Always anonymous

One of my big regrets is that I have achieved my present age and have not managed to become famous. It’s my own damn fault — I never figured out how to play that guitar, and I can’t even sing “Happy Birthday” in tune. My novel is still just a bunch of fuzzy ideas, none on paper, and my cure for the common cold takes two weeks to work so nobody wants it.

That’s not to say my brilliance isn’t known to the world — it can be found all over. The world just doesn’t know it comes from me.

For example, telecommunications executives around the world undoubtedly tremble with desire as they read my crafty writings in lovely magazines like Billing World and OSS Today and Telecom Reseller. The UK-based Vanilla Plus has recently presented my words to a lusty-eyed public, but alas it too is a telecom rag, and not, as the name implies, in the realm of the gourmet. Unfortunately, these industrial dissertations are always published under someone else’s name, which is just as well in case I do ever manage to write that novel.

Real gamers scoff at PDA- and phone-based games, but I was in there early (and left quickly). I wasn’t playing them so much as helping to sell them. The company that created “Slurp” asked me to write some promotional material, and in the process I came up with the game’s name (the original name was quite dull). So now, the world over, when kiddies write “Dear Santa: I really want Slurp for my PocketPC,” they have me to thank.

That gig also had me writing the promo for a game based on pipe fitting. I remember that one fondly, as it produced what may well be the most sparkling prose of my career in marketing writing. To wit: “even if you don’t know a socket-weld elbow from a lift-swing valve, [game] will keep you going for hours with this fast-paced connect-the-pipes game for the PocketPC” and “forget about butt welding, greasy flanges, and tank nipples. [game] will keep you playing for hours and you won’t even get wet.”

It may be the only time I’ll ever get to use the words “butt” and “nipples” in marketing copy — unless my career takes a really unexpected turn.

Then there’s my photography. About a dozen years ago, one of my photos of Pont du Gard in Provence was used at a multimedia trade show in Cannes to promote a series of interactive travel guides. There was no byline on the photo.

I should be more excited about the travel guides themselves, as they included hundreds of my photos as well as narratives I had written and, very oddly, an actor’s voice-over reading some of my text in the first person, using my name. Unfortunately, the series was produced in the then-innovative CD-i format — a format that died about 15 minutes after those travel guides were released. In other words, nobody saw any of it — but a lot of people saw my unattributed photo of Pont du Gard at the trade show!

I recently scored another anonymous hit, this time down under, in New Zealand. If you had been driving around Auckland a few months ago, you might have seen this billboard:


It was put up by the Auckland Media Design School to promote their “Digital Technology Week.” Those of you with a keen eye might recognize those urinals — they can be found in the men’s room in the basement of the Visual Arts building at Concordia University on Boul. René Lévesque in Montreal. I took that photo (minus the characters) in 1993, but it made its world premiere eleven years later when a scan of a work print found its way onto my Monday Morning Photo Blog. That image was noticed by the good people at the Media Design School, and they took care of the rest. (Yes, they paid me for it.)

But of course, no photo credit for the underlying image. What with all those guys pissing on it, I’m thinking that’s probably OK.

14 thoughts on “Always anonymous

  1. Ah the unheralded creations of the anonymous artists!

    Yesterday I sold an image to Dreamworks for use as a stage backing…but I’m not saying another word until the check clears ;-)

  2. You set the bar pretty high for me when I started writing game copy at the same company…though I was told not to write “nipples” quite so often.

  3. My work includes full-penetration butt welds, and steel erection, but no nipples.

  4. Hey, there was that bit in the Washington Post a while back where they quoted you complaining about too much zucchini. That’s fame, right?

  5. Frank, I see a fortune in your future.

    Carl, you’re right! But that was just a reference to something I did (or said), not the thing itself. Now, if the Washington Post ever decided to run a story written by me (and correctly bylined), then I’d be getting somewhere!

  6. There’s also skin friction on caisson shafts.

    I was thinking about it. Probably very few people get any public recognition for the work they do. I’ve been fortunate to work with high profile clients and projects, but even then there is no note of that in the public realm (other than if I mention it on my blog). Like the project I’m most proud of and worked on for three years has no record of me. Not even the pictures I took for a magazine article. Yet the funny thing is another project which I only worked on for three weeks has a plaque with my name (and over 1000 others) who worked on the job. Maybe it’s different in that what you speak about are items created by a single person whereas my stuff is a collaboration.

  7. Even without credits to you it’s still pretty awesome to see your work on such a HUGE billboard ad!! :D

  8. I wrote the title crawl (kind of strange poetry), for the Cirque du Soleil production (and DVD) of “Midnight Sun.” Don’t know what that means, other than bragging. Also did some things with the Lord of the Rings people. Peter Jackson actually approved my work. Oh well, we are footnotes, if even that.

  9. to sing happy birthday better, know that the first note is the lowest in the whole song. so start low and you’ll make it:-)

  10. just to add my two bits, last year i sold a few photos to a vancouver ad agency. one of them was of a portapotty being lifted up by a crane to the top floor of a condo under construction. i wondered what on earth they would use that one for.

    lo and behold, this month my girlfriend buys a copy of the metropolis-wannabe azure, a design and architecture magazine. inside was my photo being used to promote a design expo. of course, they had removed the portapotty and replaced it with a bicycle.

  11. Fuckin’ A, I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to get famous. I thought it would start when I designed the MSO’s absolute first website. Nothing. Air Canada Cargo’s absolute first website. Nothing. No legion of corporations descended upon me hoping to use my talents. Wrote a large article for the Gazette about brunch in Montreal! Yeah! Everyone’s gonna be calling me now! Nothing.

    Nah, what I gotta do is start a website where I sell each pixel for advertising at $1 a pixel. I’d be a millionaire! Nah, that’d never work . . .

  12. I love the Monday Morning Photoblog! Put a link to it in my blog today.
    There… that will make you famous with a couple of Brazilians in Montreal. ;)

  13. I guess the feeling might be somewhat different for those who write text or produce other things that are more conventionally known as art but I have written tens of thousands of lines of code that show up daily in the computer work of tons of people and my identity is never part of it although I did also get paid. Curiously, if I had gone open-source, odds are alot better my name would be known.

    Of course if you look hard enough you can find my identity hidden in there. ;)

    Good post blork!

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