Penelope Umbrico: Everyone’s Photos Any License

If the moon is the most widely watched, single object in our collective field of vision, it is one of the most popular photographic subjects, as well. To make Everyone’s Photos Any License, 2015–2016, Penelope Umbrico–whose works often begin with explorations of specific image category types online–searched Flickr for detailed images of the full moon. Because it requires equipment far more sophisticated than a phone camera to make one, Umbrico was quite surprised to find, as she described it, “1,146,034 nearly identical, technically proficient images.” But most surprising to her, given the number of similar images, was that most had an ‘All Rights Reserved’ license notice attached. Fascinated by what she encountered and wanting to create a wall-sized installation from these lunar images, Umbrico reached out to 654 photographers, asking each for permission to include their image in her project and promising to pay a proportionate fee of her commission should the work be sold. Many agreed and she replaced images by those who refused or didn’t respond with similar Creative Commons licensed images. The graphically striking and conceptually rich work Umbrico produced—which is accompanied by a map and attribution list providing pertinent personal and technical data, as well as licensing term, for every image included—speaks to some of our singular and shared fascinations, vision, and goals when it comes to both science and photography alike.