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Monday
Jun072010

Australian government crowdsources its website photos; artists up in arms

Fighting a losing battle against the rise of sites like U.S. startups 99Designs and Genius Rocket, the No!Spec movement has found some sympathizers internationally. Australian artists are railing against the "worrying precedent" potentially set by their government's new effort to solicit photography contributions from average citizens as part of their campaign to revitalize their tourism marketing.

Nothing Like Australia, the new tourism site features photos sent in from around the country to help would-be tourists get a better sense of the real Australia that they can experience. Professional photographers, meanwhile, are upset that the government is willing to use free photos rather than relying on professional photos, saying,

Refusing to license these photographic works in an appropriate way sends a message that it (government) does not value creative work in the same way as it values other economic assets.

I've been sympathetic to some of the NoSpec! critiques, notably the winner-takes-all approach that encourages quantity over quality design. But the Australian artist response is a bit outrageous: the Australian tourism site is pretty great (better than any comparable city or country tourism campaign that I've seen before) and its strength is surely attibutable to the diversity of the photos submitted by average Australians depicting their way of life (rather than say, perfectly composed sunset and mountain photos typical to such campaigns).

Designers: you are right to demand that your work is properly valued, but pick your battles. In seeking to gain a taste of the diversity of Australia, the crowd of amateurs is more valuable.

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