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Dear all,
Every year or so I save a feeder rat from the pet shop and give them a loving home. Sometimes they don't make it. My rat Robin lasted 6 weeks before getting the dreaded 12 hour flu and perished soon after.
Before he died, and while he was enjoying his new life I took a number of photographs of him and posted them on istockphoto.com a photo agency (I am also a photographer)
His photos are displayed in my portfolio below.
http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?action=file&userID=1159680
My photographer name is Ruskov.

Problem is, they are no contacting me and rejecting the photos of poor Robin because I use keywords such as malnutrition, snake, death to describe the feeder rat. I believe these words to be PARAMOUNT in describing a feeder rat and its miserable life so have written a detailed letter in reply.

I would appreciate your comments/suggestions/support/disagreement.

Regards
Russ
Daytona Beach
PS the other rat with cheese in my portfolio is called Curly, a female ex-feeder now 18 months and living a great life!

**************************************************
Correspondence so far

Dear Ruskov,

We regret to inform you that we cannot accept your submission, entitled Baby feeder rat saved from being eaten alive. Image #2 ( http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/2537396/2/istockphoto_2537396_baby_feeder_rat_saved_from_being_eaten_alive_image_2.jpg) for addition to the iStockphoto library for the following reasons: The keywords used for this file do not appear to be relevant to the subject.
**malnutrition, hunger, starvation, starve, death, horrible, snake,

By accurately entering your keywords and keeping terms appropriate, you increase the likelihood of downloads to your files, while also playing a part in the quality of searches to users of the site.

**my reply**
Hi, for your info

this rat recently died from flu caught due to lack of immunity to disease caused by being withdrawn from mothers milk far too early
as it was going to be fed to a snake
(malnutrition, hunger, starvation, starve, death, horrible, snake) which word is not appropriate?
Maybe you don't associate cute and cuddly with animal cruelty and death but it happens all the time.
I could have photographed his corpse (as a number of other contributors have done) at the end of the series
but decided that should be left to the viewers imagination.


it was one of a large series (well 7 or 8) the others were all accepted previously with same keywords

Russ

**Fair but misinformed reply - pleasant sounding lady***

Hi Russell,
I can't say for sure the exact reason the inspector rejected the image, since I am not an inspector myself, but hopefully I can provide some insight into the thinking behind being more stringent with keywords.
The simple fact of what's going on in the image itself, not others that were shot before or after it, is that it is a hand holding a rat. The rat appears to still be very much alive and in good health, although I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best judge of what a healthy rat looks like. :)
A buyer searching for a snake is going to be surprised to say the least when 'snake' results in images of mice. Likewise, a search for 'death' that returns living things is a bit strange as well. The number one complaint we hear from buyers who use the site is that the search is too hard to navigate because it brings back inaccurate results, many of which come from the sort of associative keywording your image was rejected for. For example, search "tiger" and see how many golf images come back simply because there is a famed golfer named Tiger Woods (who, it should be noted, appears in exactly none of the images).
Apologies if you have done so already, but if you haven't read this article it's a good primer on how to keyword appropriately for iStock: http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=227
Feel free to write back if I can help you further.
All the best,
J****


***My long (winded?) and detailed return argument. Did I put the point across well or did I ramble too much?

J****
thanks for taking the time to write back to me - I appreciate the contact. I understand your comments and the reasoning behind people who would be surprised to find a healthy cuddly baby rat appear
when the search is for 'snake' or 'death' for example. This is the reality though. I know istockphoto.com is not a political organization, and it would be wrong if it were abused in that way. However I stand entirely by my keywords, as I believe sincerely they are all entirely relevant. I explain this in my description for each photo.
I assume (simplifying considerably) that there are two main kinds of istockphoto.com buyers
1) Corporate/professional/advertising etc
2) Personal/home based individuals interested in good photos, or enjoy browsing and seeing what the rest of the world is looking at.

Obviously a pet store chain selling a snake would like to portray a photo of the friendly snake wrapping itself around its human owner (not too tightly though)
or display its wonderful colors/marking. That 'other ' business of actually feeding the pet can come later and more quietly.

I believe that the 'interested individual' or buyer of the snake or anyone in fact seeing a snake MUST be made aware that that sweet baby rat displayed in my photos was bred
solely for snake food. It was removed from its mother at 2 weeks (to stunt its growth and keep it small), and will either die within a few weeks from disease (not communicable to snakes so who cares?)
or will be placed live and unknowing in the immediate presence of a predator, with NO chance of survival, and imminent death by crushing the only way out.
(Robin, this featured rat actually died several days ago from a sudden illness due to poor immunity from not being allowed mothers milk after birth - death came within 12 hours - shocking and tragic)

This concept to me is not political or radical. It is the simple truth. Snake = reptile that eats live rats and mice - pet snake must be fed by hand live rats and mice - live rats and mice are bred for this purpose (do people believe the owners catch food themselves?)
-Living conditions of live 'feeder' rats are purely and simply inhumane - they are not fed so they don't grow - they will fight to the death when older and stronger over the scraps that are thrown in their cage.

****How do they grow older you may ask? Well if they are unlucky enough to have cute markings i.e. not plain white - some people feel queasy feeding them to their snakes - so they are rejected and get to die some other wretched death - top level cage in the shop I got the featured rat 'Robin' from was raised to over 6 feet so you could not see the 'colored' misery inside. One brown rat next to a hooded rat, and a golden yellow rat, which had only one eye, the other was hanging from its socket and it was trying to scratch it away so it could move around more easily. (All around 3 months old and labeled 'jumbo' food as opposed to the less palatable 'fully grown mature adult rat') *****

In conclusion, I don't think it is wrong to use keywords that are relevant to certain aspects of the subject. Not all snakes live in cages and eat feeder rats. All feeder rats, however, die in cages eaten by snakes (or worse). My photo was explicitly of a feeder rat, not a snake.

If people are surprised to get a cute baby rat turn up when they search for snake it is only because they have not been fully educated in the subject at hand. My candor should hope to serve this purpose.

Again Jordan thanks for the time you have taken in sending me a reply. I would appreciate being allowed to use my choice of keywords in this case.

A totally separate argument might read: as a US resident artist I claim my constitutional right to free speech, which I am manifesting through my photography. I claim the right to be able to describe my work in my own words and without censorship. As a non-exclusive member of istockphoto.com the company or any other individual did not commission my photographs, so their content and descriptions remain my sole right to define. But that sounds so serious! (Like the fight to retain free speech is itself I guess)

Warmest Regards

Russell Gough
 

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Re: Photo agency deny connection between feeder rats and sna

At the risk of offending you, I must say I agree with the site that would like you to change your key words. You maintain that by using these key words, you are not making a political statement, but you would be wrong.

As the woman pointed out, your picture is of a rat being held in a hand. While you may see a connection with snakes, death, etc., the fact remains that the photograph is not of a snake, death, or starvation. It does not properly frame any of these key words. As an artist, I sometimes use stock photo sites for reference pictures. If I was looking for a picture of a snake and found a picture of a rat, I would be highly annoyed. It is not a snake. It is a rat. Regardless of its condition or the circumstances of its life, it is still a rat and a picture of a rat. Now, were you to obtain pictures of the conditions these rats are kept in, that would be different.

As for your right as a U.S. citizen for freedom of speech, don't take that too far. No one is stopping you from speaking against the treatment of feeder rats, but the constitution does not protect the right to misrepresent yourself or your pictures. If you want to speak against the conditions of feeder rats, it would probably be best to do it in a proper forum, perhaps in your own website, which you can set up for free, or on another site dedicated to speaking against the cruelty of using live feeders for snakes. I think a stock photo site would not be the proper forum for such a protest. I don't know if that photo site is free for you or not, but I do know many photographers use them in an attempt to sell their work, and if the site cannot attract customers by streamlining their search options, then they will eventually be unable to keep the site up. Yes, that is an extreme example, but it is part of the reason, stated by the site administrators, for the rules that they have put forth.

If you wish to exercise your right of free speech, you would need to do it in a forum owned by yourself or the public in general.
 

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Re: Photo agency deny connection between feeder rats and sna

I have no risk of being offended as I wished to hear other views, which is why I posted here in the first place and asked for them.
The issue is over keywords, and their accuracy and relevance in describing a subject.
The photos wre posted innnocently without any attempt at misinformation or confusion, based on my experience with reading other material and its keywords on the agency site.
I am annoyed as anyone else when I can't find what I want when it is diluted with obscure references. More often, I am enlightened by finding a connection with the subject I did not know existed.
Agreed a rat is not a snake. It is not a mouse either. Different animal entirely. Do a search for either and they are used to describe both.
Another question:
is a feeder rat 'snake food'?
Could anyone possibly object to me using those keywords?

RG
 

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Re: Photo agency deny connection between feeder rats and sna

I still feel that it would not be quite appropriate. Even if I did a search for 'snake food' on that site, that picture is entirely too cute to suit my purposes. ;)

I really do understand where you're coming from, but the pictures do appear to deal more with the subject of a cute rat than the fact that they were rescued from death in the jaws of a snake. I submit art pictures on an art site and the same thing applies there. If I draw a picture of a sinister villian and put 'princess' as a keyword, although in my mind, it deals with the princess the villain has captured, unless the princess is actually in that picture, it really misrepresents the picture, because it is not that of a princess. You can explain that the rats were snake food in your explanations, but I think your keywords would not be the place to explain that. Most people will not even make it to your explanation. They'll just skip the picture as not being what they want.
 

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Re: Photo agency deny connection between feeder rats and sna

I agree that the keywords are inappropriate tags for the image. They would be excellent words to put in a description, or on a webpage on the subject. As for your freedom of speech, you are certainly free to publish/sell your photos in whatever manner you desire. But that does not mean publishers such as this one are in any way obligated to publish/sell your photos. If you want to work with them, you play by their rules or you find (or create) another company.
 

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Re: Photo agency deny connection between feeder rats and sna

I think i would have to side with the administrators on this one. Where as i certainly understand your line of reason, rules are rules. If you wish to post on their site, you must follow their rules. Perhaps a search for a new site would be in order?

Your keywords would certainly fit for the history of the photo's subject, but in my humble opinion, the keywords do not fit the photo itself.
 
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