A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on covers and the fine art of finding legal images to repurpose for them. So what do you do, if you need pictures for a blog, website, or cover and want to avoid getting sued? Shutterstock or the equivalent makes sense for a cover, but most indie writers can’t afford a subscription just to keep pictures flowing onto their blog.
In addition to some emerging solutions, like the new WANA Commons (check out Kristen Lamb’s blog for that one) and the invaluable Wikimedia Commons, a little digging reveals quite a few institutions that are happy to let you use their images in return for no more than an acknowledgment.
I’ll address most of these in a second post. Today I want to concentrate on the site I always check first, the absolute top of the tree for low-budget publishers: the U.S. Library of Congress, which allows you to use any image, even in print, so long as you credit the library (“Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress” will do). The nation’s attic, as it is called, has over 1 million digital images from all over the world classified into seventy or so collections of pictures and photographs, as well as a separate collection of audio files (called the National Jukebox). You can find the list of print and photograph collections at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/.
The Library of Congress has collections of, among other things:
- African American photographs assembled for the Paris Exposition of 1900, as well as the separate Gladstone Collection of African American photographs;
- Ansel Adams’ photographs of the World War II internment camp at Manzanar;
- architecture, design, and engineering drawings;
- baseball cards;
- the Brumfield Collection (1,100 photographs of classic Russian architecture);
- caricatures and cartoons (American and British);
- Civil War (U.S.) prints;
- photographs from the Crimean War, 1853–56;
- the full archive of the Detroit Publishing Company;
- drawings of many varieties;
- fine prints, including a set of Japanese prints, pre-1915;
- the Korab Collection (800 photographs of Eero Saarinen’s buildings);
- the Lomax Collection (rural United States);
- the Matson Collection (Middle East, 1878–1946);
- panoramic photographs;
- photographs from the Ottoman Empire, 1880–1893, showing its modernization;
- posters associated with the performing arts, graphic arts, Spanish Civil War, World War I, and more;
- Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii’s original color (not colorized!) photographs of the Russian Empire, including pictures of the royal family, ca. 1915; and
- negatives showing the Wright brothers flying their plane.
You can find additional images at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/ and http://www.loc.gov/folklife/onlinecollections.html. The Folklife Collection includes documents, songs, and interviews; the Exhibits have documents as well as pictures. The Library of Congress also hosts international collections, the American History and Culture collection (maps, documents), the Performing Arts Collection, THOMAS (the searchable database of bills, Congressional Record, etc.), the Historic Newspapers Collection, the digitized first-person stories in the Veterans History Collection, and more. For those, go to http://www.loc.gov and click on Digital Collections.
New collections are added frequently. And everything is available to the public. These are your tax dollars at work. So feel free to use them, because they are a precious resource, and their continued existence, in effect, depends on people like us.