Anna Hergert, Art & Design

A Word About Ethics: Photographing Quilt Shows and Judging

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 2013 quilt show season is in full swing and recently an interesting topic of discussion was initiated among my friends. The issue at hand is whether to bring your camera to a quilt show and click away without inhibition or simply leave it at home.

I was interested in listening as it brought back a couple of personal scenarios where my work was on exhibit. One of these venues allowed photography, the other had signs posted that photography was not encouraged. In each venue I witnessed a particular visitor spending at least 15 minutes “glued” to the piece, point and shoot camera firmly in hand, inches from the fabric and embellishments and clicking away to their heart’s content. The first time this happened (at my fist solo exhibition in 2005 – photography was not allowed) I was very timid, moved closer and smiled to draw attention to the sign close to the quilt. During the more recent scenario I was more forthright, approached the piece and the person oblivious to anyone else around. I said “hello” with a smile, as we all know that a smile on one’s face will change the tone to non-threatening. It must have worked, the non-threatening part… I received no response. I dug deeper to gather more courage and said “I am the maker of the quilt. If you have any questions about techniques or materials, feel free to ask me.” The photographer turned just enough to look at me out of one eye, a little annoyed that I broke her concentration, whispered “It’s just beautiful…” and turned her full attention back to documenting every square inch of the work.

I have to be honest, I was a little taken aback. Don’t get me wrong, I have my work posted on my website, anyone can log in and download them. I also don’t oppose photography in general, but I do object to someone singling out one work and attempting to document every detail.

On the other hand I am comforted by the thought that each person will use her images for personal use only – or are they? I wonder how many visitors to quilt shows are so excited about innovative and traditional quilts that they capture countless images, go home and excitedly post all of them to their Facebook page,  Pintrest board or their blog without providing any credit to the quilt maker? Let’s all examine our past history and question our sharing practices. Have you taken unobstructed pictures of full quilts and details in the past? Did you also capture the label for future reference and to provide credit to the maker?

I am not saying that taking pictures at quilt shows where photography is allowed should be stopped. But please, start looking at who made the work that has captured your attention. The images I posted today were taken at a quilt show I judged in Winnipeg, MB in April 2012. I have images of unobstructed quilts, complete with a shot of each label for future reference. I am sure you noticed that I posted images only of those quilts that have people in front and their faces are not easily recognizable. To post anyone’s image on line the photographer must have at least verbal permission!

Let’s move on to another possibility that occurred to me: A friend asked me why I judge quilts and why I went for the CQA/ACC Quilt Judge Certification in 2009. For me it was a matter of adding professional credentials to my CV, obtain more knowledge and gain valuable experience. My friend understood this and wondered if I get to take pictures of each quilt for my own reference in the future, or to maybe upload to my blog sharing what I judged.

This raised some red flags for me as I never even thought about such a scenario. Here is the truth: Judging is a very time and energy consuming activity. As a judge there is often no more time than 4 or 5 minutes to assess a quilt visually and physically inspecting outstanding technical achievements or possibly deficiencies, all the while formulating and dictating constructive feedback to the maker for a scribe to add to the entry form. Now imagine this for 100 to 200 entries… At what point would I be able to set up my camera for a picture?

My friend, who is much more forward thinking than I am pointed out that as a judge I would have time for a walk-through of the show before it opens to the public. How true, however, I responded that I have no right to photograph anyone’s work without a signed waiver/permission slip.

She didn’t want to give up, covering all the bases with her last inquiry: “But, it would be great to post images from a quilt show you judged on your blog or website for future judging stints!”

I had never even considered this option – and that is not because I don’t know how to promote and line up future judging opportunities. For the first time ever I paused and reconsidered. I was a little speechless but soon found the words I needed for my response:

“Taking pictures of quilts I have judged does not entitle me to post them on the internet to further my personal career! As a professional, certified quilt judge it does not matter how many beautifully executed quilts I have judged. I assess each quilt individually. I stay in the moment and do my best in formulating constructive critiques. This practice is the best calling card one can acquire. Quilt guilds talk among each other, organizers will pass on names of professional judges that have met and exceeded their expectations. My camera does not tag along on judging day. If I have the honor of staying on, I seek out the maker, ask them to pose with their quilt and ensure that I have their full name, contact info and explicit permission just in case I want to use the image in a future blog post. I still email before using the image to ensure the quilter has not changed her mind about granting permission initially.”

In closing I want to raise a couple questions of my own: What has happened to society? Has social media erased our inhibitions? Why do we think we don’t need permission to post someone’s photo on line?

I am concerned, despite using my blog as my main vehicle to promote my work, teaching and judging. I do believe that I employ social media tools in a responsible manner, refraining from bombarding readers with posts that waste time. It is my mission to educate, share and provide food for thought and a little entertainment. It’s a competitive world out there… feel free to weigh in and leave your comments and opinions. I realize I have raised a timely question – let’s see what you think!

This entry was published on June 4, 2013 at 6:51 am. It’s filed under Creativity Update, Exhibition, Journaling, Photography & Events, Quilt Judging, Quilt Show and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “A Word About Ethics: Photographing Quilt Shows and Judging

  1. Wanda on said:

    Anna, good topic and very timely.

    May I please share a story with you? I was at the AQS Iowa quilt show last October. It was just the first hours of the award winners being revealed and I thought photos were not allowed. I actually said to someone that they weren’t. I was, however, in error and they were allowed. My point is that I struggle with public viewers taking photos of quilts and particularly if they are taking many close ups. To me, this is like being in an art gallery. I do not believe one would be allowed to go into an art gallery and just arbitrarily take photos and especially without permission from the artists. If they are, I stand corrected, with humility. I still hold my opinion that is should not be allowed.

    As A CQA/ACC Certified Judge I would never even consider taking photos of the quilts I have judged and posting them in any fashion, anywhere. I do not believe it is my place to promote myself in this manner. These quilts are not about “me” and deriving more traffic, they are about the quiltmaker and his/her excellence. I am just the facilitator and the conduit in the scenario. I believe that if I am a fair and proper judge, then the word will get around in the quilting community. I would rather err on the side of propriety then overstep in any way with a quiltmaker, designer or quilter.

    I believe we are going too far with the posting of others photos and information without permission and it is intrusive. I know it is the wave of the future, but I do not agree with it. All quilters’ works are the result of many hours of toil, trial and error. It is just my humble view that the quilts are all special and should be treated with respect of the designer, maker and quilter, and at the very least be afforded good etiquette around this practice.

    Thank you for opening up this topic. It is important that we find some common high ground regarding the ethical standpoint for all and particularly CQA/ACC Certified Judges as we are sought for advice about these issues in our local venues.


    • Wanda, spoken as the true CQA/ACC judge you are. I appreciate your candor and your view on the subject at hand.


      • Wanda on said:

        Thank you, Anna. I look forward to hearing our direction in these matters. I would imagine that you and Kathleen Bissett have been addressing such issues with the CQA/ACC. The judges certified under your tutelage will look to you both for this guidance as will the formally certified for amendments to the Code of Ethics, etc.


      • Wanda, as a graduate of the first cohort you may not be aware of the fact that copyright issues are actively addressed on day one of the QJCP Part I course in the form of a digital presentation which is followed by an in-depth discussion during the lunch hour. If you have not previously requested the updated version of the student manual, I encourage you to contact us privately to ask for it officially. In it you will find more information regarding copyright and related topics. We are currently in the process of adding information on respectful internet practices.
        You may also want to check out my two posts from March 17th and 19th, 2013. Here are the links for your reference:

        Once again for sharing your insights regarding this pertinent topic.


  2. Hi Anna,
    Sorry to be so long in commenting on this topic, but I have been up in Edmonton judging a quilt show.
    I have created a facebook site that is named ‘Karen’s Kreations – Certified Quilt Judge’.
    It is a place where I have talked about judging and specifically have printed a document for viewers about ‘What a judge looks for when judging a quilt’. In this aspect, I have hoped to enlighten quilters.
    The other aspect of my site is to post photos that I have taken at quilt shows for the simple enjoyment of others who were not able to physically get to the shows. I have always asked the show organizers if I may take photos and they have always given permission.
    It is my own personal view that quilt shows are open to the public and the quilters are proud to have the public see their quilts and that facebook is simply a public ‘place’. Yes you are probably correct that I and many others are becoming immune to the effects of social media. I do not , by the way, post photos of shows that I have judged only ones that I have attended as a member of the public. And certainly they are full photos, not closeups or macro photography.
    I read your comments about photography with great interest and then found myself searching my soul to see if I was an evil person as seems to be intimated by you and many of your followers who commented. I then took a poll of my many guild members and quilting friends and asked them if they thought it was wrong to post photos to my facebook page. The answer was definitely ‘no’ and that they did not think I should discontinue my facebook page. They simply enjoyed seeing the photos because they were unable to be there themselves.
    I too have a regular website ( where anybody could see many of my art quilts and print them if they wished. I fail to see the difference between taking a photo at a show or seeing it on facebook. I post these photos for the simple enjoyment of others and have no alternative evil aim for doing so.
    In the case of the Canadian Quilters Assoc. and their annual NJS (National Juried Show), I give them the CQA website and tell them to go there and see the quilts. Besides putting photos on their website, they also publish a booklet that the public can purchase.Yes they may have the quilters permission which is part of the entry form, but does that make it any better because they don’t allow photos in the NJS? I see it as being a money making exercise for the organization.
    To conclude, I simply don’t think that a public display of quilts is much different than a photo in another public place (facebook), Yes there are people out there who may do illegal things with a photo no matter where it is obtained. When I put my quilts into a show, I know that many people will be taking photos, I have no problem with that, not do I feel they need to seek my permission to do so.


    • Hello Karen,
      Thank you for sharing your view on the topic of ethics I introduced last Tuesday. I will keep my response brief at this time, as I am presently conducting further research into “fair dealing” (in Canada) or “fair use” (in the USA) rights regarding the sharing images of work on the Internet.
      I realize that you post images on your FB page and website for the purpose of sharing and educating. Sharing has always been important to quilters, but it is also important to be be fair to everyone involved, including the quilt maker and designer.


  3. Kudos to you for your appropriate and timely response to your friend’s questions. I usually can’t formulate an articulate argument on the spot…too little or too late is the norm for me when I am flummoxed by the boldness of others. I, like you, am a bit taken aback at others’ motives and intentions in viewing and documenting the work of others. I use it all as an inspiration gallery of color, texture, design and technique to encourage myself to think outside “my box”. For me, satisfaction in my own work comes when I take what I learn from others into my own direction.

    Speaking of giving credit where credit is due, how do we educate quilters to credit the designers of the patterns they choose to make their quilts, and the quilters who quilt for them, when filling out their entry forms? At a recent regional guild quilt show I attended, quilters told us at which quilt shop or in which magazine they found the pattern, but no credit for the designer. Also, as chairperson for the local guild show a few years ago, I had to phone several quilters for more explicit information to put in the program. The forms included an explanation of what was expected for each blank. I was reproved for being too “official”… “those silly rules aren’t necessary for little shows like ours.”


    • Linda, don’t listen to those who felt you were “too official”, and that rules might be silly. They are NOT SILLY! The time is finally here where quilt makers have to credit designers of quilt patterns and the quilters who professionally quilt their creations. The CQA/ACC is setting and observing strict standard.
      My co-teacher of the Canadian Quilt Judging Programme, Kathy Bissett, shares the name of the pattern designer and the name of the long-arm quilter during her show and tell sessions at guild meetings. Her guild is following suit.
      We must show respect to our colleagues if we expect respect for ourselves.
      And I disagree that your show is a “little show.” The Kenora Quilt Show is near and dear to my heart. I remember the diverse entries, and what stands out first and foremost in my mind is the excellent quality of the work I judged in 2009. Besides: Kenora is a tourist destination with countless visitors stopping in, many just to take in the quilt show.
      Thanks for weighing in with your experience. It is very much appreciated!


  4. Pingback: Photographing Quilt Shows | Invest Me in My Motley

  5. Anara Thomas on said:

    wow! Thank you so much for the thorough explanation of not photo-documenting others’ work. I photograph quilts at shows which allow photos, including labels. And yes, it’s for my own reference, to remember what I saw including details: never a thought to post. At shows where photos are not allowed, I go to the artist’s website after the show to see their work again, as you mentioned you do. I completely agree with your standards and ethics. I love your blog. Anara from Bellingham WA


  6. Alison on said:

    Anna, you always have such interesting topics to discuss… such food for thought. I am on your side. Ask permission to take or post photos first. Let’s face it, that is the reasonable and honourable thing to do. And who would or could further their own career by posting other peoples work as their own? I’m sure it happens, I don’t think that its sustainable, and the truth comes out eventually. Maybe I don’t understand your friend’s reasoning? As a quilt artist putting work in a show and not knowing who was reproducing my work, in whatever other form (internet or print), especially to further their own gain, would be a “deal breaker” for entering any other shows.

    I feel that in our time today there are many things that people do dishonourably that we NEVER could even dream up. I would prefer to know that MOST people would not take credit or advantage over another person, would not lie or take credit for another’s work etc… but time and time again we are disappointed by the fact that this does happen intentionally. What is the ‘intention’? How do we know? I feel that we all have to live by our own standards and beliefs and a copy-write standard that is set in place for ourselves and the benefit of others. We do seem to currently live in a society of “rule-breakers”, and Facebook and social media didn’t really come with a set of rules, well maybe they did, but who really reads them? Break the rules, end up in a court of law, and ask for forgiveness later seems to be the way.

    A few years ago our family was in Florence Italy, we went to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s “David”. It was magnificent!! (A bucket list item for sure!) They have signs everywhere “no photos”, there were people in the crowd (and it was a big one) singling out the rule-breakers, reminding them that there were “no pictures!” I was really surprised that people were so dis-respectful of that rule, and were taking pictures anyways, and some secretly even after they were verbally warned. Regardless of the reasons for the rule to not take pictures, (my feelings were it disrupted “everyone’s” enjoyment of the statue, with flashes going off in your eyes etc.) For all I know there were other reasons. But, I respected them, regardless. (I could buy a picture, that has copy-write, far better than the one I could take)

    If I put anything on the internet, I EXPECT it to be copied. Right or wrong that can and does happen.

    Here’s another question for you…

    Anna, putting your work “out there” for others to see clearly invites ALL kinds of issues. Discussion, opinion, potential reproduction (print or internet) by others, praise, admiration etc… How do you handle that? Especially the opinions? Have you come across clear copy cats? In your work or others work?

    Thanks for letting me post my rant… I drank coffee this morning… haha. xx


    • Alison, I am so glad the post resonated with you and your convictions. Glad to have added to the discussion. Your input is invaluable and I will address your question at the end in a complete post in the future. I have written to the topic a little already in past posts. Have a look at the archive and see what you can find. It is a current and hot topic and I will definitely elaborate on this in the future.


Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: