Petroglyph Thefts - Ethical Questions for Photographers
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scm2000
Registered: Aug 08, 2012
Total Posts: 117
Country: United States

I am shocked and horrified by how some of our non productive members of society act. I will never understand how some people think they can take or destroy other peoples property.

My take on this is simple. As long as you don't tell the actual THIEF directly where the artwork is, then don't worry about it and snap away. The photographer is not responsible for reprehensible acts of others.

HOWEVER, I know that I would feel bad thinking that somehow I contributed to something like this, therefore, I would choose not to take the photo, or at least not to publish the photo for others to see, to ease my conscience.

Should someone stumble across such an unknown relic or artifact in the future, just enjoy it and move on with the satisfaction of having seen it in person. Anything more is purely ego driven in my book.

In other words, if in your mind, you think that by taking that photo someone could use that information to destroy or steal the subject of that photo, then DON'T TAKE THE PHOTO!



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 8984
Country: United States

camerausername wrote:
I'm not trying to say that everyone should go everywhere, I'm saying that if the secrets are recognized and properly protected, they would be better off than trying to rely on people to not share the secrets. Your post mentioned how easy it is for information to spread now. Once it does inevitably spread then the "secret spots" are more vulnerable without protections in place.


That is precisely my point. And you must understand that it is literally impossible to put sufficient protections in place at all of these sites. There is no budget for this, and we would have to pay for full time guards at places that may not be visited more than a few times per year.

On the spectrum running from unknown and inaccessible sites to those that are well-known and "protected," the site whose vandalization led to this thread is much closer to the "protected" and of said spectrum. Yet the cretins were apparently able to work for a long time without being spotted. Are you imagining that full time guards would be placed at all such places, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year? Given the number of such places, that simply isn't going to happen. There are literally thousands of these sites in the West. I can imagine that you would have to hire thousands and thousands of people to live in those locations year round...

Anonymity is not a perfect solution, but there really are not any practical alternatives.

Moving on to a second issue and addressing no particular poster specifically...

One ethical problem is when folks - including some in this forum - attempt to justify their own decisions by pointing out that somewhere someone might act in a less ethical way. "How can you suggest that we do X when someone else has already done Bad Thing Y and you can't stop others from committing Awfulness Z?"

The end point of that sort of ethical argument is that it is OK to do anything as long as there is at least one person in the world doing a worse thing. How can you complain about my behavior when that guy over there is doing something worse? ;-)

Try turning it around. "I'm holding myself to Standard B, but over there I see Admirable Person A holding herself to Standard A? Why can't I try to achieve the same?"

It is much better, I think, to compare our actions to more ethical people we might admire that to cite the less ethical actions and positions of those we don't respect in order to explain away our unwillingness to act.

Saturday Morning Philosophy before I go out and make some photographs...

Dan

(By the way, in reference to an earlier post, I don't think anyone said that we should not photograph things, though I can understand why some might choose that option for a variety of reasons. What I did write is that we can take care to photograph them in ways that don't endanger them, and that when we share the beautiful photographs, there are ways to do this that don't increase risks to our subjects - sort of like certain documentary photographers who might not name subjects or show their faces if doing so might put them in harms way. It isn't that hard really.)



chez
Registered: Nov 26, 2003
Total Posts: 7794
Country: Canada

Wouldn't the nature of people finding these yet to be discovered sites be tromping through virgin terrain and in the process of looking for these unique sites be destroying what is about them? Footprints, stepped on lichens, being in the presence of animals that might not have much encounters with humans all take a toll. At what point is the journey to get to these once in a lifetime places and the damage done during this journey more costly than the effects on the destinations?

An argument can be made that if controlled access to these locations is in place with strict rules and severe penalties, you would have better results than the hope a little close secret does not get out. Given time, these locations become common knowledge and if nothing is in place to control and limit access, you'll get the results we see with most other iconic places around the world.



FoTollery
Registered: Apr 18, 2011
Total Posts: 47
Country: N/A

scm2000 wrote:
In other words, if in your mind, you think that by taking that photo someone could use that information to destroy or steal the subject of that photo, then DON'T TAKE THE PHOTO!


A little extreme, don't you think.(?) By that logic, how could anyone ever take a picture of anything? Every picture everyone of us takes could be used by some nutjob somewhere for who knows what nefarious purposes.



M.P.R.
Registered: Oct 16, 2012
Total Posts: 199
Country: United States

Dan, the problem with your well intentioned plan is it wont work. Lets take for example the photo of the Petroglyph goats in your blog post calling for keeping them a secret. Despite you saying you wouldn't post its location, it took me less than a 5 minute internet search to find out exactly where they are. All I had to do is take your photo, do a google image search for similar photos. Instantly at least 10 photos came up of the exact same "secret Petroglyphs". Some with directions and even gps coordinates of where the artwork is. Don't believe me, do a google image search using your own photo and see for yourself. The information is already out there for anyone who wants it.

At this point there is no putting the cat back in the bag. You want to protect this artwork, we have to take it out of the shadows. Show the public how beautiful they are. Stop calling them secret. As that just makes treasure hunters want them more. Band together with the public to better protect them. I'm not sure what the laws are on defacing this type of art, and that is a problem. Here I am wanting to see them protected, but having no clue on what the actual laws are, and how stiff are the penalties for messing with them. If someone like me doesn't know what the laws are. I can guarantee some vandal doesn't know or care what he does when he comes across this stuff. That is one of the reasons you see so many scribbles on nearby rocks. People can be really stupid. Problem is, even a moron can use google, and you cant stop them from hiking.

I think more public awareness is what is needed, super stiff laws, and more people to protect and keep an eye on them. That will scare vandals, more than keeping it a secret. Make penalties well known to all, and super harsh akin to hunting endangered species.

Does anyone here even know what the actual current penalties are for defacing these rocks?

Frank



scm2000
Registered: Aug 08, 2012
Total Posts: 117
Country: United States

FoTollery wrote:
scm2000 wrote:
In other words, if in your mind, you think that by taking that photo someone could use that information to destroy or steal the subject of that photo, then DON'T TAKE THE PHOTO!


A little extreme, don't you think.(?) By that logic, how could anyone ever take a picture of anything? Every picture everyone of us takes could be used by some nutjob somewhere for who knows what nefarious purposes.


Normally, when I take a photo, I am usually not thinking that someone out there will use that photo for nefarious purpose. So I take the photo, no problem. Normally my photos don't include ancient art work or historically significant relics or environmentally sensitive areas. I would imagine that these subjects are not normal subjects for any landscape photographer, except on rare occasion.

What I said was, if someone taking a photo thinks "in their mind", at the time they are taking the photo, that the photo could or might be used by someone for nefarious or criminal reasons to steal or vandalize the subject of the photo, then why even take the photo, if that scenario is a possibility in the mind of the photographer? Or, go ahead and take the photo, but don't publish it for the general public to view. Or even, if published, don't include any site detail, such as what the OP did by removing identifying background. gdanmitchell wrote:
(By the way, in reference to an earlier post, I don't think anyone said that we should not photograph things, though I can understand why some might choose that option for a variety of reasons. What I did write is that we can take care to photograph them in ways that don't endanger them, and that when we share the beautiful photographs, there are ways to do this that don't increase risks to our subjects - sort of like certain documentary photographers who might not name subjects or show their faces if doing so might put them in harms way. It isn't that hard really.)
Yes, exactly. An acceptable option.

I imagine, and I'm just speculating, that the OP, with the thousands of photographs he has taken throughout his lifetime, has only had to consider this issue a handful of times. Or maybe even slightly more often than the average landscape photographer considering his shooting locations.

So therefore, I don't think my comments represented an extreme view, but rather a personal view that each photographer must consider for themselves when faced with this rare occurrence, possibly only a handful of times in their lifetime.



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 8984
Country: United States

There is a huge difference between posting a photograph of a thing and posting specific information about where it is located and perhaps directions regarding how to find it.

It is possible to share photographs of things in ways that don't really endanger them. (If you do know where one is, please do keep it to yourself. I'm certain that I'm not the only person who has been there.)

Again, there are interesting argumentative strategies at work in this thread, and they often are employed when people don't want to face the objective facts about a thing.

One such argument is the "there are worse people in the world" argument that I wrote about earlier. There are multiple problems with that argument and it is easy to see through the person who uses it. First, until we descend to the level of the very most despicable and immoral person in the entire world, this argument works. Do we really want to go there? Secondly, if one wants to argue based on the behavior or others, it is equally valid and a whole lot more productive to perhaps argue on the basis of "there are better people in the world" and attempt to meet the standard set by admirable people rather than disgusting cretins. Third, either way, the argument attempt to side-step the objective facts of the situation and is essentially a distraction for those who don't want to face the core question.

I call the second argumentative strategy "posing the absurd to argue for another absurd." We see that in the posts suggesting that the only moral stand is to never make or share photographs of things that are threatened. There a multiple problems with this argument, too. First, it presupposes that there is some "perfect" moral position in all cases and that it can be achieved - and both notions are fantasies. Second, it ignores that possibility that some knowledge of a thing can increase awareness of it and perhaps change minds in a positive way without threatening the thing. I earlier used the example of the photo-journalist who might tell the story of a person or people who are in danger if too much is known about them, with the goal of making their story known - in which case the photojournalist may well photograph them in ways that hide their full identities and not identify them by name or other specific information. With the treasures that we are speaking of here, it is possible to show these things and raise awareness of their value by means of photography and writing the speaks to this value and the importance of protection them... and to do so without revealing information that endangers them. A photograph of a petroglyph shot in the depths of a canyon and not including any visual or text information about the location will not help the bad guys find it.

Finally, there is another false argument in this case that holds that by telling everyone where the valuable things are they will somehow be protected. It is true that there is no perfect protection for these things or for anything else in this world. A determined person can find anything eventually. You can lock your valuables in a safe and not tell people about them, but that is no perfect security. However, it is patently obvious that if you not only announce that you are a rich person, that you keep all your wealth at a specific address, and encourage people to go there and check it out... the result is predictable.

As in so many things, neither the black nor the white explanation are the best in the end. Things are complex, including the balance of between locking things up and encouraging the whole world to see them. They cannot be entirely locked up, but doesn't mean that it is good to completely expose them - and because too much exposure is clearly not a good thing, this doesn't mean that no exposure at all is the only option. But in these cases, little good is served by sharing more information than necessary about things that are largely protected by their inaccessibility and the difficulty in finding them, especially when more accessible examples are easy to find in places where some degree of real protection can be and had been provided, albeit imperfectly.

Dan



ckcarr
Registered: Dec 02, 2006
Total Posts: 5574
Country: United States

scm2000 wrote:

Normally my photos don't include ancient art work or historically significant relics or environmentally sensitive areas. I would imagine that these subjects are not normal subjects for any landscape photographer, except on rare occasion.


Mine do. Quite often. I just don't post here. I have a very extensive collection of Utah petroglyph and pictograph photographs. I enjoy the hunt.



WAYCOOL
Registered: May 15, 2004
Total Posts: 2421
Country: United States

Just wondering how long this debate will remain relevant. With smart phones with gps becoming the camera of choice for the world at large and gps built into future dslr's. The locations of anything worth taking a picture of will soon be a google search away. Search for a photos of a place and the exif of at least one of them will soon have gps coordinates within it.





scm2000
Registered: Aug 08, 2012
Total Posts: 117
Country: United States

ckcarr wrote:

Mine do. Quite often. I just don't post here. I have a very extensive collection of Utah petroglyph and pictograph photographs. I enjoy the hunt.


Then my guess is that you are the exception to the rule. And I could be wrong and there really is no rule just my personal observations, but it seems most landscape photos are mountains, lakes, trees, rocks and such.

And I have to say that I envy your geographic location and pursuit of such things as it must be an interesting hobby to pursue. And if it's business that leads you to those pursuits, it's still an interesting and exciting way to spend time. Something I would definitely enjoy.

BTW, could you post some photos and provide locations so I can shoot them? Just kidding.



M.P.R.
Registered: Oct 16, 2012
Total Posts: 199
Country: United States

gdanmitchell wrote:
There is a huge difference between posting a photograph of a thing and posting specific information about where it is located and perhaps directions regarding how to find it.

I posted a photograph of petroglyphs with my original article at my blog to make just that point - it is possible to share photographs of things in ways that don't really endanger them. (If you do know where that one is, please do keep it to yourself. I'm certain that I'm not the only person who has been there.)

Dan


Dan, you fail to take into account, things like google image search.

These days, any photo you post, can be inserted into a computer program like google image search. Press the search button then seconds later, every other photo similar to it will come up. Sometimes thousands of them. Every single one that has ever been posted on the web. No matter how long ago, or well hidden. Even ones from personal blogs. This program will find them. Its scary how well and how quickly it works, and its free and easy to use.

Give google image search a try and see how well it works. I'm not talking about typing in a description of a photo into google. I'm talking about going into google image search, clicking on the little camera icon that comes up on the end of the image search box. Then inserting an actual photo into the program. Then it searches for other photos like it. Go see for yourself, it finds them, lots of them.

So from the beautiful photo YOU posted. You brought attention to this rock art site. It is easy to find the location of this site. Because you can bet others have taken a photo of the same location, and did not hide it. This is why I'm saying the cat is already out of the bag. There is no way to hide this stuff anymore thanks to stuff like google. Too much information out there already that is super easy to find. Its too late to say lets keep locations secret. And these image search programs are getting better each day.

Only way you can not contribute to the ease of finding a site is to never upload or share photos... at all. To me, that would make no sense as well, as art and photos should be shared, and we shouldn't cower to criminals. I believe to only correct solution is to go after the criminals, hunt them down and make public examples out of them. As it is way too late to keep this stuff secret.

Frank





gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 8984
Country: United States

Deleted



gdanmitchell
Registered: Jun 28, 2009
Total Posts: 8984
Country: United States

You are not telling me anything I don't know. I wonder if you actually read my posst before firing back. Your actions regarding this photo are likely the primary cause of any searching for this feature, one that is not visited all that often. Thanks loads for that, on behalf of all of us who actually do care about these things. Not.

What, precisely, is your main goal here? Is it your position that no one should ever share a photo of a petroglyphs, even if no further info is provided? If so, why? And if so, why would you encourage people to look up the location?

Or is it your point that protection is guaranteed by publicizing as widely as possible? In which case, what are you trying to accomplish by this virtual bullying?

Or maybe your goal is the same sort of ego-centered one that the archeologist spoke of in the quote about this issue I shared earlier in this thread.

Stop playing games and engaging in petty manipulation. If you we're actually concerned about sharing locations you would have made your point in a PM. but that's not the game you are playing at all, is it? You are willing to increase the risk to a site in order to score some point in a forum discussion! I made a simple request:

"If you do know where that one is, please do keep it to yourself. I'm certain that I'm not the only person who has been there."

So you go right ahead and all but supply directions.

Pretty low class behavior, I'd say...

M.P.R. wrote:
gdanmitchell wrote:
There is a huge difference between posting a photograph of a thing and posting specific information about where it is located and perhaps directions regarding how to find it.

Dan


Dan, you fail to take into account, things like google image search.

Only way you can not contribute to the ease of finding a site is to never upload or share photos... at all....

Frank





M.P.R.
Registered: Oct 16, 2012
Total Posts: 199
Country: United States

gdanmitchell wrote:
You are not telling me anything I don't know. I wonder if you actually read my posst before firing back. Your actions regarding this photo are likely the primary cause of any searching for this feature, one that is not visited all that often. Thanks loads for that, on behalf of all of us who actually do care about these things. Not.

What, precisely, is your main goal here? Is it your position that no one should ever share a photo of a petroglyphs, even if no further info is provided? If so, why? And if so, why would you encourage people to look up the location?

Or is it your point that protection is guaranteed by publicizing as widely as possible? In which case, what are you trying to accomplish by this virtual bullying?

Or maybe your goal is the same sort of ego-centered one that the archeologist spoke of in the quote about this issue I shared earlier in this thread.

Stop playing games and engaging in petty manipulation. If you we're actually concerned about sharing locations you would have made your point in a PM. but that's not the game you are playing at all, is it? You are willing to increase the risk to a site in order to score some point in a forum discussion! I made a simple request:

"If you do know where that one is, please do keep it to yourself. I'm certain that I'm not the only person who has been there."

So you go right ahead and all but supply directions.

Pretty low class behavior, I'd say...

M.P.R. wrote:
gdanmitchell wrote:
There is a huge difference between posting a photograph of a thing and posting specific information about where it is located and perhaps directions regarding how to find it.

Dan


Dan, you fail to take into account, things like google image search.

Only way you can not contribute to the ease of finding a site is to never upload or share photos... at all....

Frank





Dan, Sorry to have upset you, as that was not my intention. Just trying to educate you, and people like you that think keeping locations secret in this day in age is possible. As that clearly is no longer the case. Getting upset about it (or at me) won't do any good.

I'm here in this thread posting for the same reason as you, because I'm concerned. I'm here just as you are to bring to attention to the fact that something new needs to be done to better protect these sites. As keeping them secret clearly isn't working.

I'm sorry that you see this as bullying. I think we are both on the same side, and do not wish anyone here to have ill feelings towards me. Especially a caring person such as yourself. The only reason I repeated myself was because you completely ignored my other posts. I wasn't even sure if you had read them.

At this point seems I'm just beating a dead horse. Serves me right for sharing a opinion on an internet forum. There is no need for name calling. I will no longer participate in a conversation that turns in that direction, as it is counter productive.

Hope you have a good day, and if we ever meet out there, its with a smile, and a shared love of photography.

Frank




JimFox
Registered: Jan 11, 2005
Total Posts: 37328
Country: United States

M.P.R. wrote:
gdanmitchell wrote:
You are not telling me anything I don't know. I wonder if you actually read my posst before firing back. Your actions regarding this photo are likely the primary cause of any searching for this feature, one that is not visited all that often. Thanks loads for that, on behalf of all of us who actually do care about these things. Not.

What, precisely, is your main goal here? Is it your position that no one should ever share a photo of a petroglyphs, even if no further info is provided? If so, why? And if so, why would you encourage people to look up the location?

Or is it your point that protection is guaranteed by publicizing as widely as possible? In which case, what are you trying to accomplish by this virtual bullying?

Or maybe your goal is the same sort of ego-centered one that the archeologist spoke of in the quote about this issue I shared earlier in this thread.

Stop playing games and engaging in petty manipulation. If you we're actually concerned about sharing locations you would have made your point in a PM. but that's not the game you are playing at all, is it? You are willing to increase the risk to a site in order to score some point in a forum discussion! I made a simple request:

"If you do know where that one is, please do keep it to yourself. I'm certain that I'm not the only person who has been there."

So you go right ahead and all but supply directions.

Pretty low class behavior, I'd say...

M.P.R. wrote:
gdanmitchell wrote:
There is a huge difference between posting a photograph of a thing and posting specific information about where it is located and perhaps directions regarding how to find it.

Dan


Dan, you fail to take into account, things like google image search.

Only way you can not contribute to the ease of finding a site is to never upload or share photos... at all....

Frank





Dan, Sorry to have upset you, as that was not my intention. Just trying to educate you, and people like you that think keeping locations secret in this day in age is possible. As that clearly is no longer the case. Getting upset about it (or at me) won't do any good.

I'm here in this thread posting for the same reason as you, because I'm concerned. I'm here just as you are to bring to attention to the fact that something new needs to be done to better protect these sites. As keeping them secret clearly isn't working.

I'm sorry that you see this as bullying. I think we are both on the same side, and do not wish anyone here to have ill feelings towards me. Especially a caring person such as yourself. The only reason I repeated myself was because you completely ignored my other posts. I wasn't even sure if you had read them.

At this point seems I'm just beating a dead horse. Serves me right for sharing a opinion on an internet forum. There is no need for name calling. I will no longer participate in a conversation that turns in that direction, as it is counter productive.

Hope you have a good day, and if we ever meet out there, its with a smile, and a shared love of photography.

Frank




Hey Frank,

I will say I agree with the points you made.

For me in this day and age, as someone else posted, if we truly are trying to protect historical or unusual objects out in our landscape world, then we shouldn't even post any photographs of that object or location. As you pointed out, with global access of information so readily available to everyone, even just posting a photo of a "secret" location will cause others to want to go find it. And they can find it.

I believe we are at a stage where education is the key. If there are other safe guards that can be put in place to help protect that site. But to think that if we create this kind of secret society, where we post photos and just don't tell where we shot them at is going to protect those sites, we have lost touch with the reality of today's technology. For one, even if we agree to keep a secret, there are always those that won't. And beyond that as you aptly pointed out with your google example, we have technology that will let us find sites even without GPS coordinates, or detailed directions.

Jim



JimFox
Registered: Jan 11, 2005
Total Posts: 37328
Country: United States

gdanmitchell wrote:
You are not telling me anything I don't know. I wonder if you actually read my posst before firing back. Your actions regarding this photo are likely the primary cause of any searching for this feature, one that is not visited all that often. Thanks loads for that, on behalf of all of us who actually do care about these things. Not.

What, precisely, is your main goal here? Is it your position that no one should ever share a photo of a petroglyphs, even if no further info is provided? If so, why? And if so, why would you encourage people to look up the location?

Or is it your point that protection is guaranteed by publicizing as widely as possible? In which case, what are you trying to accomplish by this virtual bullying?

Or maybe your goal is the same sort of ego-centered one that the archeologist spoke of in the quote about this issue I shared earlier in this thread.

Stop playing games and engaging in petty manipulation. If you we're actually concerned about sharing locations you would have made your point in a PM. but that's not the game you are playing at all, is it? You are willing to increase the risk to a site in order to score some point in a forum discussion! I made a simple request:

"If you do know where that one is, please do keep it to yourself. I'm certain that I'm not the only person who has been there."

So you go right ahead and all but supply directions.

Pretty low class behavior, I'd say...

M.P.R. wrote:
gdanmitchell wrote:
There is a huge difference between posting a photograph of a thing and posting specific information about where it is located and perhaps directions regarding how to find it.

Dan


Dan, you fail to take into account, things like google image search.

Only way you can not contribute to the ease of finding a site is to never upload or share photos... at all....

Frank





Hey Dan,

I think you are getting too excited about this subject, and you are taking this too personal. You brought up an important subject, I am sure none of in here want to see any historical or natural object of interest destroyed. But when the majority here appear to not agree with your solutions to the problem, don't take it as a personal attack. Honestly, a lot of what you have said here has made me dizzy as I have tried to read and follow your points. It's not all that confusing of an issue, yet all of your words have confused me. Sometimes, less is more...

I don't really have many famous photographers as friends... Well, there is Barry, Craig, Tyler, Matt, Jeffrey, and Dan and Dan... But these guys are not uber professionals, like some of your friends. So I wonder, if perhaps, they have lost touch a bit with reality? I am not making an accusation, but just wondering out loud. Often, those who reach the pinnacles of height in any profession, can lose sight of the real world... And I think the majority of us reading this and replying, like Frank, or Harry, or Craig, and others who replied seem to be firmly planted in this changing world we live in, and just how much the power of technology has changed over the last 20 years.

I would suggest, that as you did bring up an important subject, that you then just let it go. You started it off, but now let this thread, derive its own solution if possible, from all who contribute to it...

Jim



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