Be proud without signing
I once worked in outdoor education.
At one centre we accommodated a children’s television programme. Guests included the actor Terrence Hardiman, known at the time for playing the eponymous role in The Demon Headmaster. You could not wish to meet a nicer man. So far removed from his character, he had all the time for both the children staying at the centre and the staff.
One presenter on the show was a B-list television celebrity. A group of youngsters ran up to him to talk and he walked straight through them. A good friend, a retired press photographer who volunteered at the centre, told the celebrity off for this behaviour. Suitably admonished, the presenter turned back to talk with the children. He disappeared into obscurity soon after, whereas the wonderful Mr Hardiman is still getting acting roles.
I really rate the work of another well-known professional photographer, Matt Kloskowski. He produces great landscape photographs and posts good tutorials.
He featured a tutorial about adding a signature to an image. I commented that I really don’t like digital signatures as I find them annoyingly distracting. He responded politely, saying that artists signed their name on work for hundreds of years. He asked “Is that a bad thing? I understand that you may not like it, but hopefully you can understand that others disagree with you.”
I fully accept that my dislike of signatures is subjective and I made counter-argument why I thought people should not use them.
Although painters sign their name on a painting, the signature is usually small and discrete in the corner, using colour analogous to the painting. Potters hide their signature under the base of their creations; tailors stitch labels inside clothes. Photographers’ digital signatures stand out and are off-putting.
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Looking at the work of many great photographers of the last 100 years, none signed the front of their images. Indeed, Matt Kloskowski doesn’t add a digital signature either.
Is the growth in digital signatures on photos linked to the narcissistic desire for fame predominant in society today? Instead of showing off the subject, perhaps people have to parade their name too, craving personal recognition, but damaging their work.
The retired press photographer who scolded the celebrity died shortly afterwards. Jim McElroy was incredibly skilled at photography and happily shared his knowledge. He had great moral standards too.
He was in a hospital in Glasgow when casualties were brought in from the Ibrox Park disaster in 1971. Although it would have made him a lot of money, he refused to take photos of the casualties, respecting their privacy.
You have probably never heard of him, but in my book he’s a photographer to celebrate.
If you want recognition for photography then take outstanding photos, not add a signature. That’s a real challenge against billions of pictures online, but maybe being generous in spirit is far more important for your reputation.
See more from Ivor at https://ivorphotography.co.uk