Photos, Creative Commons and NGOs

I applaud the effort put into the Finnish site ngophotos.org (in Finnish). Providing photographs for NGOs under a CC license gives NGOs an opportunity to get quality pictures for free (for non-commercial use). Anyone who starts looking for photographs on the net will find a multitude of them available, but finding pictures that can be used for free by (often) struggling NGOs is a much harder task. Maybe ngophotos will help at least some NGOs in their own efforts.

In order to get pictures listed in the directory, anyone can suggest a photo. But before a photo is listed in the service, the photographer will be contacted by the photo editors. This is to prevent any copyright infringments, naturally. The photographs are organized into various categories by the photo editors who provide their efforts on a volunteer basis. They are also looking for more photo editors…

What worries me about it all is the tunnel vision that many NGOs (and especially the people active in them) seem to have and how it may limit the photographs that are accepted. I’ve had quite a bit of exposure with various types of NGOs during my more outwardly active years. What bothered me was that many of the people active in NGOs were more interested in the big events in different parts of the world rather than the smaller issues in a relatively calm and peaceful Finland. I’m not saying that helping battle hunger in Africa etc. is not a worthy effort, but purely focusing on events on a grande scale and forgetting the human suffering right next to you is inexcusable.

All of these thoughts came to me when I was thinking if some of the pictures Anna took of some of the damage caused by the whirlwind (or small tornado) that passed near us in late August. It was a natural disaster, although small in the scale of hurricanes , tornadoes, and earthquakes, but large in the scale we have in Finland. Are they acceptable to such a site? They only indirectly show the human element (and very little of that), the natural disaster only had an effect on a 150 hectares or so of forest. Or what about a picture of a bird rescued from the ice by fire fighters. Are images like these of any interest to anyone. Are they something that NGOs interested in the environment would be willing to use? I don’t know, but if they accept me as a photo editor I will try to be impartial and keep in mind the small events as well.

Update 8.12.2004 I guess I wasn’t clear enough in my message to Matt Haughey. I am not the person behind NGOphotos. It’s just an effort I find worth supporting.

P.S. The picture below was taken by me with my camera phone when we were responding to help with all of the fallen trees. The open area used to be a forest of fairly tall (20 or more metres) pines all around 4-5 hours before the picture was taken.

A view of the destruction cause by a whirlwind.