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As I’m typing this my area has literally been shut down due to this massive wind storm. In fact I had my scheduled job interview get postponed until next Thursday, which is probably just as well since I’m hearing the wind howling outside of my home and the National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning urging people to stay home unless it’s an emergency. In fact the federal government has shut down today along with the public schools. I’m definitely not going to drive today since my car can be pretty difficult to handle in very windy weather but I might take a walk later on this afternoon.

As some of you may know, I have an Instagram account that I tend to update on a regular basis. This morning, while I was hearing the howling winds outside my home, I was leisurely checking my email when I came across this doozy:

Subject: project on Instagram for women photographers: Women’s Month Theme: Women’s Art

Hi,

I hope you will consider participating in our women’s photography Instagram project.  As a women’s photography community we run an Instagram project for women photographers of all levels to encourage, inspire and promote women’s passion and accomplishments in photography. The project postings are at: @womeninphotography.

The projects are to increase awareness and we do these projects in our spare time voluntarily. There is no commercialization by us of your image. So If you would like to join and help promote women’s work and passion in photography it is easy to participate. If you do not want to receive project notices like this just let me know and I will take you off our list.

Any woman photographer can participate or you can help us spread the word to women photographers who may want to.

Our project theme for this month is: ‘Women’s Art’.

What do we mean by this theme?

It is open to your interpretation so just send us your best to show.  I will curate the submissions and I or my husband bill will post up to 12 a day on Instagram until we are done.
There is no rush as we will post images until we stop getting them for this theme. We will email you when yours is posted.

Instructions:
Email your image to me:

  1. Attach one or more of your photos.  It is easier if it is a .jpg
  2. Your full name and your Instagram id if you have one so we can post and tag your image
  3. One web site link that you want posted with your image: (your website, facebook, other if you have one)
  4. Your note about the image to be included with it on Instagram
  5. Any additional hashtags you want posted with your image

Regards,

Gittel and Bill Price

In a nutshell, instead of me uploading my own photographs to my own Instagram account, they want me to send my own photographs to them, wait for them to decide whether they want to include it in their uploading just 12 pictures per day to their Instagram account, and, if they decide to choose whatever I send them, they will do this in exchange for no financial compensation but I will get credit.

So I can send my pictures to these people (whom I’ve never met nor communicated with before) for their Instagram account (which I had never heard of before I received that email) where I won’t get any kind of compensation other than credit (providing that they are actually honorable enough to give me credit). Or I can continue to upload my own photos to my own Instagram account where I won’t get financial compensation but I can at least ensure that I’m getting full credit for my own pictures that I shot and I can completely control such things as captions, hashtags, and tagging locations.

Well, that’s a no-brainer. Since I wouldn’t be getting paid either way, I’ll just keep my photos for my own Instagram account.

However I decided to play with these two freeloaders a little bit. I did a little bit of research on pricing and I decided that I would base my regular fee on the low-end of the amateur photographer scale per picture while cutting a further discount since they claim to be “non-commercial.” Here’s my reply email that I sent to them:

Dear Gittel and Bill Price,

Thank you for your interest in my work. Since I usually charge $25 per shot, I would be willing to cut you a discount of $10 per shot since you say that you’re a non-profit. I really can’t afford to give my work away for free since I’m financially struggling to pay my bills so I hope you would understand. You can pay me via PayPal at kimstark61@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Keyes

I haven’t heard back from them and I seriously doubt that I ever will. LOL!

It’s annoying that these people are looking for free pictures for their Instagram account under the guise of “feminism” and “women photographers.” It’s just as annoying as Ivanka Trump claiming to be a “feminist” who wrote her book Women Who Work while the women who work in those factories in Third World countries making her clothes and shoes for her fashion line are being paid very little while working in poor conditions with little occupational safety and they are frequently separated from their own children. She was also very reluctant to give maternity leave to her own female employees working in her U.S. offices. And that’s not to mention her own father, whom she has continued to serve in his administration despite being recorded bragging about how he grabs women by their pussies. (It’s no wonder that Ivanka Trump’s recent tweet honoring the fact that this month is Women’s History Month went over as well as a lead balloon or a submarine with screen doors.)

By the way, if Gittel and Bill Price want photos of women accomplishing great things for their Instagram account, I suggest that they get a smartphone and start shooting their own pictures of women doing amazing things instead of begging other photographers for freebies.

I know it may sound tempting for others to submit photos to someone else’s Instagram account in exchange for exposure but take my advice. The best way of promoting yourself as a photographer is to take out your own social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and upload your own photos on to your social media accounts a minimum of one picture once a week. (Don’t forget to use hashtags in order to increase the chances of someone else discovering your work.) For added measure, start a blog or website and post your pictures there. Don’t rely on someone else to post your photos online for you because not everyone has your best interest at heart. There are plenty of free tutorials online that you can access by doing a simple Google search on “how to promote yourself as a photographer.”

UPDATE (March 4, 2018): I got an email response from Bill Price when I sent back a response asking for payment in exchange for them to use my photos on their Instagram account (which, as the previous paragraphs indicated, I would have to manually email each photo to them and hope that it makes the cut among their 12 posts per day limit). Here is what he wrote:

Hi Kimberly,

We understand. We do not own the images we only post them as part of a promotion of women’s photography.
We put in hundreds of hours on each project as volunteers with no pay. We do not monetize the effort in any way.

So the artists support each other and hopefully get more visibility from participating as well.

Best wishes

Bill

Yeah it sounds nice and stuff. But I’m still leery about participating, especially since they require that you manually email each photograph to them then hope that they choose your photo among their own 12 posts per day limit all for credit only. If they had asked me to tag them in the captions to my own Instagram photos on my account I might have considered doing it since it’s pretty easy. (I’ve done it for others in the past.) But I’m not about to give away my photos to them for free so they can upload it on to their own Instagram account, especially since it looks like they are relying on other photographers to supply them with content for free.

I said it before a few paragraphs ago and I’ll say it again: If Bill and Gittel Price need content for their Instagram account, they should grab a smartphone, take their own pictures of women doing extraordinary things, and upload it to their own account themselves instead of relying on other photographers to supply their content for them for no payment. Stop being freeloaders with other people’s photographs.

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A long time ago I learned that going downtown on Christmas Eve is the best place to be on Christmas Eve because everything is relatively empty. That’s because so many people tend to pack into the suburban shopping malls doing last-minute shopping while the stores in the city are empty. I’ve spent previous Christmas Eves in both Baltimore and DC and it’s the same situation.

I thought about a lot of places I could go to on Christmas Eve. In Baltimore I could go to the Walters Art Museum, Fells Point, or the Ripleys Believe It or Not! Odditorium. In Washington, DC I could go to any of the Smithsonian museums, Chinatown, or Georgetown.

But then it rained on Christmas Eve, which put a damper on a lot of things I would’ve loved to have done (especially going to places where I would be spending a good bit of time outside) and I was not in the mood to do a lot of driving in such lousy weather. I ultimately decided to go to Union Station and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum mainly because both places were located next to each other so I could take the Red Line Metro to the Union Station stop. I exited on to the lower level, where I found that it wasn’t very crowded at all.

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I hadn’t been to Union Station in a long time. I was looking forward to eating sushi for lunch at the Hibachi stand followed by going to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry for dessert. Except when I arrived I found that half of the lower level where all of the fast food type places are located had been blocked off. While there are still places where one can get a quick bite to eat, there are far fewer choices than before. (That’s not to mention that both Hibachi and Vaccaro’s are both gone.) I ended up going to a Chinese food stand where I ordered orange chicken with two side dishes. But I ordered my lunch around the same time that they changed employees and I told the replacement employee that I had told the other one that wanted the orange chicken. She had me try the tofu and led me to believe that it was one of the side dishes. So I ordered the tofu as a side dish and told her that the orange chicken would be the main dish. Except when I got my meal and went to one of tables I found that this employee had given me the tofu as the main dish. The tofu was okay but I would’ve preferred the orange chicken. On top of it, the green beans side dish was undercooked. I made a mental note of never ordering anything from that place again.

After lunch I did some more walking around. I found out that the reason why the lower level had been cut in half was because Walgreen’s had moved in and opened this giant store.

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There was one large aisle dedicated to purchasing every kind of Washington, DC souvenir that you could think of.

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I’ve been to various Walgreen’s stores over the years but this is the first one I’ve ever been in that actually has a sushi bar that makes fresh sushi on the premises.

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If it hadn’t been for that less-than-thrilling Chinese lunch I had already eaten, I would’ve tried the Walgreen’s sushi for the hell of it.

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I made my way to the upper level where the upscale shops are located and I found that they were not crowded at all.

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Since my last visit to Union Station I saw that the DC Lottery had opened its own store where anyone can buy—what else?—lottery tickets.

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I decided to eat some dessert. Since Vaccarro’s Italian Pastry was gone, I thought about going to the Corner Bakery instead since I’ve eaten their desserts in the past and I found them quite good. But I found out that it was replaced by a French pastry place known as Le Pain Quotidien. I found their Christmas-themed dessert display to be quite charming.

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I ordered the sea salted chocolate and caramel tart and it was wrapped up in this nice looking box. The tart was excellent.

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I saw the Christmas tree that was a gift from the Norwegian Embassy.

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There was also a special exhibition documenting the joint U.S.-Norwegian explorations of the Polar Regions.

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There was a large toy train layout that I found to be quite lovely.

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On my way to one of the exit doors I saw this pigeon who somehow may its way inside Union Station. It was walking around among the various people on the floor like it was going shopping or rushing to take the next Amtrak train. I thought it was quite a hilarious scene.

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Outside of Union Station is this futuristic looking dome where one can rent a bike.

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Right next door to Union Station is the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. It’s one of the newer Smithsonian museums that had opened in recent years but I never got around to stepping foot inside until Christmas Eve.

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I don’t even know what took me so long to visit this place (especially since I’m a local resident). I’m glad I finally did because the interiors are absolutely breathtaking.

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As you can guess by the name, this museum is dedicated to the history of the U.S. Postal Service and postage stamps. Naturally stamp collectors will get the biggest kick out of this museum but there are plenty of things on display to wow those who aren’t into stamp collecting.

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This museum features Owney, a homeless dog who became the mascot of the U.S. Postal Service for a time until his death over 100 years ago. Here’s a bronze statue of the dog.

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And here’s the real Owney, as preserved by a taxidermist.

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Owney was the Grumpy Cat of his day—a beloved animal celebrity who received attention and presents (in the form of special tags indicating where he travelled to) everywhere he went. The next photo shows the many tags he received and are currently on display draping his stuffed carcass.

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The gift shop also has a smaller stuffed animal version of Owney for sale.

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I didn’t buy that stuffed animal but I did buy a short book on the dog’s life for only $4.

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Since I arrived at the museum on Christmas Eve, I got a chance to see the museum’s Christmas tree with surrounding poinsettias.

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The one exhibit that excited me the most was the one on PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard. That’s because, through my past involvements with Artomatic, I know that PostSecret originally started as an Artomatic exhibit that was put on by the writer Frank Warren. That exhibit was such a phenomenal success that it overshadowed the other Artomatic exhibits that were on display that year. That exhibit was eventually turned into a series of books and I remember the times when he held book signings at various Artomatic events mainly as Frank Warren’s way of showing appreciation for the event that started it all. (You can read about those book signings here and here.)

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Now PostSecret has turned into a Smithsonian exhibit, which is pretty cool. The next photo shows just a small portion of the postcards that Frank Warren has received over the years.

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Here’s something that was actually sent on a coconut.

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I’m still amazed that something I’m familiar with from my involvement with Artomatic has become a Smithsonian exhibit.

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The photos I took are just a small sample of what’s currently on display at that exhibit.

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There was an area that was especially made for stamp collectors. One can view the various stamps currently on file in a special room. The stamps are in a case that one can pull out and they are organized by nation, year, and type of stamp. I can imagine a hardcore stamp collector spending at least two days in that area alone just looking at all of the stamps on file.

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That area also had the world’s first postage stamp on display. It was a British stamp known as the Penny Black and it was released in 1840.

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There was a hands-on exhibit where one can design a stamp on a touch screen computer. Here is the stamp I designed.

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There was even an area that’s designed for anyone who’s thinking about starting his/her own stamp collection and one can get the first stamps for free. First you get an envelope like this.

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Then you go through this bin picking out stamps you’d like to put in your envelope.

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I have a confession to make. The rules of picking out free stamps basically said that each person was limited to six stamps in order to make the free stamps available for everyone. There were so few people in the museum the day that I was there that I actually broke the rules and picked out seven stamps. I wasn’t caught (mainly because there were so few people there) and I got away with it. I’m not saying that what I did was right or correct and if there had been a ton of people in the museum that day I would’ve obeyed the rules. But I fell into temptation because there were so few people and, besides, I only took one extra stamp and not like—let’s say—30 extra stamps.

Here are the stamps I picked out. I’ll admit that I was inspired by the recent elections and the incoming President Donald J. Trump Administration along with all the doubts swirling around him as to whether he will even follow the Constitution. So I chose this stamp commemorating the 175th anniversary of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

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As a former Journalism major in college and current blogger, this next stamp really appealed to me. It features a quill and ink along with the words “The Ability to Write-A Root of Democracy.”

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I picked out this stamp featuring George Washington since he was not only one of the Founding Fathers but he was also the first President of the United States and he set the tone for how the succeeding presidents should always follow the Constitution.

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I picked out this stamp featuring Martha Washington because she was not only the first First Lady but I’m sure she went through her own trials and tribulations while supporting her husband first as a hero of the American Revolution then as President of the United States. It’s like the old saying goes: “Behind every man is a woman.”

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I picked out Thomas Jefferson because he was also a hero of the American Revolution, a Founding Father of this nation, and he was instrumental in including many rights that we Americans take for granted (such as the freedom of the press) and could possibly be threatened under Donald Trump’s presidency.

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I picked out Benjamin Franklin, another Founding Father who was the first Postmaster General. Plus I’m currently running the weekly Benjamin Franklin Fridays in this blog where I include quotations from his Poor Richard’s Almanack book.

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I chose Susan B. Anthony because she was a suffragette who fought hard to win the women’s right to vote.

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I chose one foreign stamp. This one is from France and it features Marianne, the French symbol of freedom who provided the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.

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I basically hung around the museum until it was closing time. By that time the rain had stopped but it was still cloudy outside and the ground was wet. I was treated to a nice Christmas Eve sunset as I took the Metro back home.

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