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The Posthumously Published Photographer

About the only online account of Christopher’s which I haven’t deleted is his one with the photo-sharing site, Flickr. That’s partly because I like to go there every so often and look at his photos, but mostly because it gives me very little hassle.

So I was very surprised, about two weeks ago, when I got an email c/o his Flickr account asking him for permission to use one of his photos commercially (although unfortunately without any monetary compensation, just a copyright credit). The request came from an online web-magazine, MaltaInsideOut, and they wanted permission to use a photo Chris had taken of a Maltese hearse to illustrate an article for Halloween.

Christopher's photo of an old-style Maltese hearse

The photo was taken on a long weekend trip to Malta which turned out to be the last holiday that we had with my parents and sister. We were on an excursion to one of the local fishing villages, and I had a stinking migraine so spent the time sitting on a bench by the harbour. In the meantime a funeral was being held for one of the village dignitaries, a local politician by the look of it, and both Christopher and my father wandered around taking photos of the somewhat idiosyncratic hearse and funeral procession.

My reply to MaltaInsideOut perhaps could have been phrased more tactfully, but showed how surprised I was to get their email:

You sent Chris Booth a question about a picture of a hearse for your magazine. Unfortunately, that is probably more appropriate than you knew, since Chris is dead. Very dead in fact – he died over a year ago. So he can’t give permission for anything any more. I am his widow and I suppose that all the rights to his photos etc have devolved to me, so in principle I could help.  I remember the occasion well and the hearse was certainly interesting! What do you actually need? Do you just need an email giving you permission to use that photo as is? Or you want me to look through his computers to try to find the original image?

We agreed that what they actually wanted was a non-exclusive royalty-free licence to use the picture on their website. And thankfully they could download it off Flickr, so I didn’t have to go rummaging through his hard drive, which was not something I wanted to do. So I was pleased to give them that permission, and the resulting article is here: The Grateful Dead.

Christopher would have been so pleased. One of the things he really wanted to do when he got made redundant was to find a way to get his photographs published, and this would have been a start. The editor emailed me back to thank me, saying “I can imagine Chris perhaps giving us a knowing wink at using his photo now”, and I heartily concur that he would have been both pleased and amused at the irony.

{ 6 } Comments

  1. Liz | 2 November 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    A short note here to say sincere thanks once again for kindly allowing us to reproduce Chris’s photo. It is a strange era we live in now when we can live on digitally forever. I just hope that seeing it again, though tinged with sadness, did bring some warm thoughts of that last holiday here in Malta. As you say, perhaps Chris would be amused at the irony. Many thanks again.

  2. neil briscombe | 3 November 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Hi Gillian,

    Enjoyed catching up on your posts just now. The terraces look fab – grand job. Post and one on google calendar were good to read.

    RE Chris’s photography: dug out of an email I sent to Chris Jan 2010: “Enjoyed going through your pictures on flickr [favourites] are: pistachios green (saw you had comment on the other pistachio but this one is more colour sumptuous), ready to throw (you got Gillian well) and washing up (LOL-ed at this – something about this particular hector was very striking)”. He replied: “Yes, we do love the antics the dogs got up to while the cleaners were here. Sadly, they seem less playful at the moment… ”

    Biggest news here is that we have had our addition to the family now – Gregory Austin born Sept 1st both he and Mum doing well. Would be lovely to have you over sometime soon again so you can meet him!



  3. pauld | 6 November 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    “although unfortunately without any monetary compensation, just a copyright credit”

    well thats better than them just nicking stuff, like someone did off one of my websites, it even got into a lakeland tourist guide !

    Some lovely old cars in Malta !

  4. Gillian | 6 November 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I was pleased they were doing it properly and asking permission first. Chris had very firm views about copyright law and there is far too much plagiarism on the web. It sounds like you fell foul of it – I hope you made a fuss!

  5. paulD | 6 November 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Well the really funny thing is that when it happened there was errors in the info I had on there, so they copied them.

    Now of course you never really know if I have deliberate errors there to confuse people 🙂

  6. Paul B | 11 November 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Given the quality of Christopher’s photography it is not a surprise that his work has made it to a wider audience.

    The circumstances are indeed ironic but I can imagine that he would have come out with wonderfully witty comment about the episode.