Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2022-04-24/Serendipity

Wikipedia loves photographs, but hates photographers: Why not just link to an article to attribute famous photographers?
Salvador Dali (1939)
Photo by Carl Van Vechten

Most Wikipedia articles have images to illustrate the interesting (but rather black and white) words. No one can imagine a Wikipedia article about Rembrandt or Van Gogh without pictures of some of their paintings. Stories about Biden and Putin come to life by displaying images from their youth and beginning of their career. Photographs of the city of Leiden make instantly clear that this city is small and cute. Everyone agrees about the importance of having Wikimedia Commons as a treasure trove of images, maps, videos and sound recordings, useful to illustrate the Wikipedia texts.


Hate or just neglect?

Ginette Noth (1963)
Photo by Erling Mandelmann

At the same time images don’t pop out of the air. There is always a person who made the photograph of a famous politician, rock star or interesting monument. Yet the names of the photographers are only rarely mentioned. Does Wikipedia hate photographers, or have we decided that photographers don’t matter, so we don’t need to name them? But some photographers are artists, who even have a Wikipedia entry. And several of these photographers have themselves made sure their photographs were under a license that permitted Wikipedia to use the photos. Two examples pop up: the famous photographers Erling Mandelmann (from Denmark) and Belgian photographer Michiel Hendryckx. (Note: the photographs by Mandelmann were at first even proposed for deletion!) Side note: the 82 million photographs in Commons are roughly equally divided between PD and CC-BY: 40M are Public Domain, 40M are CC-BY.

Arguments against

Panamerenko in front of his Aeromodeller
Photo by Michiel Hendryckx [nl]

There are several valid arguments against mentioning names of photographers in Wikipedia articles. (1) The CC-BY license requires attribution, but names of photographers can be found by clicking on the photo and reading the attribution in Wikimedia Commons. (2) Photographers could use it as self-promotion. (3) The authors of the Wikipedia articles aren’t mentioned either.

Arguments in favour of attributing

(1) CC-BY licenses require direct attribution, near the photo. (2) Photographers are artists - and artists deserve recognition for their work. (3) Mentioning photographers stimulates the donation of photos to Commons. (4) Mentioning the names of photographers makes clear to re-users that attribution is needed.

Photos are free, but ...

Many people assume that photos used in Wikipedia are “free to use”. They are, but at the same time Creative Commons licenses require attribution. That’s why I would personally favour this good practice: photographers with a Wikipedia entry should be mentioned in the caption of a photograph. It is a shame that the beautiful photo of Salvador Dali by Carl Van Vechten (above) is used 360 times in all Wikipedia language versions, but Van Vechten’s name isn’t shown.