Sunday, March 31, 2013

Union Beach Sandy Photos - Ongoing (c) issues

For the past week instead of spending time gathering photos from the wetlands and empty properties with owner permission, cleaning, drying and scanning photos for families in Union Beach that lost everything they held dear, I have been in a deep battle with Maurice van Es also known as Maurice de Leeuw and the websites that he published photos that he said he found and gathered. He also put (c) righted by Maurice van Es on some of the photos. I am not sure how a grown educated adult who is an artist does not understand the rules of (copyright). I am not sure how an adult doesn't understand creative copy when  you are educated as an artist. As an educator and not an artist, I was informed that creative copy is when I took photos of the photos in the aftermath of the storm. When I held the pictures in my hand and snapped shots of the photos so they could be posted on the facebook page for the owners to see so they knew where in town to look.  

My definition of found must be different than a news organization or European dictionary. Because found to me doesn't mean going to a Facebook page that is named Union Beach Photos and Misplaced items or a website that is labeled, right clicking and saving to my desktop. I naively believe in copyright, creative copy and the rules of plagiarism. I naively believed that when someone was called out publicly they would right the wrong. However, it amazes me how many news organizations used the  word "investigate". What is there to investigate? Maurice van Es never stepped into the United States, never came to NJ and never stepped foot in Union Beach so "found" was then changed to "collected". This does not change the end result. He did not search the internet. He didn't scour hundreds of websites, he went to the max of two. He didn't collect photos with permissions from the families, he blantly just downloaded the photos for his own personal gain. He says no "telling the story of the photos". How can you tell a story of the photos when you didn't experience what the photos experienced? If I told the journey of the photos or the families told the story of the photos and related it to the personal experience that we had during the storm, that would be clearly understandable. If we told how this specific image took us back to the exact moment in time, it would be believable. However, when a complete stranger tries to tell you a story they don't have a personal link to the story or image how is that believable. Again, maybe I am naive and people do not care they just want to see the project.

He muses in one post that the owner of the photos would be difficult to identify. Not really, within days of the storm we were returning photos in rapid pace. Within days of the Facebook page going up my family (residents of Union Beach) were saying Mine, I picked it up, I am not in town but hold onto it. The rightful owners were coming forward. The people that owned the copyright stepped forward. So the photographers were found. They were common hard working families that longed for something from their past.

Maurice van Es, has been tweeted, facebooked, and emailed by me, by the families and I am sure by the editors of the blog sites that he posted the photos on. Some of the websites were not pleased with me hounding them to take the photos down. All I can say, is I am sorry that I had to go this route. However, I will do anything to protect my families right to privacy, right to copyright and righting a wrong. 

Here are a couple of messages: removed the post after families contacted them and I also contacted them. Their message to me read: It has been removed. 

We'd appreciate it if you and your associates would now stop sending vitriolic messages to our site. Thanks.

Now I am not sure about vitriolic the messages were from others. I just stated the facts. tweeted "The post has been removed while we investigate fully and we will make a final decision next week"

At least it is down for now. As I said, not sure what they are investigating. Maurice van Es had no right to just remove and claim the photos for his own. As an artist, he didn't change the photos just brought them to his blog. He didn't really write anything. He just posted the photos. Maybe I missed his writing. Maybe he wrote it in special ink that only Non-Sandy survivors can see.

Another website said: said "Can we credit you then? It's a shame to take them down" - Why is it a shame? If I had to take the photos down to protect the families copyright and the families are not able to search for their photos why should your site continue to use the photos to drive traffic to your site so you generate revenue. The families these photos belong to aren't getting any financial gain from this.

I cannot be credited because these photos are copyrighted by the families. The moment the shutter was pressed they owned the image.

I have asked the families if they wish for the photos to remain, since this is a holiday weekend, I am still waiting for a response. My gut tells me it is going to be a HUGE NO.

One of the saddest pieces of this whole thing is that Union Beach families have been very open with the press. We were photographed at our worst, down on our knees when we returned to our homes that weren't there. We were photographed waiting in soup lines. We were photographed trying to survive the day before the sun set and it was too dark to see your hand in front of your face.  We were photographed wearing the same clothing that couldn't be washed for a week. And we were gracious to the reporters and photographers that entered our lives. I am still friends with many of them and they check in on me on a regular basis.

Tomas from the Star Ledger was the first newspaper reporter to speak to me about Union Beach Memories. He learned of my mission from my nieces mom Becky. He walked a mile through the debris and block aides to find me. He took the time to understand what it was about. This wasn't about personal gain, this was about making sure families in Union Beach had something to hold on. The first few days after the storm, I was raw, my first video interview I stood in my pink fleece PJ's. They were warm and honestly I had 2 outfits. Pink PJ's and black sweats and a black shirt. It was so cold you had to wear both.

Then came Fox news reporter, who accidently found me covering voting in my small town. He saw the moment that I gave Carol S. her second photo of the night. She lost her entire house. The two photos was all she had left of her home.

At each interview and each showing of the photos the families that shared their photos gave their permission. The only family that was "ambushed" was the Torres family. I was being interviewed by CBS Nightly News about the photo project and a message was sent about a photo album that I held minutes before. We raced to return the album and they gave permission to the news crew to share the moment.

All the press this project has received, we in Union Beach have been very blessed to have news organizations that understand the fine line between the public need to know and the families of natural disasters and tragedy right to privacy. The news organization so many from around the world have come into our lives and been 100% respectful of the family's wishes.

Union Beach families with Maurice van Es and the websites that refuse to remove the content are forcing families into fight or flight. We will not flee when it comes to facing this. We are here to stay and fight for all we can legally. 

All we are asking is the following:

1) Remove the photos from your website. Maurice van Es. It isn't enough that you point to where the photos came from. You should have hyperlinked to the photo you wanted to muse about. That would have kept this legal.

2) You want to do a project about the photos ask the family's permission.

3) You want to report on this project contact me. I will gladly get you in touch with the families under the same method I have used for EVERY single reporter that wanted to talk to families. I post your name and number in the Facebook group and have the families contact you directly. Or we ask that you join the Facebook page and you can contact the families via Facebook.

I know the world should know about this project. But families should be able to control who, what and where these photos are shown.  We want the world to know what a wonderful project this is. We want the world to know that if you are in a natural disaster that this is something you can do to help your community.

Union Beach maybe a small town in NJ. We are a small town with a huge heart. We treat each other as we are all family. We are protective. We are eager to welcome people into our lives, homes and community. What we don't like are thieves that come in the night and steal from us under our noses. We don't like being lied to. The omission is lying. 

Our family wants to move on and return to our healing. We want an apology so that this chapter can be closed and we can forgive. Because harboring resentment and hate is not what our community teaches. We teach love, compassion and friendship.

I want to return to the positive energy that the photos gave the town. It was like finding a special surprise in your mailbox. 

Do the right thing. That is all we ask. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 2 of Maurice van Es and

After having the day to reflect on what Mr. Maurice van Es did, I have come to terms with a few important things about what happened in the Union Beach Photos and Misplaced items on Facebook. I do not still understand what Maurice van Es thought he was doing with the photos. I am dumbfounded as to what his insight could possibly be into the photos. That yes survived Sandy. But that is the end of his insight.

The editor for the reporter Jakob Schiller called me irrational. Funny how you are irrational when you don’t agree with someone. I could call the editor irrational because he disagreed with my point of view however, I am sure he is a rational man. I am sure if and when he has a family tragedy or natural disaster and something happens to him or his family he will still believe that as an editor the public has a right to know no matter the situation. I do not wish ill harm on the man or his family but karma is a witch that loves to rummage.

He also thought we could come to a mutual agreement. Which meant that I would agree with his point of view? I understand fair use however; here is what I don’t get. Fair Use, if came to the page or the Facebook page and took photos, totally get fair use. However, Maurice van Es took the photos without the knowledge of the families or me. He represented himself as the person that scoured 100’s of social media sites to find these photos. Two sites website for Union Beach Memories (photo gallery taken down) and the Facebook page (photos removed). If he looked at the other projects that are happening apparently Union Beach Memories is a gold mine for him.

The editor (wish I could remember his name) for also told me that I am no better than Maurice van Es because I stole the families’ photos. I never stole the family photos, I gathered, I climbed through muck, I searched in public locations. I left the photos at the police station and the firehouse so families could freely get the images back. I never went behind the families back. Every step of the way, families in Union Beach knew what my intentions were and what I was doing. Unlike Maurice van Es, I never hid what I was doing. I was upfront and honest. If a family asked me to remove a photo I did it. Families have repeatedly requested Maurice van Es to remove the photos from his website for the past 2 days.

Maurice van Es was a member of the group on Facebook. When he joined, I wasn’t sure why he joined but I thought being an artist, maybe he was here to help the families. Maybe use his skills to retouch a photo, call upon his friend to help. That was the na├»ve me.

My community has been through hell and back. Maurice van Es was a member of the Facebook group, he never participated in the group more lurked and removed what he wanted.  If he had taken the time to read the page, he would have seen the heartache and stress the families were enduring.  This did not matter to him or He had free access to the families. If he truly believed he had good intentions, why didn’t he just ask the families?  He could have explained what he wanted, asked the family and life would have rolled on. He could have shared what he had done in the group, however the families didn’t find out until I broke the news to them yesterday after the final “irate” conversation with The families are upset. They don’t know why Mr. van Es picked their photos. All they want is answers. Answers, Mr. van Es is not willing to give.
removed himself from the group only after doing damage. As indicated all the photos are down. We as a family, a community will determine what we will do to keep the project going. We will not post photos publicly again.

Maurice van Es has remained silent about his intent about the project. He hasn’t tried to clarify what he wanted to do. He hasn’t apologized or even acknowledged the families. Mr. van Es

What is more insulting is the Mr. van Es was in the group when the firestorm happened when the families’ photos were removed from the town. Union Beach residents were violated by Sandy. They are stressed, tired of fighting FEMA, insurance companies and struggling to survive. As a town we are thankful beyond words that volunteers are helping the community. But sometimes the volunteers over step their bounds and remove photos. When that happens we feel as if someone is violating us again. If Mr. van Es even remotely cared about the families we would have understand the passion and determination that Union Beach residents felt about their photos.

At the end of the day, this whole mess could have been so easily resolved is Mr. van Es would have been upfront and honest with the families. They may have embraced his thoughts on the photos there could have been a great exchange of ideas. However, Mr. van Es crossed a line that should never be crossed when it comes to survivors. Taking control away from the survivor when they are in survivor mode is dangers. We have so little control so we fight our hardest and loudest when we feel threated. And the little we hold sacred was taken. We are raw. We are emotional. We are burdened beyond belief with things that only other natural disasters survivors can begin to understand.

Survivors of natural disasters are tired of being taken advantage of. When our lives were in shambled we were front page news – we were news worthy. As recover started and our towns were knocked down one by one we stood tall and became the symbol for strength on the front page. Six months later we are yesterday news so we get buried back in the community section. Recovery is no longer news worthy because everyone thinks things are “normal”. If normal meaning being apart from your children, parents, living in mold infested homes, living with no heat and watching your neighborhood one house at a time turn to rumble, yes we are the new “normal”.

Union Beach is a friendly, caring and compassionate town. Mr. van Es isn’t seeing that side of us because he kicked the hornets’ nest and ran away. If he wants Union Beach families to forgive him, he needs to apologize for taking advantage of them at a time of need. He needs to explain what he thought this would do for survivors.

All the families are asking for is Respect. Is that too much to ask Mr. van Es? Is it too much to give? It cost you nothing to say “I was wrong, please forgive me!” and what you gain is a community that could forgive you. You can do it, if you really cared. If not, than you are a man with no integrity and I feel sad for you. A man without integrity can never be truly happy and healthy because things weigh you down.

I apologized to the families for my part and asked for forgiveness. I have to face my family/ community daily. My community is forgiving but you need to come to them for the forgiveness. You have to accept the consequences of your actions. If not, as I said, I am sad for you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

His letter to me and my response Maurice van Es

Yesterday I opened my unionbeachmemories gmail account to find the following: 

Hi there- My name is Jakob Schiller and I'm a reporter with I'm writing an article about a photographer named Maurice van Es who has been using some of the photos from your site in a project about the history of photography. He's interested in the way people's memories are stored in the photos and wants to explore how the lost photos you are discovering might tell us something about our evolving relationship to a single photo. I had a couple questions about your website and was going to see if I could talk to someone on the phone. I'm on deadline today so if there is any way to talk this afternoon that would be great, I really appreciate the help. Best, Jakob 505-414-

This followed a heated phone conversation expressing my shock and dismay that someone would steal photos and use them for his own personal gain regardless of financial or additional attention to their work/website. That is do not approve of this, Maurice van Es never contacted me for permission and never told me what he was doing. I am wasn't feeling bad, I was MAD as HELL and I am still am.

The reporter called or skyped with Maurice van Es

This is the letter that I received from him: 

Dear Jeannette, (seriously - you don't know me, you use my last name was published on the website)

I understood via Jakob Schiller ( that you feel bad about me sharing a selection of photos that you collected after the passing of Sandy. I first want to say I see you as an hero doing this. Bringing all those photos back to their rightful owners. I so can imagine what it means for them to have at least their photos back. What touches me also is that the photos show the true power of photography in relation to memories. And show how valuable a photo still can be. (Especially nowadays, when we make so much photos it is hard to find that true power of photography) I really love that. In my work I am always searching for projects that show the most intense value of photography. That’s also why I am interested in the Sandy photos. Whats important for you to know is that: - I will NEVER use the photos to make financial profit. My intentions are good, caring and respectful. I try to tell the story of Sandy in a whole new perspective and get a lot of reactions from people who see the photos. They are really touched by the situation the victims were in and can imagine the impact of Sandy better after seeing the photos. And most of all they show the vulnerability of life. This way the photos serve a bigger goal. I never present myself as the owner of the pictures. I always refer to the context of how they are found and rephotographed in order to find their rightful owners. And when there is an online publication about it, I always will refer to your website. I hope we can understand each other better, because we are on the same side, we both recognise the intense value of photography in relation to the persons that were victim of Sandy. Best,

 Maurice van Es 

Hello! Mr. van Es

I am physically and emotional upset over this. Although you feel we are on the same side, we are different ends of an American football field. You think because you had good intentions wrote me that I would just say "Okay he contacted me".

My concern about using the Union Beach memories photos is that they are not mine or yours to share. I post them on Facebook and Wix (which will be taken down after this mess) because I wanted to find the owners not because I am trying to share with the world the experience of the photos. The families, my family didn’t ask for this and never asked for their photos to be posted.  For me to post the photos on Facebook and a website was a last resort.

You cannot even being to understand or image the violation that one feels to know about seeing your personal life shared without your permission. Our intentions do no matter because the only thing that matters is that as the owner of the photo you don’t want it shared with the world you wanted it back in your hand.

You are trying to tell a story that isn't your story to tell. You were not affected by the storm. You didn't lose everything in your life that you worked so hard to purchase and gather. You didn't fight for your life as the water began to rise and the only thing you worried about is that you might not make it to see your loved. You didn't see your whole world crumble as the storm raged. You didn’t have to write a farewell letter tuck it into your clothing and pray that someone would find the note so your loved ones knew you loved them. You don't know what it is liketo have your life turned upside down and inside out. People cannot even begin to understand it unless they experienced the storm.  You see these just as photos of memories. However, I see them as my family. A family that is lost. A family that their lives were destroyed. My utmost concern is not about the story you want to tell but for my families well being.  Again you can’t understand the fragile nature of this because you don’t know anything about these families. You are Seeing this as a means to an end while I see this as a means to the beginning.

The photos that I was blessed with finding were a glimpse into the possibility. A possibility that you can never begin to tell because you have not lived the hell that my friends, family and the community has. You randomly took photos because they looked good to you. You feel that you are doing something positive, good and noill harm, however you are not looking at it from the standpoint of the victim. Me as a survivor of the storm that destroyed my family, community and property sees it as another assault that I didn't ask for. At least with Sandy there was a warning. With you, no warning. 

I am offended, insulted, saddened that someone thinks because something is posted on a website they can take those images and just use them for their own purpose. Regardless of your intentions, you are ethically wrong. Would you walk into a families home, go through their photo albums and remove photos? Would you go to Flickr and remove an image so you could share your thoughts? How would you feel if I took your photos of your parents, your first car or photos from your website without your permission and shared them on mine? Would you not be upset?

There is absolutely no reason you didn't contact me through the website and discuss what you wanted to do.  You were Obviously on the website to view the photos and “borrow”. Yet, you couldn’t take the 3 minutes to contact me like youdid tonight?  You could have reached out to me at any point but you didn’t. You didn't give a second thought to the families and how they would feel. 

If you would have contacted me prior to exploiting the images, I am sure I could have spoken to the families, let you know which photos the families agreed for you to use and helped you get permission from the families. I might have even been able to get the families to talk to you about the specific photos and their memories. However, at this moment, I am not inclined to agree with the use or inclined to reach out to the families.

I am requesting that you remove the images from your website, blog and stop using the photos. I have been in contact with an intellectual property attorney and will press the issue if needed. That is how strongly I feel that you do not understand the stress, trauma and pain you have caused me or the families the photos belong to.

Although you don’t believe you are benefitting financially from what you are doing, are you not driving traffic to your website? Are you not, having articles written about what you are doing? I see that all as a benefit to you. I don’t see a single benefit to the families that are trying to survive 5 months later. Hardworking families that are trying to get their lives together. Families that huddle together to stay warm because they have no heat in there homes. Families that don’t know if they will ever have their lives back. Some families that aren't even sure where they are going to stay tonight.

Thank you for contacting me. I wish you the best of luck. I do hope you remove the photos are asked. I don’t want to cause additional pain to the families.

Jeannette Van Houten
Caretaker of the photos
Union Beach Memories

Today I spoke with the editor for the reporter and he says I don't own the copyright to the photos and that can use the photos because of fair use according to the editor they don't even need families permission to use the photos because

1) they are a new worthy event.
2) Once the photos are published on the web they are fair game. 

I don't believe number 2 and I will have to continue to speak to legal experts about this. 

What have I learned:

1) the website now has no gallary.  Since there are people will abuse the photos and not treat them like someone they care about, the photos have been removed.

2) the facebook page that has helped reunite families with their photos will no longer have photos published there.

3) learned that regardless of what is right, a company and other people will always do what they feel regardless if it is wrong. Other peoples feelings don't matter as long as they are turning a buck or getting their name out there.

The most important thing that I have learned is that I have caused pain to the families. I posted the photos to facebook and website because I wanted to return the photos to their owners. There was no personal gain. However, in doing this, I have caused the families' pain. Their photos are being used without permission. I will continue to perform my service but and Maurice van Es has made the job 1000 times more difficult. They have shown me that people that are out for personal gain is greater than victims rights.

I hope they are happy with themselves. They have stopped helping families heal and now caused more stress. But congratulations hope you get what you wanted.

You have questions or concerns, reach out to me.