As there are so many amazing artworks associated with the Bianchi, I wanted to include as many as possible in my book. This is not a particularly straightforward process, and I needed to get permission from twelve different places for the thirty images I wanted to reproduce.
I knew that “payment” for some of the images would involve a copy of my book, so was able to negotiate a few extra copies in my contract explicitly for this purpose. I was very glad I did, as most places wanted a physical copy for their records. In fact, this was the only payment that most places required, although some also required actual monetary payment as well. I kept a spreadsheet of all the images, with columns for the contact details of the archive/church, and when I’d emailed them. This really helped for when I had to follow things up.
Some things I needed to be able to say when emailing about image permissions were the number of copies of the book that were likely to be printed, as well as the series and publisher I had a contract with. For Italian archives, there are specific conditions to be met for an image to be free- I’d met these before for articles, as the price of the item and the circulation were under the limits, but the price of the book was over the limit, so I had to pay this time.
For these ones, I went on the website either of the archive or the cathedral and downloaded and completed the relevant form. I then had to pay the archive either by bank transfer, which was pretty straightforward, or by making an account on their online platform. The bank transfer was pretty straightforward, and it was only €25, but I was a little more worried about the online platform as that was more than €200. I was lucky that there were no fees for the bank from the transfer, and I used my Monzo card for the other transaction which made it more straightforward with the foreign currency. It all went through ok in the end.
It was not this straightforward for all the images- some of the churches I had photos from didn’t have any kind of online presence at all- not even a social media page. So, I had to find the right diocese, and email through them. I also made use of some contacts I’d made in Italy to ask for permissions, and got a couple of permissions through confraternities they were in contact with. In Rieti, the diocese didn’t respond, but I found the Twitter page of the parish newsletter. I emailed them, and they were able to give me the correct person to email, who said I could use the images no problem. Some people were very helpful: I sometimes got sent versions of images to use from, which were often better quality than the ones I already had. It definitely pays to be creative, and to play “don’t ask, don’t get”.
There were a couple of images where I just didn’t ever get a reply from the church, so I had to skip over them for the publication. It wasn’t the end of the world, as they were just copies of other images I already had. It would have been nice to have the set, but at least there will be other, comparable images in there.
Next time, I think I’ll try asking about image permissions while I’m actually physically in places. This is difficult, as publishers can need permission in writing, but at least I would be able to set up an email chain with the right person, or even just get their email address. It’s also challenging if you’re not 100% sure you need an image, as sometimes they need payment, and they often need the title of the work you’re going to be publishing.
Getting permissions can be tricksy and sometimes expensive, but I think it’s all going to be worth it in the end. I’m now hoping that I’ll be able to go too all of the places to deliver the book “payment” on another Bianchi road trip – fingers crossed that something like that will be possible soon.