How It Feels To See Your Photo Being Used Around The World Uncontrollably

Not everyday do you get a chance to take a photo that can make a difference in someone's life, or in my case help bring down governments. At age 21 I took a self portrait of myself screaming and posted it online and over the past few years that image has been stolen and used around the world thousands of times. We already shared the full story here on Fstoppers, but we never showed how wide-spread the photo went and how much it was used around the world. This video will show you just some of the different (unauthorized) uses.

'The Stolen Scream is a rare case of global intellectual property theft, and is one of the most used images in recent decades. It has been used all around the world and for many different uses - from book covers to revolution signs. Many people discuss the legal side of the story (and it makes for a lot of interesting debates), but when I watch something like the video above, it makes the legal issues become a secondary thought.

fstoppers-scream-gritar-grito-screaming-yell-anger-face

The image has become so widespread that it became much bigger than any "average" stolen shot. Instead of looking at it as a plain theft and just thinking about all the money I lost, or could potentially earn in the future, I'd rather focus on the positive side of the story. I see how it touched people from all around the world, including people who see me as an enemy (ie: Israeli) in places I'm not allowed to visit. I see how it's being used by people who want change in their lives, how people see it as a symbol for their own freedom. I see how it affects politics and politicians in countries I never visited before (and probably will never be able to visit in the future). I see how people use my face/photo to express their feelings - it could be anger, sadness, and sometimes happiness.

For me, seeing all these different uses is much bigger than another check in the bank. It's incredible, it's crazy, it's amazing, but especially weird. Every day I find myself in a different country being used for a different cause, which is something i'll never be able to do with any other photo I'll take in my lifetime. So for this specific photo, I rather enjoy the story (and it effects) than suffer from the thoughts of money.

Sometimes the value of an image can not be measured by the amount of money it sells for. The video above proves it.

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18 Comments

i once farted.. look what it did to the climate.....

Since it looks like the comment section on this article might fill up with a-holes who would choose snark over critique, let me be the a-hole who has something constructive to say.

First of all, congratulations on being able to turn this situation to your advantage, not the least of which is this contributor gig on Fstoppers. You have gone onto bigger and better things. Looking at your portfolio, you have far more interesting photos than this one. You have photographed celebrities, musicians, and models, and quite well. Why aren't you writing about those experiences?

I understand that this incident defines the beginning of your career, but should it define your entire career? I would even venture to say that you should abandon it in order to move on. Your scream image is the photo of an immature photographer, a kid playing around with his camera. I would even say that it isn't a particularly good photo, that the image wasn't so much "stolen" as it was given value— "made", if you will— by its appropriation by the youth culture and the changes they made to it (getting rid of the wall, upping the contrast, changing the form to graffiti, etc.).

In short, my unsolicited advice is: it's been at least five years— a lifetime for a commercial photographer, especially at the beginning of your career— and it's time to move on. You are better than that image now. Let it be a footnote to an outstanding photographic career rather than its defining moment. The "fame" you got from this situation gave you access to a whole world of professional photographers. Use it. Ask for help from the people you know (Fstoppers' ranks are filled with great photographers who know how to shape their careers) to rework your portfolio to better highlight your photos. And spend your time looking at what is next instead of looking back.

Take it for what it's worth, but I cringed reading this article. It just seems like someone trying to extend the life of a past glory. And you probably don't even need it.

Noam Galai's picture

I totally agree this is not my best work quality/subject-wise. And I totally agree with a lot of what you said. My intention wasnt to extend the life of the story, but to point out the that a value of an image is not always measured by $$ or contracts.
This is a photo with a life of its own. Professionally/personally, i moved on many years ago... but seeing the uses of that one image is still interesting and unique :)
Thanks for all the constructive comments and thoughts. Again, I totally agree with most of what you just said

Fair enough. But you'll have to forgive that this is my perception. I've followed Fstoppers for a while, and the only things you post about your own work/experience, as far as I can remember, are about this image.

Noam Galai's picture

Fair point, I just don't like talking about myself to be honest. I did post few random personal work posts (how I created the 9/11 shot for example), but in general i rather talk about others. This specific post was was done just because the video is kind of unique and different.. thought people might find it interesting.
But thanks pointing this out... ill try to show some different things in the future

James Nedresky's picture

What inspired you to make this image in the first place? Was it part of a series or story?

Noam Galai's picture

it's an idea i had in mind for many years but never knew how to execute it.. and one day i was bored and decided it's time to try. Not a part of any series or a story

Alejandro Schott's picture

"You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life."
Joan Miro

I think that at least when it comes to large corporations that made money off this image, I would pursue compensation. Unlike individuals that typically don't know better, corporations are notorious for just making grabs at things, making insane amounts of money from it, and not compensating the originator. If it's possible in any way, I would do that.

The rest of it is a rather fascinating phenomenon.

I have to disagree with you on the image being as powerful as you believe it is. It is not shaping politics and politicians around the world. Rather, it's one of the many tools being used by such. Ask any one of the people who you claim have been affected by your photograph what the major things that helped them through whatever struggle they were going through, and no one is going to say "that photograph of the guy yelling". I've seen this downfall in a lot of amateurs I've mentored of the years: the belief that our images have more importance, power, or reach than they really do. Sadly, when you think of it, the vast majority of our images are replaceable with others just like it.

That said, you've been extremely lucky that this took off, and I congratulate you on the exposure this has given you. Only a few of us will ever win that "photographic lottery", so to speak. Hopefully you have taken advantage of those great opportunities! At the very least, I applaud your ability to look at the positives rather than the negatives.

JOE DDD (Daniel Dalin Drechsler)'s picture

Noam, I think your photo is doing great things. INSPIRING people to do what they normally would not have done.
THAT is amazing!
I do hope you find it within yourself to go after the larger companies that used your photo, and get them to compensate you.
It may take years, but you earned it.
:)

You are fooling yourself. The image could still be used, legally licensed for use and all would be well. You only encourage theft with what you are doing.

I had never seen that picture before. Thanks for posting it. I will use it at my protest against people video recording vertically with their Iphones. He obviously stole the pose from Batboy.

It's one thing to give an image to the world, so to speak. But I would not be ok with my photo being on book covers and used for commercial use. It isn't about money as much as controlling how it is used.

Shannon Wimberly's picture

i would say, make money with other photos and just say "Cool!" on this one..... it is a phenomenon of epic proportions to say the least, and you are its originator.... chalk that up for a unique experience not many have shared....

Thanks for devaluing us AGAIN! Next time someone is asking me to work for free, I'll refer them to you.

Funny I'm about to watch an online class called WORTH IT: NEGOTIATION FOR CREATIVES on CreativeLive wich addresses this characteristic of many artists who think the use of their art is payment enough and of course they end up dying poor like many others in the history of human kind. Although your point is loable.

You should be praised rather than made to feel bad as some on here are doing. You are not taking anything away from them. The almighty dollar is not and never will be able to portray what your photo has done. Too many people these days are so far into their own self obsession they cannot look at the larger picture. I have very recently been accused of Photo theft and it is something that I personally would never do. People who do not know me, have never met me and quite frankly, have not taken better photos than myself, have seen fit to post mky name all over the Internet calling me a thief, liar and worse. None of them including the Lady who's picture I have supposedly stolen, have had the decency or the Moral s to accept my description of what may have happened if indeed I actually do have a photo that is not my own. I find people today are very keen to put others down but not so keen to do it face to face. You, have shown incredible decency here and I hope you don't let those who think everything must have a Dollar value take you from the Path you have chosen. You cannot take your money with you when you leave this Earth but that Photo will remain and unlike those who worship the Dollar, you will not be forgotten. Good luck and my very best wishes to you. You are a shining light in what is fast becoming a very, dark World.