The Queens official photographic portrait by Mary McCartney has just been released to celebrate her status as the longest reigning monarch in British history (achieved 9 September 2015).
The candid style of her enjoying a moments pause in her daily work routine is unusual compared to the more obviously regal images previously commissioned by the Queen from photographers like Annie Leibovitz and John Swannell or the fashion portraiture styles of David Bailey and Rankin.
The image has a rather snapshot feel to it, and it seems a little mundane. Perhaps she’s taking a leaf out of her grandchildren’s book and trying something different like Kate and Will choosing to officially release their own informally taken photographs of their children and Prince Harry creating his own Getty Images portfolio.
Even more unusual is the watermark. Did Mary McCartney sell all her rights to the image? Previous photographers have retained their copyright, or at least only partially shared it with Buckingham Palace or its trusts.
And why does it need watermarking at all? A common argument by photographers for watermarking their images is that it stops theft or serves as advertising for the photographer – does the Queen need either? Everyone knows who she is already (this image is celebrating the fact she’s been our head of state the longest after all) and we carry her image around with us everyday in the spare change in our pockets. If I was going to steal an image of her, well, I don’t think the one at her desk shuffling papers would be my preferred choice.
Both were posted on The British Monarchy Facebook page and clearly marked © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with the edited image appearing more prominently to followers. Not only was the original image ruined by the crude watermark, the cropping ensured finer details (so carefully thought out by the photographer) were lost too. On viewing this original image key elements appear, the important ER markings on the document box are now visible and the sense of balance is restored as the perspective from the desk and surrounding furniture draw your eye around the Queen and the room she works in, placing her at the heart of it. Perhaps a poor quality watermark and a bad crop by the client may just make the photographer think differently about releasing copyright in the future?