The story on Hera Bell continues. After a few days of searching done by a few really active fellows on digicamera.net a bunch of new "picture pairs" have been found and a pattern can be seen. The latest count of obvious cases published at "who took this photo" is 25. The pattern seems to be that a picture has been downloaded from a non - north american photographer, then "flipped" to a mirror image of the original and either some color management or conversion to BW done in photoshop. With these simple photoshop techniques, the discovery of stolen pics has been made much more difficult. For example, google picture search does not recognize the mirror image to be the same as the original. In this case it did not matter much, as the guys doing the detective work soon discovered this and took pictures published by Hera Bell, flipped them around and did a new search that unsurprsingly started to produce hits.
In the original dpreview discussion on this (a new one has been started since) a croatian pro photographer by the name of Dean Bertoncelj came forward to tell what happend to him. The short version is that Bertoncelj has an account with shutterstock. After receiving information that there are infringement questions regarding one of Bertonceljs' pictures, they (rightfully so) closed his account and requested more information. After Bertoncelj provided proof that HE DOES own the rights to the picture in question, his account was put back online. This took a day or so. Now, this may or may not have cost Bertoncelj money, as it is possible that someone might have been interested to buy his pictures, but with the account closed, it was not possible. Just goes to show that the theft of even one picture can have rather far reaching effects and real financial harm can be done.
Some pictures have been found published by Hera Bell that also appear on other Canadian photographers webpages. These photographers have been informed about these findings and they are considering what action to take. Being in the same country they have the best opportunity to take legal action against Hera Bell. Doing so from the other side of the atlantic may be so complicated that it may not be worth the trouble. This is something that is being looked into, however and if reasonably possible, will be done.
The matter of legal action brings me to something that had some of the fellows playing "interet detective" a bit worked up. One of them posted the story of Hera Bell to mu-43 forum, a site where she has been active at posting pictures. The moderators there locked the discussion and stated that accusing someone is not what the forum is for and such cases should be taken to court. During the most heated search for stolen pictures, this was not viewed kindly and some reposts were done, resulting in one person being blocked from the site. Amin Sabet, who runs mu-43 came forward with a statement in dpreview which clarifies their position. I must say that I think mr. Sabet made a very good point on why they have chosen their course of action and we all should respect their point of view. In my opinion, any further criticism towards that site and its moderators is uncalled for.
The more investigation in to Hera Bells pictures and writings related to them has been done, the more there seems to be wrong. For example, Hera Bell has written on various photoforums about exhibitions where her pictures have been, awards that she has won and so on. With active searching, the only proof of her pictures being exhibited, is the story found in the Montreal Gazette. As for awards that she has won, so far these has been no luck finding any mention of them on the internet, other than by Hera Bell herself. All in all, the whole case is starting to look more and more that Hera Bell has fabricated a lot of her credentials and used pictures taken by other people for marketing her photography business. The scope of it all is amazing, after all the discoveries so far, it is hard to know if anthing about Hera Bell is truthfull. I feel lucky that I did not fall victim to someone like this when I chose my wedding photographer all those years ago.
As for the guys at "dc" going thru the net for more and more evidence, all I can say is that you chaps really are amazing. In all these years I have never before seen such unity. Cheers. ;)