Design Aglow: We were really amazed/excited/wow-ed to come across your Photo Stealers site! Can you tell our readers what the site is all about?
Corey Ann: Photo Stealers is a blog that has a list of photographers that have stolen other photographers' work and presented the stolen work to the public as their own original works. (Some examples are shown at the end of this post.)
Design Aglow: Was this stroke of genius an overnight idea or was it prompted by an event/experience?
Corey Ann: Both. In 2010 I had a friend ask me to help her. She saw an ad for Groupon and the images didn't seem right. She wanted to know if the images on the ad were stolen or if she was wrong. It turned out her gut was right, Dana Dawes Photography had stolen the images for her Groupon ad and had even gone as far as having the images printed and displayed in her studio. Soon after, people began coming to me when they thought something was amiss. I kept joking that I needed a blog to log the amount of stealers that were sent to me, so after the Meagan Kunert incident last May I finally decided to do it.
Design Aglow: Wow. We remember that incident making its rounds through the photog cyberworld! So is that Photo Stealers' mission? To oust photo thieves?
Corey Ann: My mission is to hopefully bring an end to photographers using someone else's work to represent their own.
Design Aglow: We like that mission. And, not just for photographers, but for all artists and designers! Since Photo Stealers' launched, what type of reaction did you receive from the photography industry?
Corey Ann: Overwhelmingly positive! To be honest, I was expecting the worst. Since I launched in May 2012, I've had a great response from photographers - well the honest ones anyway.
Design Aglow: I'm sure honest photographer's find your site very useful and informative (not sure about the thieves). We're curious, do you ever receive hate mail from outed photographers? Corey Ann: Absolutely. When outed, very rarely does the photographer apologize or delete the stolen images. Instead they lash out at me, come up with some crazy reasoning and throw a fit. I expect it though so it usually just makes me laugh.
Design Aglow: What is your most memorable/shocking bust?
Corey Ann: I think Meagan Kunert is the most memorable. The story is just a strange one. Once you think the story is over, something else comes out. For those that are wondering, she's still working as a photographer despite claiming she would give it up.
Design Aglow: The most disturbing act of thievery you discovered?
Corey Ann: Many of the thieves aren't just dishonest about their ability as a photographer, often other sneaky schemes are brought to light while researching the photographer. Meagan Kunert, for example, has faked cancer. Another thief, Sara Sheffman, has scammed so many people that there are websites and Facebook accounts dedicated to keeping track of her activity. Many of the stealers have been caught stealing photos prior to appearing on Photo Stealers. I also get creeped out by the thieves that not only steal the images but copy the entire website of a photographer. I am also disturbed when a fictitious story is created to represent the people in the stolen images. I don't know why but that really gives me the creeps.
Design Aglow: You know, we once had a customer buy a ton of templates and fake cancer to get a refund! Come to find out, she had also done this to several other vendors (a different story every time)....troubling stuff. Speaking of trouble, have you ever gotten in trouble for calling out photo thieves?
Corey Ann: Just threats so far.
Design Aglow: How many people have Photo Stealers brought to justice? Corey Ann: 40. Design Aglow: Well done!! How can people use your blog to protect themselves?
Corey Ann: Learn from others' mistakes and don't steal.
Design Aglow: We agree. What advice do you give photographers to effectively protect their images? Corey Ann: Sadly, the only foolproof way would be to avoid putting your images on the internet. But in this day and age, it's simply not possible. Once it goes on the internet, it can be stolen. I've seen watermarks removed, flash images stolen via screen capture and so on. The best thing you can do is keep track of where your images are via TinEye and Google Reverse Image Search.
Design Aglow: Besides fighting copyright crime, what other hobbies do you dabble in?
Corey Ann: I'm a full time photographer so this is my side gig. When I'm not editing or finding a new yoga pose while trying to photograph a flower girl, I'm usually reading.
Design Aglow: What platforms (Social Media, Blogs, Websites) are more notorious for photography theft?
Corey Ann: Facebook is probably the worst because Google doesn't index the images, so it's harder to find when images are being used on that platform. Tumblr is also full of stolen images - yes, I realize this is ironic since I host my blog on Tumblr. Honestly, when I started Photo Stealers, I didn't expect it to be much of anything- it was just a place to for my friends to find my research on the latest thief.
Design Aglow: Anything else you wish to add?
Corey Ann: If your name is listed on my site, it becomes one of the top (if not THE top) result when googling the business or photographer's name. That's something I hope that thieves are paying attention to when trying to pad their portfolio.
Design Aglow: And she really means it. We googled Meagan Kunert, and it was the first search result. Corey Ann, thanks for taking the time to dish out on Photo Stealers! We love your activism and feel safer knowing you're out there keeping a watchful eye on copyright crime.
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Perhaps your anxieties are internal? The fear of failing at that which is most dear to you? Or the terror of living with regrets that can never be remedied?