bedlinen (apart from the decorative pillows and the patterned comforter which you must NEVER TOUCH for this precise reason).
Vaccuum the floor to get rid of the crusty bits that come off other people’s feet when they’re padding around barefoot.
Wipe the bathroom down to get rid of odd smears and puddles, and mop the floor to remove stray pubes and dandruff.
Straighten the curtains, desk furniture, chairs.
Put the remote back next to the TV.
Whisk away old glasses and mugs and restock the minibar.

And when you’re gone, they’ll do the same all over again, to remove any evidence that you were ever there.

An open letter to Grey London

22 January: Please see the update at the end of this post for what happened next.

Dear Grey London,

I’ve just been made aware of the ad you were involved with creating for Horlicks.

In the middle of the advert at 1’15”, amid the collection of shots of coffee/tea/beverage making and drinking, there’s a brief shot which is slightly different.

It’s a woman sitting on a tube train going along an above-ground track. She’s holding a book in front of her face. The book’s cover depicts a woman’s face. I’ve screengrabbed it below:


I find it very difficult to believe that this shot wasn’t styled on this image I took and posted in August 2006, which has since become well-circulated on the internet.


Your treatment is startlingly similar to my original photo, right down to the woman; the hand position; the ring; the tube above ground; the styling of the cover; the sweep of the hair; the man with his head down, reading next to her.

I’ve written before about advertising agencies using internet-popular ideas and artwork as source material for campaigns, but there’s a fine line between homage and rip-off.

Should I submit an invoice for the portion of the creative work that I unknowingly did on your behalf? Or would acknowledgement of your inspiration be out of the question?

Best regards,

Meg Pickard

PS If anyone else reading this has any ideas about what I might be able to do about this, please let me know in the comments below or via email or Twitter. Thanks.

Update, 22 January

I spoke to Hugo Feiler, MD of Grey London today, after the creative director of the ad forwarded on the email I’d sent him about the issue. Mr Feiler was very pleasant, and said (transcribed from notes taken on phone):

“On reflection, I would agree that we had been influenced by your photo … we shouldn’t have gone on to use such a similar image without speaking to you first, so I’m very sorry about that”

He offered to have the film re-edited to remove the chunk in question. I declined this, but asked him to ask the production company involved to remove the still from their site as proof of their creativity. He has done this since our call.

In addition, as a gesture of goodwill, Mr Feiler offered to make a generous donation in my name to a charity of my choice. I accepted this and am pleased that Oxfam’s Haiti emergency appeal has been able to benefit from this experience.

He went on to say that he would have said and offered exactly the same thing if I’d spoken to him privately before “going public” on my blog, but he understands why I did because of what I do for a living. (I’d actually sent email via the Grey website, to the production company and to the CD’s personal site).

I don’t think that my work was copied maliciously or through an attempt to decieve or claim credit: I’ve worked with enough creative agencies to know how easy it is for something to slip from early-stage random found object moodboard into a concept storyboard and then through to the produced object, all the while getting further and further from the original credited influence. As with most things like this, Hanlon’s razor applies (and especially the Sir Bernard Ingham variant).

In summary, I am reassured that this has been handled in a timely and considerate way by Hugo at Grey London: I’m glad that they’ve apologised and acknowledged the influence of my work, and feel sure that they will have learnt a lesson from this experience about how random internet influences are handled within their creative processes.

Charity print auction: above and below the waves

I’m auctioning a couple of prints of my photos as part of the Flickr group Charity Print Auctions for the Haiti Earthquake Appeal.

St Ives
Something fishy

(Click on the images to see the bidding on Flickr)

Each print is 18×12 inches and will be printed matte on FujiFilm Professional digital photographic paper.

The auction will close on Sunday 17th January 2010 at midnight GMT.

The winning bidder (who I’ll notify) has to pay the winning amount to the Oxfam Haiti appeal and then send me proof of payment.

If you’d like to place a bid, please do so in the comments below each image on Flickr, stating the amount you want to pay. When the auction closes, the person that has bid the most, wins the print.

I’ll cover the costs of production of the print and the postage to the winning bidder (surface mail if international).

Brightening the day

Brightening the day

Saw this at the bus stop this morning. After a week or more of snow, slush, ice, more snow, slush again, ice, fog and now rain, and people huddled into winter jackets, snowboots, scarves, woolly hats and the like (a look I like to call “survivalist chic”), it was quite pleasing to see something cheery on the morning commute.

(This photo was taken using the Hipstamatic iPhone app, which aims to replicate various analog lens/film/flash gel combinations. It’s a well-built app, but I’m slightly frustrated that I can’t Hipsta-fy existing camera roll images, like you can with Camerabag – just take shots through the app itself. I suppose it all adds to the rather hit-and-miss analogish experience, though…)

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.

Snow. My. God.

The icy drifts of SW London

Not to underplay the serious inconvenience caused by inclement meteorological conditions to some parts of the UK, but I’d just like to take a moment to reflect on this typically calm and understated headline from yesterday’s London Evening Standard:


A few points.

If you’re still measuring the snow in inches rather than feet or yards, it’s not an “extreme” weather event, it’s a “bothersome” one. The words “extreme weather” should apply to total snowmageddon, not tobogganing & a bit of a whinge about slippery pavements.