I feel it is time to put a wrap on "case studio Hera Bell". First of all I want to thank everyone who has felt that posting a link to my blog has been a good way to pass information to others who might be interested. With almost 800 visits in the past 24 hours, most of which have come from outside Finland, I think we have managed to spread the word nicely.
Montreal Gazette has replied to one of the actives on digicamera.net (the finnish site where this all began) that they will not run a story on Hera Bells alleged copyright infringements or photo thefts, which ever term one may wish to use. People from the gazette have tried to contact Hera Bell to get some kind of comment from her but have not been succesful, despite their best efforts. I think this is a shame as it would have been extremely interesting to hear ms. Bells side of the story. If her explanations for the findings done by dc.net actives would have been less than satisfactory, the newspaper article would have been a great way to warn her potential clients that she may not be all that she claims to be.
On the legal side, it is not realistic to expect legal action to be taken against Hera Bell from this side of the atlantic. The cost of getting the case moving would be far too great in comparison with the potential returns. And, as anyone who has ever been to court can tell you, there are no guarantees on the outcome of a case in a court of law. Yes, the evidence against Hera Bell seems overwhelming, but it must be remembered that almost all of the pictures have been taken from different photographers. This means that a single photographer would sue ms. Bell for the unauthorized use of one image. For a photographer based in Canada, this would be an option and if it were me, I would do it. Without proof of Hera Bell actually making a profit with the unauthorized use of one single picture, the compensation to be gained would most likely be minor but some form of sanctions could be expected.
As I stated in my previous post phototheft on the internet happens all the time. A good example of the scope of the problem is that a photographer friend of mine found one of his pictures being used by a Danish photographer to promote her works just yesterday. The reason why I took more of an interest in Hera Bells doings is the sheer scope of it all and her claims of being a "professional photographer." A lot of her claims have been found to be questionable to say the least in the past few days. I really don't know how much of this whole thing was Hera Bell simply boosting her own selfimage on different photography websites and how much actual marketing for her photography business.
I think there are some lessons to be learned from all of this. For the aspiring photographer starting out his or her own business, this is a good lesson in marketing on the internet. Hera Bell had a very convincing and professional looking appearance on the web and anyone wanting to get their business going should try to achieve a similar image, just so that it is done on a truthfull basis, using ones own pictures and real credentials that can easily be verified. As for the potential client looking for a photographer, one should remember that not everything we see on the internet is as it appears to be and some background checks to verify claims made by the photographer may well be in order before agreeing to pay for services. One must remember that in any form of marketing, the positive sides are the ones brought forward and the negative ones are played down or left out altogether.
Unless something comes to my attention regarding legal action being taken against Hera Bell, I don't see any reason to continue writing about her. After all, her reputation among photographers around the world has been tarnished, her web pages are down and the stolen images have been removed. As someone put it, her "signature style" turned out to be more "stolen style". However, if she does return to photosites on the internet sometime in the future, with pictures taken by herself (as I hope she will), her return will not be easy. I am sure she will be confronted with comments like "nice picture, who took it this time" for quite some time. As long as she is honest, I wish her strength to get thru it. Gaining trust after it is lost is no small feat.