Picture research with MRM Associates

When I worked on Cow by Florian Werner (translated by Doris Ecker—and recently reviewed in Publishers Weekly) about a year ago, I ended up spending roughly 40 per cent of my time trying to track down sources and clear rights for a couple dozen images that ended up in the book.

For me, it was a baptism of fire—it was the first time I’d had to do image research to that extent, and I faced a number of constraints: we wanted to use as many of the images that appeared in the German edition as we could, but all of the world English rights had to be (re-)negotiated, and some of the rights holders flat-out refused to let us use their images; I had to find high-resolution versions of all of the images, since they appeared in the German edition as marginal thumbnails; I had a limited budget and had to find public-domain substitutes for images whenever possible; and, of course, the author had to approve all of the new images before they found their way into the book. I ended up making several visits to the city and university libraries to find images from old books we could scan; ordering a postcard and an old poster off of eBay; emailing a number of people before I could finally find out who owned the rights to a photo of David Lynch’s artwork that had been reproduced with abandon and without credit all over the Internet; trying to use reverse image searches to find alternative sources of high-resolution public-domain images; and negotiating image rights with art galleries, museums, archives, publishers, and licensing agencies. In other words, although I know some of what I had to do was essential, I am sure that I did many, many things the hard way.

This is why I am very much looking forward to Mary Rose MacLachlan and Derek Capitaine’s half-day EAC seminar about picture research on Saturday, April 21. I’ve already compiled a long list of questions arising from my experiences with Cow and other projects, and I’m hoping to learn efficient ways to identify copyright holders and negotiate with stock and licencing agencies.

As of the time of this posting, there are twelve spots left in the seminar, and I’d encourage anyone who has worked or might work with images or permissions to sign up (registration closes this Friday, April 13). I heard Mary Rose MacLachlan give a hugely informative talk at an EAC-BC meeting, and I think this workshop will be extremely useful. That said, with the acknowledgement that not everyone can attend, I’m offering to take any image-related questions you might have and ask them on your behalf. Contact me or leave a question in the comments, and I’ll report back after the session.

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