Update: Spider, Frog and Turtle

Late last summer, I blogged about 3 critters my girlfriend and I had found nearly drowning in a pool filter:


Since then, the story has gotten some exposure:

Meanwhile, each week I get a handful of emails from around the world. Many just want to take a moment and say what the image means to them. Like I said in the radio interview, you never know what images are going to have what meaning for what people. Crowds rally around the Virgin Mary when she appears as salsa or salt runoff or a grilled cheese sandwich so everyone has their reasons.

In mid-November, I got an email from a California woman who said she had been especially inspired by the photo. Inspired enough to get it tattooed on her back:


Apparently, she first discovered the photo and backstory in OK! Magazine, one of England’s tabloids. I hadn’t given permission to any magazine, so I started Googling around.

Turns out another British publication, the Daily Telegraph, had also published the photo, initially crediting it to WENN (World Entertainment News Network). WENN is largely known for supplying paparazzi/celebrity photos to the entertainment media.

In fact someone from WENN had contacted me months before, but I’d declined to provide a hi-res photo unless I was told what in what context it would be used. I never got a response, but the photo was taken from Flickr anyway.

The lady at WENN seemed a little startled that I’d contacted their London office directly. She agreed to remove the photo from their database, but offered little in the way of an explanation, apology, or disclosure about how much money was exchanged for the photo. Since then I’ve been told the photo had been scooped up and sold by mistake, and would be removed from WENN’s database. Mistake or no, I suspect this isn’t uncommon at all.

On a more positive note, my girlfriend and I got married over the holidays. Our local baker was strangely thrilled when we asked him to recreate the scene for our wedding cake:


The next morning we removed the animals from the top of the cake and put them in the freezer where they’ll be safe until a much later date.

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  • http://chris.makarsky.com chris

    some homeless dude put together a dog-cat-mouse combo in Union Square the other weekend: http://flickr.com/photos/cmak/3168424448/

    obviously not nearly as great, but it certainly brought turtle-frog-spider to mind

  • http://www.onestarwatt.com/ The Wife

    They’ll be safe until I eat them later tonight.

  • desu

    your cake decor looks wonderful, your local baker is such an artist.

  • http://www.freeagentwriter.com Shevonne

    The picture is awesome, so I can see why. I love the cake, but not sure I would tattoo myself. =)_

  • Jeff

    Note to self : Stack animals on each other and make up a heartwrenching story. Take photos. Fame, lawsuits, and then cash awaits. :)

  • http://www.darrenhoyt.com Darren

    @cmak: that’s still pretty impressive. I hope that homeless dude wasn’t trying to capitalize on the meme.

    @desu: the bake shop was thrilled about working on this. Exactly why, I’m not sure, I guess they just liked the story and the decidedly non-standard wedding imagery.

    @Shevonne: no kidding about the tattoo, you gotta be really sure about something to have it inked on your back at that size.

    @Jeff: It beats working!

  • http://www.teamlalala.com/blog/ Lawrence Krubner

    My dad had a popular lecture he would give to amateur photo clubs about the value of the occasional great photo. During his 54 year career, he took 700,000 shots, of which he would immediately discard 90%. He was left with about 70,000 high quality shots that got picked up by stock agencies and other organizations that agreed to represent his work. Of these photos, about 80% never made a single sale. Only 5% had multiple sales. The best 2% (of the 10% he did not discard) accounted for more than half his income.

    When I was a child, I heard story after story about the surprise best sellers. One morning in 1970 he walked out the front door with a camera in his hand and, seeing a butterfly on a flower in the front yard, took a picture of it. He had taken dozens of other butterfly photos, but for some reason that one went on to make $17,000 over the next 15 years (double the figure to adjust for inflation). One 4th of July in the early 1980s he took some night shots of the fireworks, which he then comped together in his darkroom using traditional photo overlay techniques (this is more than 10 years before Photoshop). Though he had dozens of other fireworks shots (which didn’t sell), this one went on to make $36,000 over the course of many years.

    His biggest surprise was when he went to Morocco as part of a tour for other professional photographers. For two weeks they were taken around in a bus to famous spots. He recalls one time they all got out at a famous mosque and stood their photographing its golden dome. He looked to his left and to his right and saw 15 other professional photographers clicking away. He thought to himself, “I’ll never make any money on these shots. We are all pros and we are all taking the same shot.” But the next day they were out in the desert, photographing a ruined, abandoned fort. There were no other human beings in sight, only the bus and the bus driver and the photographers. But then my dad looked off to his right and in the distance, saw a man, dressed all in white, come over a sand dune. The scene reminded my dad of one of his favorite novels, The Martian Chronicles, a scene of infinite desert, and there in the middle, the impossibly lonely figure of a single human being walk across a vast expanse of pure sand. So my dad took that shot, which the other photographers did not think to take, and that became his best selling photo of Africa. Several encyclopedias and travel guides bought the rights to it.

    In the late 90s the arrival of Photoshop and CDs full of royalty free images changed the industry, and it became harder to make a living, but my dad found that the top 1% (of the 10% he kept) of his photos continued to generate some good sales.

    He worried a great deal about amateur photographers who were giving away the rights to their photos without realizing the value in the occasional photo. When Flickr emerged, he had some deep reservations about their too casual promotion of the most open Creative Commons licenses. When the story broke about Virgin Mobile using a photo of a girl which the novice photographer had marked for “commercial use” my dad wrote several long articles for local amateurs about the dangers of offering photos for commercial use with securing a release from the humans that appear in the photos. It was clear, in the Flickr case, that the photographer hadn’t really understood what the words “commercial use” meant. My dad developed a lecture on this subject and was invited to speak at over a 100 amateur camera clubs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

    All of this is to say, I hope you are aggressive in defending the photo. Every once in a long while, people take photos that are worth a great deal, and even when they are not interested in making money off those, it doesn’t seem right for others to do so without permission.

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  • Darren

    Thanks for that, Lawrence, that’s a great story about your dad in Morocco. I realize putting a photo on the web these days is tantamount to ‘giving it away’ because there’s always a chance of it being taken/re-used without your knowledge, copyrighted or not. I was surprised to see someone have the gall to take it and re-sell it for profit, though. Speaking of family, I think hopeless naivete must run in mine.

    • Mary Catron

      I agree.

  • http://www.ontronix.net Platus

    the first picture is cool it is real?

  • http://sinemafilmizle.com/ filmizle

    it’s a really freat concept picture. Mankind and animalking could be a good friends.

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  • Lorraine
  • Pam Collier

    I feel bad for not maintaining a presence on WP. My old site (pamcollier.info) gave way to a Facebook page. I’ll think about reviving the latter.

    In the meantime, I love the image of the spider/frog/turtle and love that it was recreated as a topper for your wedding cake. May I use the images and the story in a personal project? (“Descendants of Joseph Collier and Elizabeth Hoover of Berks and Dauphin County, Pennsylvania”) I am descendant#1051 and you are descendant #1870. Caveat: Numbers are fluid as the tree grows larger every day!

    Pam Collier
    Durham, NC
    pamcollier [at] frontier.com

  • nikko

    this history is really sad


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