A professional photographer who in 2009 was accused of passing off other photographers’ work as his own and was investigated by police for fraud has once again become the subject of serious allegations.
On his website Mark Stothard describes himself as a “committed, professional, commercial, press and sports photographer with years of experience.” However others who knew him in a previous incarnation as Mark the Photographer described him as a ‘conman’ and a ‘fake’.
Expelled from the BPPA
In February 2009 the BBC broadcast a film about Mr Stothard and his business practices. For most pro photographers this would be fantastic opportunity to market themselves, but for Stothard it uncovered a catalogue of accusations, a trail of complaints, a stack of unpaid debts, bankruptcy and, perhaps worse, allegations from photographers claiming that he was using their images as if they were his own on his website without consent.
Photographer Morgan David de Lossy from Brussels found an image he had taken of his wife being used on Stothard’s site to demonstrate his photographic talent.
This behaviour earned Stothard the dubious distinction of being the first photographer to be expelled from the British Press Photographers Association in its 28 year history.
Subsequent to these allegations and a police fraud squad investigation concerning items being offered for sale on Ebay Mr Stothard shut down his website and seemed to have disappeared from view. Until recently that is, when he suddenly re-appeared on the web at markstothard.com/blog/ and markstothard.com offering among other services ‘photowalks’ – paid for photography tutorials around picturesque cities.
On the photowalks Mark Stothard promises participants that he “passes on his years of knowledge, experience and explains in Basic English, photographic know how and techniques that will improve your photographic results.”
Charging £25 per person in a maximum class of twelve, the tour takes 3-4 hours and could earn him up to £300.00 a session. To assist the buyer in visualising the educational experience he helpfully provides beautifully shot, evocative examples of the location. The image is displayed in a frame with the legend “Mark Stothard Photowalk” beneath.
The photos show originality, creativity and are excellent examples of what you might expect from a photographer who had spent years mastering his skills – but were they taken by Mark Stothard?
Apparently not, and according to the photographers who are coming forward from around the world, the images have been used without their permission.
“It’s totally unethical”
Sam Javanrouh who operates the Daily Dose of Imagery site from Toronto, Canada discovered his photo of Brighton beach, taken in 2007 appearing on Stothard’s blog advertising his Brighton Photowalk.
Javanrouh says “On my website it specifically states that anyone wanting use the pictures commercially must get my permission before doing so. I think it’s outrageous that someone can operate in this way – it’s totally unethical. It casts a shadow over professional photographers as a whole”. A one-time error may be forgiven by some, but it doesn’t end there.
On the copyright page of his website Stothard asks that his intellectual property is respected and illustrates the page with an evocative image of cranes on Bristol Quay – an image which photographer David Martyn, accuses Stothard of having used without permission.
“It’s unbelievable!” He says. “My images are copyright and marked All Rights Reserved on the Flickr page. There’s no way he should have used this without my consent – especially on the page of his website where he asks people not to steal HIS copyright. I have invoiced him and will ‘attend’ one of his Photowalks if it is not honoured.”
Leeching off someone else’s creativity
When approached Mark Stothard denied using any images without consent and claims to have the authority to use Martyn’s photograph.
“I don’t claim that the images on the Photowalks page are taken by myself. They’re images provided by our web designer. They’re either royalty free, under a Creative Commons license or a fee has been paid to the license holder.”
But this is disputed. Both Martyn and Javanrouh claim their images were used without prior permission or knowledge and now a third photographer has come forward complaining about images on Stothard’s website.
Michael Vasselin from Dublin discovered his Flickr image of the Seven Sisters cruise liner was being used, again without his consent and this time to advertise a photowalk in Dieppe, France. “At nearly 4000 views this picture is one my most popular” he said. “I’m staggered that someone like Stothard who calls himself a professional photographer would try to leech off someone else’s creativity and effort. I took this image and can prove it.”
Mark Stothard replies and says “I’m 100% sure I have the rights to use all these images. However if the evidence is put to me by the photographers concerned and it is proved there has been a mistake, I’ll see that it gets put right immediately & personally apologise for the error.”
He also maintains that he has received an invoice from David Martyn that authorises use of the image subject to payment.
However, he would not comment on the assertion from Martyn that the invoice was issued as a consequence of the image being discovered on Stothard’s blog and that permission was not sought beforehand.
“They’re not my pictures, they’re marketing images”
When asked why a professional photographer would want to use amateur photographer’s images to promote his business Mr Stothard replied “Convenience. I’ve been along to these places several times but much of my work was out of date so I have used these photographs in the same way that any other business would.”
And despite the images appearing with the words ‘Mark Stothard Photowalks’ captioned below he maintains attendees would not feel duped if they found out they he was advertising the event with images he had not actually taken himself.
He says “If a photographer takes a picture of a cow in a field It doesn’t mean that the only person who can use that picture is the original photographer does it? It’s exactly the same thing with the Photowalks pictures – they’re not my pictures, they’re marketing images.”
© Si Barber 2012. Moral rights asserted.
• Si Barber’s story was published as an exclusive by AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER on 14 February 2012. “I think the trade has a vested interest in keeping the rogues out where possible,” Barber told AP.
Note to photographers
Due to the nature of the web and digital imaging it can be difficult to keep track of your photographs and their use. However Google Image Search and Tineye make it easier than ever to track down uses of your pictures and check that they are legitimate.
If you do find an image of yours that has been used without your consent then before contacting the infringer photographers may wish to read lawyer turned photographer Simon Crofts’ article on the Editorial Photographers UK website here.
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