What happens when Drake rips your pic of Nipsey and gives you no credit?
If you have been active on social media in Greater Boston music circles this past month, then you may have followed the saga of Drake (and countless others) using an image by New England photographer Isaac Remsen to commemorate fallen Cali rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle. It would have been all good, only Remsen (and his watermark) were cropped out of the conversation. With that situation in the immediate rear view, and with Remsen on the verge of dropping an ambitious New England hip-hop photography project soon that’s been in the making for years, we followed up to see what ultimately came of the whole Nipsey incident.
What’s a little more background on you? You’ve shot hundreds of shows, maybe more. All hip-hop?
My passion for photography began when I traveled to Costa Rica in the summer of 2009 with Outward Bound. After enrolling in several Maine media workshops, I studied international street photography in Paris, France, and Argentina with world-renowned photographer Peter Turnley.
I enrolled at the New England School of Photography in Boston in 2010. It was there where I learned to how to hone my skills as a professional photographer and use my eye as a tool to create a career for myself. While living in Boston, I was able to merge my passion for music with my passion for photography.
A friend of mine saw my interest in concert photography and put me in touch with Ned Wellbery of Leedz Edutainment, The largest hip-hop promoter in the North East. He gave me a shot at one of his shows at the Western Front in Cambridge. He really enjoyed the images which lead to consistent work with him covering some of the top hip-hop acts in the country during performances in and around New England for roughly five years, but I wasn’t limited to that. I have photographed some metal shows as well as a gig with alternative rock act Ra Ra Riot. I love photography of all kinds of music venues and I constantly push myself to think in a creative way and use my tools to see things from a different perspective.
You must see your pics get used all the time. Give us some examples …
Having the access to cover shows and events is a dream come true. Many of the artists I have had the opportunity to photograph are those that I have listened to and idolized for years. It’s always an honor when I get recognition for my hard work, I have been fortunate to have many of my images shared with permission throughout the years including some big features in both Slaine’s The King of Everything Else album, Termanology’s G.O.Y.A. album. My image of Hip-Hop Group Grey Sky Appeal was featured in the Boston Globe. Some of the artists who have shared my copyrighted images include Statik Selektah, Joey Badass, Sean Price, Freeway, Millyz, Token, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Tony Yayo of G-Unit, Method Man and many other big names, but this situation surrounding Drake sharing my image of Nipsey Hussle has been monumental.
When did you start seeing the Nipsey photo circulating?
As I got to hiphopdx.com I was scrolling down and saw an article about artists mourning Nipsey. I clicked on it and as I looked down I was speechless. I saw my image and at first I didn’t even see who posted it; I turned to my girlfriend and told her the news, took another glance, and it was none other then @champagnepapi. Drake shared my image! I couldn’t believe it. At first I thought, This is crazy, and then I see it’s been cropped to remove my watermark. While it’s a buzzkill to not be credited by Drake or whoever runs his Instagram account, it’s a blessing knowing my artwork has more eyes on it then ever before. I have politely messaged Drake as well as some of the big publications to share the story of the image.
Is it a legal loophole of sorts when a news outlet uses a photo of an Instagram post?
Sharing someone’s image without their consent, cropping it in a way that it removes their watermark and then not credit the artist is all copyright infringement. None of these major news outlets did their due diligence and contacted me regarding the use of my image.
Based on the terms and agreements of Instagram they are granted a license to use your image on their platform when you choose to share something. It’s still shocking to see the reach my image has had across the globe.
What, if any recourse have you taken in this instance?
In this instance I have been doing what I can to put the correct information out there and get credit for my work. I’m still not sure what I will do in the long run, but I haven’t, as yet, pursued any legal action. In most cases when this happens, I look forward to getting credited in the hopes that it would bring more traffic to my website.
I may have the respect of an artist but it doesn’t always get reciprocated with getting credit for my visual work. I am always honored when people enjoy my photography and decide to share my images, unfortunately I have had to remind a few people that these images are copyrighted.
Any advice for other photogs? What, if anything, will you be doing different moving forward?
My advice for photographers who end up in this situation is to stay diligent in your efforts to create a conversation with those who have shared your work. It’s gotten me a lot farther by being polite and explaining things from my perspective. I treat it as an honor and a form of respect when someone enjoys your artwork so much that they want to share it with the world. In terms of watermarking your images, I have learned on more than one occasion that it should be displayed in a way that won’t distract from the image but also in a way that can’t be modified or cropped out. I have begun to implement new techniques to prevent this type of situation.
In other news, tell us about your Boston hip-hop portrait project. Where can people score a shirt? Will there be posters too?
Throughout the past decade I have been fortunate enough to photograph some incredible hip-hop artists in and around New England. Using the images I have collected over the years I began to create an intricate puzzle of hip-hop artists, musicians, and those who I feel are the most influential to the culture here in New England. There are so many important people involved in the New England hip-hop scene and these are the ones I have been fortunate to meet and document. I am aiming to have the design for purchase this summer via isaacremsen.com.