The Stolen Scream
May 5, 2011 3:16 PM   Subscribe

The Stolen Scream. In 2006, photographer Noam Galai posted a handful of dramatic self-portraits to Flickr. Unbeknownst to him, his screaming face slowly took on a life of its own (often as a symbol of unrest or protest), appearing in countless permutations the world over. In this mini-documentary, Noam is surprisingly pragmatic about his accidental fame, and the fact that he only got paid once for the legal use of the picture.
posted by O9scar (26 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
It's interesting to see that people scored the original photo on Flickr, and gave it low marks from arbitrary technical complaints. Way to go! You managed to be the first critics to just shrug off an image that became iconic!
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:27 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

It would be nice if all the commercial users of his Scream paid up now. It would also be nice if it never rained on weekends and holidays.
posted by Cranberry at 3:37 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Astro Zombie, I don't know if it's better or worse than the series of Flickr Smileys that followed. Flickr as a social network, I understand. But why the garish icons?
posted by filthy light thief at 3:39 PM on May 5, 2011

He get that from The Wall by Floyd?
posted by Max Power at 3:48 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Huh. I thought this was going to be about the number of times various copies of that Munch painting has been stolen.
posted by hippybear at 3:50 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmm, I'd never actually seen that before.
posted by delmoi at 3:53 PM on May 5, 2011

Dear Mathowie,

You look a little like the man in the photo. Please, please, please can you fix it for me and do your own version of this photograph.

Thank you.
posted by seanyboy at 3:54 PM on May 5, 2011

He get that from The Wall by Floyd?

I'd always assumed that was where it was from.
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Flickr: the stock photo source that's free! (Not really, it's just free of watermarks, and it's a big world, so what are the chances some guy in Isreal will notice if his work is appropriated somewhere else in the world, 5 years later? Or that he'll see the cover of a best-seller in Mexico?)
posted by filthy light thief at 4:08 PM on May 5, 2011

I figured out this had to be common enough a few years ago with an experience of my own that isn't really analogous to Galai's, but still....

So, back in 2003 I'd discovered the National Geographic Image Collection online. There's some beautiful stuff out there and for a few weeks I'd just leaf through as one of my internet distractions. I'd also been reading some business press / management literature / fiction and phrases about the importance of "positioning" were kindof floating through my head. So when I came on this photo, the two ideas collided, I made a little blog post captioning the photo, envisioned using it in some kind of near parody of a presentation or essay that would possibly go undetected by the suited/managerial class, and then more or less forgot about it.

A couple of years later, I was in the Sacramento airport and found myself staring at this.

Coincidence? Maybe. But just to check, I sat down and typed the phrase "It's all about positioning" into Google.

My little blog post was the first result at the time.

I'd be willing to bet that if I'd exhaustively gone through my logs, there would have been an IP address/hostname of a visitor from that law firm or the creatives they hired to do the piece.

I don't know that I was particularly slighted under law, karma, or common sense. Mr. Sartore's work is the heart of the piece, and if they paid him for the use of his rather awesome photograph, then by and large, everybody's probably square. But then again, I have some strong doubts that photograph would have been in that poster w/o my captioning contribution, and it was a bit weird and even annoying on a certain level to run into it in the wild like that.

I can only imagine it's genuinely quite galling to see significant endeavors involving much more work wholesale appropriated w/o even so much as an acknowledgment.
posted by weston at 4:24 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you have to post your photos to groups yourself, or answer "yes" if requested by a group administrator. It looks like his image is in about sixty groups, so I'm not sure how his photograph's fame is "accidental."
posted by Tube at 4:25 PM on May 5, 2011

Now I'm wondering if Fairey got permission for using Andre The Giant's picture for his OBEY thing.
posted by hippybear at 4:26 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

They used it for the cover of a Mexican textbook about illegal drugs. I wouldn't want my face associated with Mexican drug distribution FOR, or AGAINST!
posted by Megafly at 4:36 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Flickr is the worst thing that ever happened to "all rights reserved."
posted by crunchland at 4:59 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anyone else think it delicious that a symbol of the resistance in Iran is the face of an Israeli?
posted by ErWenn at 6:35 PM on May 5, 2011

filthy light thief: Flickr: the stock photo source that's free!

Judith Griggs, is that you?


(Seriously, is that you?)

(Can't be... you didn't misspell anything.)
posted by IAmBroom at 9:30 PM on May 5, 2011

So that's what thaat is. Wow. I never knew what the story was. THanks.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:05 PM on May 5, 2011

I'm surprised that there's nothing in the story about attempts at copyright enforcement (nor any mention of the terms under which the image was originally posted). Wouldn't this be potentially lucrative, if it's been used by some high-profile operations? The publisher of that book, for instance?
posted by dhartung at 11:53 PM on May 5, 2011

Wouldn't this be potentially lucrative, if it's been used by some high-profile operations? The publisher of that book, for instance?

If you're a lawyer, sure.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:15 AM on May 6, 2011

It looks like his image is in about sixty groups, so I'm not sure how his photograph's fame is "accidental."

You are assuming that the photo was added to all the groups before it was famous, which is a silly assumption to make. I'd like to point out the best picture ever. I 'favorited' it pretty early on, and it wasn't part of any groups at all at that point. Now it is part of a ton of groups. I think groups are as much (or more?) a result of fame as a precursor to them.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:25 AM on May 6, 2011

Uh, I point out that I favorited it not to be all "I was into this cat picture before anyone" but because it was fascinating watching it blow up. And it's not even that famous as far as internet famous pictures go.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:28 AM on May 6, 2011

That was a neat little video. I wish the dude all the luck in the world as far as getting paid goes, though it's a bit of a mug's game.
posted by klangklangston at 12:34 PM on May 6, 2011

Really interesting story, with far-reaching connotations for all online artists, in whatever medium they work. Is it better that your work is seen, appreciated and, yes, appropriated, or just ignored?

I loved the coda at the end of the video where he recounts trying (after its underground success) to sell the picture to Getty Images, who turned it down on the grounds that it wasn't saleable and wouldn't work!
posted by benzo8 at 1:34 AM on May 7, 2011

PS: Noam was on CBC's Definitely Not the Opera today, in, fittingly, an episode about photography...
posted by greatgefilte at 2:03 PM on May 7, 2011

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