I was going to call this post “The Pedophile, The Comedian, The Englishman” . . .And The Photographer. Back in August, when I told the story of Scott Lee Russell AKA Scotty Lee AKA Chaz Blackwood, I thought it was a good example of the wrong way to reinvent yourself. And I thought that would be the last we’d hear about Scotty/Chaz.
But, like a bad penny, he’s back.
This time he’s world famous photographer Chaz Ahlstrom. Like he did last year, Chaz went all out. He created webpages “Catchy Title Photography.” He created facebook pages, Google+ pages, Twitter accounts, flkr accounts.
And just like last time, someone who actually knows something about the field he’s trying to steal from found him out. The photographers are just as upset as the comics were back in August. The folks at Stop Stealing Photos did a story on him.
I was a fair photographer when I was younger with my Pentax K1000. Since the dawn of the digital age, I pretty much take pictures with my iPad and hope that I don’t have to edit them more than the iPad Photos app supports.
But, photographers, like all artists have their own styles and jealously guard their intellectual property. In comedy, the second worst thing you can do is steal jokes, (The first is to not be funny.) In photography, stealing another’s work is simply not tolerated.
Shannon Wilkinson is my sister-in-law. She’s also a brilliant photographer. (Shannon Wilkinson Photography) I asked her how you know if someone is stealing your photos.
There are a lot of ways that people find out. Stealing images is rampant in this industry. Once you are more well known people just recognize your work and tell you. I have had mine stolen a couple of times. I now copyright everything. There are websites set up just for people who steal images such as Photostealers.
There are sites you can check too. Google image search is one. Tineye is another or you can do an srj search of your images. I do it regularly now.
Turns out that Scotty or Chaz only wanted to steal from the best. One of the artists he steals from is a guy named Jerry Ghionis, a pretty well known photographer.
Just as the comics did last summer, the photographers have taken it upon themselves to run Chaz off the web. They have reached out to everyone connected with him professionally or personally and let them know the sordid story, the underage “models,” the fake comedian, the lies and the criminal record.
It makes you think “What would you do?” Or, what would you recommend Scott do if you were to talk to him? He seems to want to reinvent himself, but just keeps doing it the wrong way.
And just as I did in August, I think the real problem here is that Scott wants the shortcut. He wants the easy way. Why not just take someone else’s pictures until you can come up with good ones on your own?
There is no substitute for hard work. You might win the lottery and you get a bunch of money, but that’s not really success. Most lottery winners blow through all their winnings in just a few years. However, if you work and you do the hard things to build wealth, or a reputation, or a skill like photography or comedy, the process of getting to your goal helps ensure you aren’t going to blow it.
I expect we’ll see Scotty pop up again in a year or two with a new character. But, so long as he attempts to take a short cut to the top, he’ll once again be found out and once again be hounded off the net. There isn’t a shortcut to the top. Maybe someday he’ll finally figure that out.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children and one grandchild.