Photographer’s Photos Found in Over 5,000 Wikipedia Articles

David Shankbone (real name David Miller) has been called “arguably the most influential new media photojournalist in the world.” And if you’ve never heard of him you may wonder: How did he achieve such a status? How did he get his work published by The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Forbest all while his actual day job isn’t even as a photographer? He did it all by giving away his photography for free.

Manager of a legal department on Wall Street by day, David Shankbone is perhaps the most prolific Creative Commons photographer out there today. And if you want poof of it all you have to do is browse through one of the five thousand plus Wikipedia articles that feature one of his photos. Tailor Swift? His. Betty White? His. The President of Rwanda? You guessed it, his.

His quest to fill Wikipedia with photos began in 2006 as a cheap hobby using only a point-and-shoot camera he got as a present from his sister. And from the beginning his belief — one that’s bound to stir up some controversy amongst photographers who make their living with their art — has been that “small publishers, artists, authors and educators can’t afford the time or money to hunt down and negotiate with unknown people for affordable images.” So his solution was “to create an extensive body of high resolution stock photography licensed Creative Commons.”

Whether or not you agree with his methods, many blogs and major publications alike owe the man a debt of gratitude for the amount of quality stock photography he’s released into the world, and all for free (we even used one of his photos last July).

But if you’re still confused as to why a man who could be making boatloads of cash with his photography gives it away for free, his answer to a similar question in an interview with GOOD might clear it up:

I care more about experience than money. I was at a party once where someone asked me about my work and she said I must make a lot of cash. When I said I give my photos away to the public, she looked at me like I was a fool. She derisively asked, “Why would anybody do that?” and I replied “What did you do last Tuesday?” She said that she came home from work late and watched Law & Order on her DVR. I said, “Last Tuesday I had a four-hour dinner with Augusten Burroughs, and then I photographed him. I didn’t make any money off of it, but it was a hell of a Tuesday night.” Then she smiled and got what I was about.

Image credits: Photographs by David Shankbone

  • perplexed

    More whining from Pro-photographers that I have seen
    – People learning photography offering TFCD/Paying the model, ruining the livelihood of the pros
    – People bringing high end cameras to sports events, ruining the livelihood of the pros
    -People using relatives/friends to cover events like weddings, ruining the livelihood of the pros
    -Instagram, ruining the livelihood of the pros
    -Higher megapixel cameras, ruining the livelihood of the pros

    and so on..

  • Will WIlkins III

    Bingo! This is his way of acquiring social capitol…it’s not all about the money.
    As for his talent….His celeb photos are boring stock photos of Celebs…nobody is hiring or asking this guy to work for National Geographer magazine. As for money for photogs……most of them hit the wedding circuit and do the other stuff on the side. 

  • Rose M. Welch

     Why not? I give my art away. I don’t want to be burdened with having to live off of my art. I want to work for a living and enjoy my art.

  • lskalstad

    Makes me wonder if most professional photographers have genetic Lineage  similiar to Elton John,   Meow,Scratch

  • Tome

    Yes they can, provided they fall under “editorial” use, which almost all magazines do, with the exception of the ads. CC photos of mine ended up being used by the New York Daily News to illustrate a story. This is the whole point of CC photos. If someone wanted to use it to sell iPhones, that would be different.

  • The Zizzanax

    The best part is, anyone can do what he is doing, given they have a camera, time and the resources to get to places.

  • Luigi Novi

    Untrue. The license under which David uploads his photos do not prohibit commercial use. I release my photos under the same type of license, and I’ve seen them published in books, magazines, etc.