View Full Version : WWII images--need advise on marketing

13-Jul-2014, 18:42
Many years ago, I bought a studio from the estate of the owner. Part of the purchase was a box of many dozen negatives from WWII at his various duty and convalescent stations, such as the ones shown here. To my knowledge, he served only in the Pacific theater (I think Iwo Jima) and was hospitalized in Hawaii after a wound. There are also many of what appears to be training that may have been either Hawaii or California locations.

So far, I have not been able to navigate the armed forces web site to get his military records even though that is supposed to be public domain for deceased military personal.

I am getting ready to have all of them scanned with the idea of marketing the images either as the lot of negatives, or as individual prints. I have no experience in anything similar to this so I would greatly appreciate any advice that anyone can offer.

Many thanks! Tim

13-Jul-2014, 18:46
I don't know how to market them, but I'd probably print some of the best myself. If you sell them on say, ebay, they may never be seen as prints again.

These two, even the double exposure, are fantastic. Whoever he was, he knew something about art.

Randy Moe
13-Jul-2014, 18:57
Sell prints, keep the negatives.

Watch for thieves reselling scans on EBay and act on them.

The samples are very cool and very salable. Our WWII fathers and mothers are nearly all gone and these type image will be interesting to many.

13-Jul-2014, 19:22
What is your end goal? There are many ways to "market" something. But without a specific goal or LOTS of money to "market" success can be very difficult.

13-Jul-2014, 20:55
Scott, one goal is of course income. Another is to recognize that they are both artistic and historical documents that may have a real audience in both worlds. Marketing funds are very limited, one reason for my asking for advice.

13-Jul-2014, 21:10
Goamules and Randy: I agree about the strength of these images. There are many more that are tied to camp life, hospital life, and other facets of the military during the war, but interestingly, not much combat. This guy's work with a camera reminds me a bit of Bill Mauldin's memorable work as a cartoonist in the European theater with his remarkable Willy and Joe characters. He was a skilled skilled studio photographer in later life after the war ended, but I know nothing of his photographic training before the war. Sure had a great eye!

Here is another in the series. Apparently the nurses must have been rather friendly and relaxed on their off days. I'd love to know the story about how he got invited along for their skinny dip. AS to the "double exposure" for me it is dramatically evocative of a last patrol of those who did not survive battle, a "Ghost Patrol".

mathieu Bauwens
13-Jul-2014, 22:48
Do prints !

14-Jul-2014, 04:46
Personally, I would find a university library who was willing to curate them properly. Print negatives for yourself and scan them as a complete archive and give that archive to a university library. A library might also have the resources to scan them for you with the proviso that you receive the negatives back and scanned copies of the negatives. A library should also have the resources to archive the negatives properly so they will survive and make the images available to the public.

Jim Jones
14-Jul-2014, 04:58
Consider copyright law when marketing them.

14-Jul-2014, 05:18
Apparently the nurses must have been rather friendly and relaxed on their off days.

He might have been a she.

14-Jul-2014, 05:25
I think the potential financial gain from selling these would be outweighed by potential copyright questions (as noted by Jim Jones) as well as fighting with image thieves (as noted by Randy Moe), so I recommend giving them to a university or military library (as noted by Jbenedict). You might see what kind of questions/response you get from an image bank service about selling the images to them, as a precursor of what you might be up against.

14-Jul-2014, 06:34
You can research it to be sure, but I believe photographs taken by a person while in the military are in the Public Domain. I.E. not copyrighted.

US code, Title 17, Chapt 1, 105

14-Jul-2014, 06:40
You can research it to be sure, but I believe photographs taken by a person while in the military are in the Public Domain. I.E. not copyrighted.

I don't think it's that simple. If the photos were taken by a military photographer (whether or not they were "on duty" at the time) then the photos belong to the U.S. Government. If they were not taken by a military photographer, then it is a different story, however I would not be surprised if someone raised a challenge if they recognize "Grandpa" or "Grandma" in one of the shots...

The copyright law also describes "fair use" of audio visual media, however that is different from someone selling images for a profit.

As a former military photographer myself, I would have a problem if someone "found" one of my photos and then made a profit by selling it, although I do not know what the legal ramifications would be.

Anyway, I'm not a lawyer and don't play one on TV. Looks like he could do what ever he wants with them...

14-Jul-2014, 06:43
That's the interesting part; when you are in the military, you ARE the US Government, technically. Look at all the WWII archives websites, the hundreds of WWII photos being sold on ebay (quick search shows 24,000 being sold lately), etc. That is not fair use, that's commercial. And no one is sweating it.

I don't want to scare the OP off, I want him to research it properly and do what he wants if it's oK. Which it appears to be to me. Copyright assigned ownership for a finite time and barring unusual circumstances, lasted for a maximum of 75 years for items created and published before the 1976 revision of the copyright law.

14-Jul-2014, 06:54
Here is an example. A historic US Navy site has scrapbooks of several sailors, full of pictures they took in Tahiti, and other ports of call.

Their site reads this (as do most archives, WWII history books, etc): "Public Domain - To the best of our knowledge, all images referenced in the Online Library are in the Public Domain. They can be used by anyone, for any purpose, without obtaining our permission and without payment of usage fees."

14-Jul-2014, 06:55
I guess if the negatives were purchased from the estate of the photographer, a reasonable person could assume that the purchaser would then own the rights to the negatives and could therefor use them for what ever purposes he/she chose...but that's what a reasonable person could assume. Copyright laws may not be so reasonable.

14-Jul-2014, 09:03
I purchased the estate/studio in 1975. The purchase agreement included full rights to all negatives in the studio files which is where these were found. I was able to sell a good many of the original negative files and prints to either the original subjects, or just people in town who were interested in local history.

That original sales document is long gone and I am the only survivor of the sale since both the widow and the attorney are deceased. There are a couple of surviving children of that marriage, but they had absolutely nothing to do with the sale of the estate and contents.

I do intend to research the copyright issue further as well as continue to research the military records of this photographer so that I can try to more closely pin down the areas where some of these images were taken. AS of now, I have no information about him having been a military photographer, but rather that he was simply a US Marine who happened to shoot lots of photos of his experiences during the war.

Many thanks to those who have contributed answers and suggestions, and please keep them coming.


14-Jul-2014, 21:51
I'd be interested to know what you do. I have hundreds of negative my father shot in the Pacific (mostly New Guinea) in WWII, though most are rather mundane in the artistic sense but interesting subject-wise.

Keith Fleming
17-Jul-2014, 16:19
There may be an indirect way to benefit financially from that collection--but I have to admit here I am writing as a former civilian historian for the USMC. Collections such as this can be donated to the Marine Corps (or other military service) and the value deducted from the donor's tax return. The requirement is that the donor get the collection professionally appraised--and the military service cannot provide that service. It also would be prudent to consult a CPA on this before donating.

The Marines have the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia (outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base), and the Marine Corps University (on board Quantico) has a research center where such collections are stored for research purposes. The research center may also be able to give you some information about the original photographer--for example, there are annual lineal lists of officers and there are casualty cards on those wounded during the war. It's one of those places where the more you look, the more you find.