Kings, politicians and revolutions
I’ve added a new section to my homepage. Under the tab Analyses you can now read my dissections of images from as varying topics such as the Swedish monarchy, the feminist revolution in Iran and gender-roles in media coverage of politicians.
If you want to follow my analyses of different topics from a gender-perspective in real-time, follow me on Instagram.
Swedish Politicians VS. Gender
All right then! My election special – in which, during 30 days before the Swedish election, I analyzed examples of politicians in the media – is done!
There were 19 posts in total, with analyzes of over 70 images, headlines and clips.
It is now collected under the Analyses tab.
If you prefer it, you can read the posts in their original format on my Instagram.
You Can’t Be What You Can’t See
Do you know what forest scientists look like? Here are four Phd students in forest science at SLU Alnarp in Skåne, photographed for NYKS’s Equaliy Calendar 2022: Hanna Bernö, Mostarin Ara, Ida Nordström and Amanda de Castro Segtowich.
My inspiration for this photo was the very popular TV trope commonly called ”cool guys casually walking away from explosions”.
A look I think matches their unflinching and decisive collective quote for the calendar:
»Especially now, when climate change causes increasingly unpredictable extreme weather events, which the forest will suffer from, it feels like a privilege as researchers to be able to provide the industry with solutions.«
Image Criticism Online – Soon Legal in Sweden?
Right in time for the 10th year anniversary of this blog, I have once again been threatened with legal actions and had to pay damages for something most people would think is legal to do. As a result, I need to find two news anchors (from any country) that can help me reconstruct a censored image.
People usually pay me to analyze their pictures. But sometimes It’s me who has to pay.
Recently, I transferred 1,000 euro to a German law firm that would otherwise sue me on behalf of an American photo agency because I without permission used and criticized their photographers’ picture on my blog.
I got away cheap. If I had refused to pay and let the dispute go to court, the legal costs could have landed at up to 28,500 euro, a lawyer I consulted estimated.
… Slightly more than the 13,400 euros I could have ended up paying if I had lost in Svea Court of Appeal to the association that sued me for criticizing a photo from their cave-diving themed pinup calendar. (Don’t ask.) Significantly more than the 1,440 euros I had to pay the photographer behind the photos of the chef Louise Johansson drinking water from a dishwasher hose in Arlanda Express’ customer magazine. And who knows what an actual court would have thought of Fisk og Fri’s demand that I should pay 4,000 Danish kroner a day until I wiped their fish porn from my blog. (Finish eating before you click on the link.)
So, what’s the latest image I’ve had to take down or censor on my blog?
You’re welcome: image criticism without images.
A portrait in Vanity Fair of the news channel MSNBC’s talk show hosts Mika Brezinski and Joe Scarborough, taken by the photographer Mark Seliger.
Two news anchors. One sitting on a chair with his legs comfortably crossed. The other one posing on a table (of the butcher bench type), in high stiletto heels and some sort of acrobatic pinup pose, turning her head to cast an admiring or flirtatious look at her colleague.
The agency August and their German lawyers at first demanded 2816,40 euros for my unauthorized publishing and criticism of this photo in my post Happy bodies help against nude shocks. After two months I managed to negotiate down the damages. But I did not succeed in convincing them that I should be allowed to use the image.
But why should I? Why should I be allowed to analyze a photo that isn’t mine (without paying)?
Well, because criticism is enshrined in both American (through the Fair Use doctrine) and European law as an important exception where it should be possible to use already published works of art, with or without the author’s permission. To balance copyright against freedom of expression. And in order for claims of copyright infringement not to be used to silence and censor information, debate or criticism that is in the public interest. (And to financially damage critics.)
In Sweden, however, there is a demarcation that becomes more absurd with each passing year.
This is what it still looks like in our Copyright Act, in 2022:
Article 23. Works of fine art which have been made public may be reproduced
1. in connection with the text in a non-commercial scientific presentation;
2. in connection with the text in a critical presentation, but not in digital form
OK, the Boomer law.
How could it turn out like this? That we in the country with the world’s oldest press freedom ordinance and a proud history of safeguarding freedom of expression have a law that encourages image criticism in the press but not cyberspace – where most of the debates, analyses and criticism takes place today?
Answer: The legislation was written back in 2003.
It was in 2003 that we were to transpose the Information Society Directive into Swedish law; an EU directive that, among other things, outlined which exceptions in copyright law countries could implement. And in a Swedish memorandum it was proposed that “in connection with the text in a critical presentation, works of art may only be reproduced in analogue form”.
Exactly why it was concluded that it would probably be for the best to ban unauthorized image criticism online is not clear. But the decision was made before Facebook (2004) existed. Before Youtube (2005), Twitter (2006) and Instagram (2010). Before social media existed, basically.
But you know what? We can finally correct this mistake this year, if we want to.
A new EU directive on copyright will be introduced into Swedish law. And it says that all member states must assure their citizens that certain exceptions – including for parody and criticism – apply when using online content sharing services. And a new Swedish memorandum proposes that this should be added to the law via a new Section 52.
However, no deletion of that unfortunate anachronistic sentence “but not in digital form” is mentioned, which opens up a new potentially confusing demarcation: will critical analysis of images only be allowed if it takes place on major social media platforms such as Facebook, but not on other kinds of websites like, for example, blogs? The risk is that we would once again limit image criticism – one of media criticism’s most powerful tools – to specific media, instead of just letting criticism completely free.
Given that it may take another twenty years until the next chance to update the law so that it keeps up with technology, I hope that we can look ahead this time. Let 2022 be the year when Sweden legalizes image criticism on the internet!
Until then, I need help with one thing…
Do you work as a news anchor or talk show host for a news program on one of your country’s largest TV channels?
Could you and a colleague of another gender consider helping me reconstruct the image from Vanity Fair that I’m no longer allowed to show on my blog?
Note: I will, of course, do a gender-swap; that is, let the man recreate the woman’s pose in the original photo, and vice versa. So, as a male news anchor, look extra closely at the picture and think about how agile you are.
Volunteers are welcome to contact me at email@example.com
The agency August and their German lawyers threatened to sue me in German court – something the lawyer I consulted believed could become a reality. I did not even bother to refer to Swedish legislation, since a trial in Swedish court would mean a rock-solid loss.
Instead, I tried to meet them half-way. I suggested that I keep the image on the blog, but correct a mistake they rightly pointed out: not naming the photographer. When they said no, and insisted that I sign a contract where I undertake never to publish the image again, I suggested another solution: that I should pay a sum as compensation for having omitted the photographer’s name, but upon payment get permission to analyze the image on my blog anew.
When the answer still was no, I at the end paid and signed their contract, and sent it by email – even though they would first wanted it via… fax.
A Constructive Scandal
Finally, after working on it for the better part of a year, I can hang this on my wall:
NYKS’ Equality Calendar 2022. For which I’ve had the honor to take the portraits and do the interviews, traveling to some of the most beautiful (and in some cases most horsefly- or mosquito-infested) workplaces in Sweden.
If you’re not familiar with NYKS, it stands for The Network for Working Women and Non-binary People in the Forest Industry. And if you don’t know the backstory about why this calendar was made, prepare yourself to hear an inspiring story about doing something constructive out of a scandal. (Interspersed with action shots and power portraits from the calendar.)
Two years ago, it came to public attention (thanks to members of NYKS) that the Finnish forest machine manufacturer Ponsse for years had bestowed their customers with a calendar, produced by a German subcontractor, in which scantily clad models posed on top their forest machines.
The Swedish Forest Agency and several of the largest forest companies in Sweden agreed with NYKS’ criticism and put their foot down against Ponsse, who – despite many laugh-crying and boiling angry faces from men in comment sections – decided that it was time to leave the calendar-making business.
The story could have ended there. With a “what ?? do we live in the 1970s?” at the sight of the calendar, to an “okay, no, maybe it actually is 2020” when the forest industry condemned it. But NYKS was looking ahead.
It was Erika Alm, sustainability specialist at Stora Enso Skog and a member of NYKS, who called Ponsse Sweden’s CEO Carl-Henrik Hammar with an offer: to sponsor the creation of a more modern calendar.
Ponsse said yes without hesitation. As did I, when I was asked to take the pictures for it. I had seen the headlines about the scandal calendar and was very inspired when I heard about the new chapter in the story. That a company that “actually was involved in causing some of the challenges we work with today” – as Carl-Henrik Hammar puts it in his blurb in the calendar – takes the chance to turn things around and do something that could actually contribute to making the forest a more equal and inclusive place to work at.
Gunilla Arnesson, scarification driver from Blekinge. »When I started working in the forest, few people believed in me. But I’m still here, 14 years later. Same industry. I know what I can do, and I’m good at it.«
Hanna Flink, production and timber manager at Skogssällskapet. »The forest industry is not evolving fast enough. And that’s because people in it would rather hire people they’re comfortable with than those who are open and dare to question things.« (Hanna is flanked by Johan, August, Nomi and Saffron. I’ll let you guess who’s who.)
The greatest praise, however, should of course go to NYKS, who hatched such a brilliant idea. To make a new calendar and replace the stereotypes with portraits of 12 super-competent women and non-binary people who work in the forest for real every day, and perhaps succeed in inspiring more people to find their calling in the forest. You can’t be what you can’t see.
Anna Utter: »When I drive a forestry machine, I am one with the machine. It’s me. Like when you pick something up with your hand, that is what it feels like to me when I use the unit. I sense exactly what it will do.«
Thank you Erika Alm, Anna Schyman, Erica Björndotter, Emma Strandberg and Malin Eriksson at NYKS, for incredibly fun project group meetings and photo discussions. Thank you Ponsse, for saying yes to everything and giving us free hands. And a warm thank you to all the participants in the calendar, for the great conversations and for allowing me to intern with you (and your dogs).