I grabbed this from VegNews, who may have gotten it from a stock photo site, and it might not be vegan. Just putting it all out there.
Guys. Didya hear? VegNews has been using stock photos of non-vegan food on their site and in their magazine as if they were vegan photos snapped by the mag’s staffers, QuarryGirl pointed out yesterday. Someone, start a riot! No, wait. Actually, before you cancel your subscription and torch their offices, let’s think about this.
Let me start by saying that if you get their newsletter, read their magazine, or visit their website, you have to know that these are stock photos. Case in point, yesterday’s newsletter recipe for Vegan Peanut Sauce with Spinach & Tomatoes includes this photo of peanuts next to a jar of peanut butter that is so obviously not the recipe. (Side-ish note: I’ve always been a little frustrated by their recipe photos for this reason: I have no clue what this thing is supposed to look like when it’s done because they sent me this ridiculously untelling stock photo.)
And if you know they’re using stock photos and you gave it any thought, you’d probably conclude that these can’t all be vegan stock photos. I mean, when was the last time you bumped into a vegan stock photo site? If you have, please tell me, because I might like to use it.
Then, you little detective, you, maybe you flip through your other magazines because, hey, VegNews can’t be the only publication that uses stock photos, and there, more stock photos. As Erik Marcus points out on Vegan.com, pretty much every magazine uses stock photos here and there as a matter of practicality.
Thing is, VegNews doesn’t say, anywhere, ever, that they’re using stock photos, and yet we have to assume they wanted us to think this was vegan food, in some cases, that they photographed. Which makes you feel a little deceived, doesn’t it? It wasn’t just one time, either; as bloggers I think we’ve all made the mistake of forgetting to credit someone’s Flickr photo, YouTube video, or whatever, and then one of your co-bloggers gently reminds you and you fix it and you try not to do it again. But VN has done this repeatedly. And as QuarryGirl commenter kristin, who says she was a short-time copy editor at VN, notes, she brought the meaty photo problem to their attention when she worked there, and they ignored it.
So you have two problems: that VN used stock photos in a misleading way, and that said photos depict non-vegan products. And then a third, worse problem: they seem to be covering it up. If they were fine with letting their readers know that many, many of their images come from the internet and not a staffer’s camera, they’d credit the source of each image they used. And now, as commenters on their website are pointing out that their magazine photos are actually of dead animals, VN is, uh, deleting their comments. And THEN they issue this response, which doesn’t address that whole lying and deception thing. Why?
It’s too nice outside for me to sit around guessing, so let’s just move forward. What should we expect from VegNews today? I think VN needs to:
- Make a statement on their front page about their use of stock photos: What was their policy on image use and content up to now?
- Tell us, why are they deleting comments?
- Promise to credit all images they use on their site in the future and clearly explain their policy going forward.
- Use only real, first-hand photos for recipes. Recipes should come alongside a photo of the process or finished food, not a stock photo.
- And while they’re getting their act together, why not also put out a call for photographers? I’m sure some aspiring vegan food photographer would love to snap shots for them on a regular basis, am I right, you guys? Somebody?
But I don’t think we can expect them to take their site down and remove every stock photo they’ve used, as Marcus suggests, nor should we give back our VegNews awards or unsubscribe from their magazine, as QuarryGirl has done (unless we bought the magazine strictly for its awesomely generic photography).
Like many of you guys, I’ve been enjoying VN for years, and, actually, least of all for the recipes. I find many of the stories fascinating, love the vegan jobs section, get pumped for awards season, learn about vegan products I hadn’t known of, and am glad there’s a vegan magazine out there.
Let’s help our cause and our friends at VegNews by assuming they mean no harm and will change, or at least make transparent, their policies on photography. And let’s direct them to some awesome vegan photographers — I know you’re out there!