Saturday, February 05, 2011

Yesterday's events

Above is a copy of the poster I was commissioned to created by Katherine Sonntag, prior to her return to New Zealand. This was the third poster I had drafted for her for distribution throughout the West of Scotland division of the Salvation Army.

All three posters have attribution to me and all were done "pro bono" as a means to help a sister out and gain Photoshop experience (please remember I'm a business analyst by training, not a graphic designer).

I took the main picture (its Alex Ramsay's Cornet) and received the picture of the Irish Youth Band from Katherine.

The poster had journeyed through various drafts and approvals from certain members of staff within the Divisional Headquarters (DHQ) prior to its finalisation. Above is what I considered to be a final copy.

060211_ my poster in situ

It would appear not everyone believes in credit where credit is due?!

That is until Olly sent me through the above picture. You should be able to see the fact that my attribution has been defaced with black marker pen.

Upon hearing this, I immediately contacted the person responsible for approving the poster in DHQ to understand if this was something they were familiar with... so I could eliminate whether it was an action sanction by them or it was vandalism within the Corps.

I received the following response:
"Yes I took the decision because as far as I am aware Chris asked you to do it. We never send material out with the persons credit on it we usually do our own."
The response then goes on to ask whether or not I wish the poster to be removed.

The Chris in question is my dear friend Chris Shanks who leads the West of Scotland Youth Band. Whilst Chris had been involved in the design, it was Katherine who had commissioned the work. Not once was I informed by anyone that attributing design credit was an issue. This includes the number of redrafts the poster went through.

I then responded as follows:

"Yes, I am offended by your actions.

Before I continue, please let me explain the context, as I see it:

First off, the poster was created for Katherine Sonntag and Chris Shanks, which by inference, means it was created for DHQ.

Secondly, you have been party to at least one, if not more, reviews of the poster and have had, at these points, the opportunity to state DHQ's policy of not attributing credit for work undertaken. You did not use any of these opportunities to approach me &  request the removal of my name.

Now, my offence comes not because of the fact you have erased my attribution to the work I have undertaken for you (for free, may I add?) but the manner in which you removed my name.

Your approach can be best described as cowardly & Machiavellian. You were given opportunity to request my name to be removed and didn't take it, resorting instead to defacing my work by blanking out my name with black marker pen.

Did I not, at the very least, deserve notification of this action so I wasn't faced with the shock of seeing it firsthand on the notice board at Bellshill? Instead, I faced the shock of seeing my work defaced in this manner, without explanation.

If I hadn't asked, I would have never known. This is a ridiculous situation to be in, especially from a Christian organisation.

The crazy thing is I would have probably acquiesced to your request... if you had asked me and explained your reasoning.

As for the poster, I would prefer you kept it in situ as I think destroying it would be a waste of resources and, as such, poor stewardship on the part of DHQ.

However, please be aware that I will not do any further pro bono work for you, nor will I volunteer for any divisional activities (I will honour my speaking engagement in March).

In addition, my membership of the Salvation Army in Bellshill is in question because I am struggling to serve an organisation that lacks transparency and even basic levels of accountability to the people it is meant to serve."

The reason I have published this is because I want to be completely transparent with all my family and friends... who have shown a level of support and encouragement that has far exceeded my wildest dreams. I want everyone to know the truth and I do not want any void that could be used to propagate gossip or half-truths.

Personally, I don't think it is too much to ask to be credited for work done. I never sought any other compensation. I didn't want to... my work was "for the public good" (pro bono publico) to help out a mate and to help out the organisation to which I identified with.

That said... my point is not that my name has been removed... I'm not that bigheaded to be offended by that. As I said in my response, if they had asked me to remove my credit, I would have probably acquiesced.

My point is the way it was done... with such unscrupulous cunning and lack of consideration for my feelings. This is what has offended me. Did they really think I am myopic enough not to notice their vandalism?

So far... the only response I have received is:
"I acknowledge receipt of your e mail and your comments."

I have made my point and, for me, the situation is settled. I would love an apology and to continue to contribute to the work of the Salvation Army in the West of Scotland... but this seems impossible now. If my poster is taken down and another one replaces it then be assured this wasn't by my request. I wouldn't waste resources like that.

For those of you who have followed my faith journey of late... will know I have not be happy nor settled in the Salvation Army for a while now. I am wondering if this is the final straw?

My sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me in the last day or so. I do not take your love and respect for granted... at all. Please be assured that I will not do anything rash and will seek God's guidance for my life.



grahamW said...

I am the parent of one of the young people in the Ireland Youth Band and i wanted to assure you of my abhorance at how you have been treated. This is nothing more that small minded petty meddling by people who are unaware of the size of our God. I am a salvationist of over 35 years and I love my movement yet i find such action indicative of an organisation that still thinks its 35 years ago.
Be strong in the knowledge that there are some boring of farts in salvation Army uniform like me who support your approach and i believe our future is in your hands = dont let them get you down

weareallghosts said...

Thank you Graham... I appreciate your comment & your assurance. Tx

caldjr said...

A very balanced letter Thomas. And a suitably weak reply from DHQ. I really don't know what's happening to the UK Salvation Army. If its any assurance pal, you are not alone in your struggles. I don't have any words of wisdom to share but I stand with you brother. Keep strong.

Angus Mathie said...

I think the poster you produced was an excellent one.

It is sad that for want of a phone call, for example, prior to any action being taken, the people of God are left upset and demotivated. Satan is the only one who wins is situations like this one. It is doubly sad when no reconciliation is initiated.

Our prayers will be that you are in the centre of His will for your lives and that He is honoured in the exercise of the gifts He has given.

Jonathan Blundell said...

Thanks for the explanation. It was what I gathered from your Facebook page but didn't want to assume or jump to any conclusions.

I can understand an organization like the SA not giving attribution to folks for their creative works.

I don't know that we've ever given any specific attribution to any promotional materials we've ever used in any of our communities of faith - but at times, there may be recognition from "the stage" when a work is shared with all.

However, as you said, if people have had an opportunity to proof a work and never made mention of the attribution and then come along and mark out the attribution with a marker - it definitely comes across as an organization (or individual) purposely making it personal against the creator.

If I were in your shoes I would very likely take offense and wonder who I had upset that they wanted to be sure my name was not associated with the organization, the event or the work. The marker just makes it feel like a personal attack, where as saying something to begin with about a policy makes it far more understandable.

I also understand your continued frustrations with your faith community and hope that while this may lead you away from your current community, it draws you into a new vibrant community where your talents, strengths and abilities are recognized and celebrated.

Finally one familiar verse also comes to mind in all of this as well...

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. (phil 2:3)

I believe your response was worthy of this verse and perhaps it will encourage you in the future as you seek to follow the Way.

Much love brother! Shalom!

Paula said...

The organized church has never been kind to me in any artistic endeavor I've tried to bless it with. My experience in various organized churches is something like this: I am expected to produce quality art for free, and they value it as if it was worthless, either not using it at all or changing it without my permission. Never mind the hours of prayer and hard work to produce the song/dance/painting/whatever.

Your letter was good and fair, honest and open. Some people, much to the shock of others, actually attempt to make a living from their art. To not ascribe credit is removing a valuable door to more work. It's not about pride. It's about functioning effectively with the giftings God has given you. My husband has had photographs he took used without permission or credit so many times. It hurts his attempts to get real photographic work!

I'm sorry you are having to go through this. I am glad God loves us artists and has a place for us in his body. I just wish the rest of the body would realize that and quit picking at us as if we were an unsightly mole or something.

weareallghosts said...

I am grateful to have friends like you who support me in the manner you do. I am accountable to you & am glad you see my response as fair & valid. Thank you. It's great to know we are not alone. Tx

Anonymous said...

Hey Thomas,

I've been away for the weekend and just read your post. Although what happened to you really saddens me, I'm really not that surprised. The way you have chosen to deal with it demonstrates the strength of your Christian character and passion. Hopefully at least an apology will come your way. The response so far from DHQ is weak indeed. If you'd like to talk sometime, I'm on skype. Stay strong, brother.

Blessings, William

(Dan - unfortunately, it's not just the UK Army)

Angus Mathie said...

I am seriously impressed and encouraged with the sincerity and quality of the responses here. Thomas has already thanked you but I want to do so as well. God bless you all.

Unknown said...


I have taken my time to respond to this as I wanted to think about what to say before rushing in and ranting. I do not recognise the organisation I was born into. I am truly horrified at the internal politics, red tape and other such bureaucracy that seem to have overtaken the main mission of the Army, not only at headquarters level but at corps level as well. The actions of DHQ in this case are very crass and un-Christianlike. As you already said, they had plenty of time to explain to you that they would be unable to credit you on the poster. Have they bothered to explain why they didn't tell you sooner? If not, why not? I have had my fill myself of being shabbily treated by people who profess to be Christians then seem to go out of their way to prove otherwise. Rest assured you are not alone in feeling as you do. I just try to separate the genuine people and focus on them rather than let the others get me down - a very difficult thing to do but knowing you are not alone is a big help. Take care of you and your family. With you all the way on this! X


Related Posts with Thumbnails