If you’re a regular follower of my social media, you will know that Elva wrote a sixteen page letter to my Grampa which he dubbed Elva’s Tirade. Well, today I am myself super cross with someone, and have a therapeutic need to write my own one. I’m not a ‘namer and shamer’ sort of person so I shall refer to this person as ‘Person X’. Fingers crossed this doesn’t get me in trouble, but I honestly cannot help myself!
The crux of my rage is about permission, manners, and the solidarity of writers.
Elva’s art catalogues include an impressive list of celebrated pioneers of old, be they agriculturalists with new methods to shout about, vegetarians with a mission to convert the world, thinkers such as George Bernard Shaw, or medical geniuses with new and holistic approaches to healing their patients. The list, in short is endless, and Person X’s father is one of them.
During my obsessive chasing over the last three, nearly four years I have been lucky in finding many relatives and friends of Elva’s sitters who have all been friendly, kind, helpful and delighted to swap information. Some, such as Dulcie Watson and her husband David have even invited me to stay at their home in Aberdeenshire, welcoming me with open arms and warmth and making me feel like family.
There’s always one though isn’t there.
I emailed Person X probably two years ago now who completely ignored me. That’s fine. No problem with that at all. I’ve thought nothing of it and respect that not everyone is interested in their ancestry or want anything relating to their family in a book. One particularly helpful person has even asked not to be identified which I have respected.
The thing is though. It turns out Person X is a writer themselves with a very respectable back catalogue of books under their belt. Surely, as a fellow writer they understand the research involved and the excitement of discovering new leads and information. Also, I’d hazard a guess they have an idea about copyright.
Every so often I google my great aunt to see if the internet macros have anything new to offer that I may have missed. Today I was delighted to find a reference in googles book tab in a biography published this year of Person X’s father. Assuming I might find something along the lines of “Oh, and my father was painted by Elva Blacker etc etc” I paid for a digital copy only to find myself fuming.
Person X has included a photograph taken from one of her catalogues, of a portrait by Elva of another pioneer: Person Y.
Well so what? Isn’t that a good thing? I hear you cry, which yes, to a point it is. I can see the benefit of him sharing her work and the exposure it may generate but what peeves me is the principle of it all. Not only did he ignore me, he then didn’t think to ask for permission to use the image. I would have whole heartedly agreed and all I would have wanted in return is a ‘courtesy of Elva’s estate, for more information go to www.chasingelva.com’ or similar. I would have been eager to pick his brain for information in return but now I’m going to exclude his father from my book!
Copyright lasts for 75 years after an artist’s death and there’s still a way to go before we hit that milestone with regards Elva Blacker. Until then, copyright for Elva’s work remains with my sister and I.
All publishers understand this and to be honest, I feel the blame is on them but like I say, it’s the principle of the whole thing that frustrates me.