Bonsai Ethics & Livelihood 5/15/17


I think this magnificent tree is a Japanese beech. It's from Bonsaimania. All it says is: La foto de este bonsái pertenece al álbum de Jordi Escaler (The photo belongs to Jordi Escaler's album). As far as I know, neither Bonsaimania or Jordi Escaler are Japanese, yet anyone who knows about Japanese bonsai will readily recognize this as almost certainly Japanese.(whoops - according to Aleksander Dechnik Vázquez this tree is a Carpinus Turczaninovii (Korean hornbeam), that won the award of merit at Noelanders Trophy XIII, and is owned by Germán Gómez Soler - now my only defense is a guess that the tree originally came from Japan). When I tried to follow the link provided, 'content unavailable' came up. When I searched Jordi Escaler bonsai, I struck out.

Yesterday we posted about attribution (or lack of it) and promised we’d continue the discussion today. So here it is… some new thoughts on the topic and some old thoughts as well (from a 2010 post titled, The Attribution Question).

Social media is full of unattributed photos of bonsai. Often, what appears to be attribution is just a mention of where the photo was found. But as often as not, this source is not the artist or the photographer, but simply someone else who found the photo somewhere, liked it and put it up.

Continued below…

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I don’t know too much about the limits of copyright laws and how they pertain to posting photos online (I do know that you can challenge a post that violates copyright on facebook)… however, would you like to see one of your trees posted by John Doe with a discussion of how great John’s bonsai is?

Seeing your bonsai attributed to someone else can’t make you happy, but beyond that, wouldn’t it be helpful to simply know who the artist is? To me this seems like a basic piece of information that might prove useful… you could look up the artist and see what else they’re up too. Or you might want to discuss the tree with the artist, or even see about purchasing one of their trees.

This brings us to the question of livelihood. There are an increasing number of people who make their living off selling their bonsai as well as teaching, doing demos and writing about bonsai. Obviously, the more attribution the better for these artists, teachers and authors. After all, making a living at art isn’t that easy. And having potential customers think that your art belongs to someone else, or simply not knowing that a tree belongs to you, can’t help.


I cropped and blew up the photo above because I wanted a closer look at the details. But the fuzzy result is questionable and may violate the integrity the of the photographer's work. Is this another ethical issue?

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