by Andrea Bruce
Original image: Shot in 2016 on assignment in Bangalore for The New York Times for an article about young rural women working in Indian cities.
Theft: A website called “In-Depth-News” published a doctored, reversed copy of the image in 2019 to promote its own fundraising campaign.
NFT for sale: Bruce shot a photo of her own laptop showing the stolen/manipulated image side-by-side with the original digital photograph, pointing to the authentic image.
Reversal is part of the groundbreaking NFT series “Theft,” from the prestigious documentary photo agency NOOR Images and Pix.T platform, which aims to launch a new era in photography ownership and digital rights management. Read more on the NFT series. Read the Pix.T Manifesto. Read more about NOOR
The iconic images of photojournalism often begin with a phone call. In this case it was the assignment desk of The New York Times photo department checking to see if Andrea Bruce was available to join reporter Ellen Barry on an investigation into the plight of rural female workers in India migrating to urban areas.
It would be a modestly paid assignment, as freelance photo jobs for even the world’s best news publications increasingly are. But this kind of work has never been about the money. It’s an opportunity to document the events, conflicts and social movements that shape our world.
To inform. To tell stories. To leave a trace.
The image of a teenage girl on a rooftop in Bangalore would be published on Sep. 24, 2016 along with several others to illustrate Barry’s article. But the life of this particular photograph — of this subject, at that place, in that moment — would not end in the newspaper. This was indeed a particularly powerful image that moves us even when separated from the original news article; capturing the bustling contradictions and transitory solitude and longing of life in a rapidly developing world.
And in the years since, the image has appeared in exhibitions and books and the walls of collectors … and of course, on the internet.
Bruce says she may not have even noticed the theft of the image three years later, without permission or payment, by the In-Depth-News website. Except that the website published a doctored, reversed copy of the image — and was using it for its own fundraising campaign.
“The woman in that picture gave me and the organization I was working with the trust to tell her story to the world. Stealing and manipulating the image is a betrayal of that trust.”
To create an NFT from the stolen work, Bruce digitally positioned the original image next to the falsified copy and photographed them on her laptop, as she points to the true shot.
The NFT is itself an original act of information, of leaving a trace — coming full circle back to that original call from the newspaper’s assignment desk.
“People see things on the internet and think it’s fair game. Even if it’s not always done with bad intentions, it’s wrong. In the long term, it will stop work from being produced in the first place,” Bruce says. “If the economics of the photo industry don’t allow me and my colleagues to have a job that enables me to do this, who is going to tell these stories? It will disappear. Or worse, people will just start making it up completely.”
“Stealing and manipulating the image is a betrayal of that trust.”
Bid via OpenSea
NOOR Photo Agency presents “Theft,” a groundbreaking NFT sale to help launch a new paradigm of digital ownership and rights management for the professional photography market.