Don't do Art History
When I whinged about the cost of reproducing a photo (taken by the husband) of the inside of the new Acropolis Museum, I had forgotten the other stresses and strains of illustrating an academic book or article -- that is, time, frustration and bafflement.
The money is one thing, but when you start to calculate just how long it takes to find a picture that you are allowed (for fee or not) to reprint, at the right level of resolution, and showing more or less what you want it to show -- well, my estimate is that you are looking at one day per image.
OK -- people who write really popular books have picture researchers -- battalions of (usually) ladies, who "source" the images and arrange the copyright fees to reproduce. It's a full time job. Most of the rest of us do it ourselves (though in my case I am lucky enough to have an assistant to share the burden). However the work is organised, next time you pick up an illustrated book, you can reckon it will have taken 8-10 hours to find and get permission for every picture in it.
I am just now finishing an article -- or rather chapter of a collaborative volume -- to be published by CASVA; it's on the nineteenth-century 'visitor experience' of Pompeii. There are about 15 illustrations. And me and Debbie ("the assistant") are about half way through the 15 days it's going to take.
So why exactly does it take so long?
Well, think of two of the pictures I need: one of the bomb damage at Pompeii from 1943 (a bit like the low-res one you see here); the other of the excavations of the site in the nineteenth century (to show how different what we now see is from what was actually found). There are a load of images of these things, but the copyright lies with Soprintendenza of Pompeii (as do the negatives).... I emailed a couple of weeks ago. No reply. It's August I guess. So can I wait? Well, no. So I start trawling every possible photo-archive to see if any of them have got the rights to any photos that will do. Answer, no. So the next thing is to go to the library to look for books that might have similar pictures, and to see if any of those have got a different source. If I could get hold of a print or digital image, then I could get the permission in due course. (In case you are wondering the editorial rules, as usual, expressly forbid just scanning one from another book; and almost anything on the web already does have enough DPI....)
Then I want to show a picture of one of those "prepared" excavations (ie spoof) that were so common in the 1800s (you know, the Prince of Somewhere shows up on the site and they stage and excavation and find some specially planted goodies). Well there is something like that going on in a vast nineteenth-century painting (by Eugenio Tano ) that hangs in the National Museum of Naples (in the room with the model of Pompeii). But that meets the same problem as the photos from the site: no reply. And Tano isn't the kind of artist to show up in photo archives. I do manage to get a colour digital image of it, thanks to a friend -- but it is far too low resolution to publish.
Then I discover that there is a similar (even better) illustration of a "prepared" dig in a magazine called Illustrazione Italiana (from an issue published in May 1893). The trouble is that Cambridge doesn't have Illustrazione Italiana. For that, I have to go to Oxford or London. And I actually have to go, because I don't know the exact page, or even issue, of the magazine; so I cant order a scan of the picture from Cambridge.
You start to love those electronic archives that offer free, publishable out of copyright images; and you look especially keenly at old out of copyright books with clear plans and line drawings. But even that is not hassle-free. I needed a plan of the early nineteenth-century site of Pompeii from Mazois's Les ruines de Pompei so I brought it home from the library (actually for the husband to scan, because he's better at these things than I am). But then it turned out that it was too big for the scanner we have at home -- so it's back to the Faculty today, to do it there.
And so on.
The next thing I write is going to have NO pictures. (The husband meanwhile is a bit "I told you so" on this one... this is what art historians have to do ALL the time.)