Each post on PaperGirl is paired with a single image. Every once in awhile I’ll use a picture or photo I took or doctored myself, but most of the time I get my images from Wikipedia. More specifically, I find them in Wikipedia’s image repository, WikiCommons. There are 30 million images at WikiCommons; naturally, this number is growing every second because the Internet has only just begun to live.
Every image at WikiCommons is in the public domain. This is great, because it’s actually illegal to post a picture in a blog that you don’t have permission to post. You think no one cares, you think it’s not a big deal to just use the image, but it actually is a problem. Aside from it being ethically dubious, you actually can get stomped for it and fined — sometimes a lot. I had one close call a couple years ago and decided better safe than sorry: I’d play by the rules and only use public domain images for the blog.
Let me tell you: it ain’t easy. WikiCommons is my go-to source and man, is there ever some junk up in WikiCommons. Because like Wikipedia, anyone can edit, upload, and contribute to the Commons — and people edit, upload, and contribute weird, pointless, bizarre, unappetizing, scary, unidentifiable things. The search engine is strange, or maybe it’s how the contributors tag the photos, I’m not sure, but when you hit “search” for something, just sit back and wait to be confused. No, really; go to WikiCommons and search “baby rattle.” You’ll get an old drawing of a baby with a rattle, a sound file of a baby rattle, a picture of a coiled rattlesnake — presumably a young one — several posters of birds, and a scanned copy of the Guantanamo Bay Gazette. The upside is that you can use all those files free of charge. As many times as you want. Forever.
The other day I was looking for something totally unrelated and I found the wonderful card illustration up top. That’s also what can happen with WikiCommons: you’re sifting through underexposed, amateur pictures from a wedding in 1981 in deep Slovakia and bam — a snapshot of a kid and his grandpa fishing in Thailand that takes your breath away. This is a valentine from 1904, which as we can see was a leap year. My friends, this is my early valentine to you. How cool is this? (We’re in a leap year, you know.) I’ll allow an outside link today so you can make sure to get to this image; it’s very fortunate that this image comes in a really big size: click to download the biggest size you can (a 3,857, 2, 309 dpi) and perhaps pass it on to someone you love this year.
Thanks, WikiCommons. And I’ve been donating $10 each month for several years, so please stop emailing me about the pledge drive.