Barrie Schwortz responds to Colin Berry’s Rude Criticisms

The following is a special posting by Barrie Schwortz: good friend, President of STERA, known to most of us as the creator and maintainer of He writes:

imageI woke up today to find a somewhat surprising and completely unfounded online personal attack on me by a rather rude blogger. I would much rather spend my day answering some of the 150 e-mails waiting in my mailbox or adding another back issue of the BSTS Newsletter to our next website update, but some comments need to be addressed, even though I usually don’t waste my time arguing with bloggers.

So I guess it’s time to set the record straight. Even though I really do not have the time or the interest in being goaded into an argument with anyone, I do think I need to make some things clear that may not be apparent to those of you who are not in the same position that I am in.

I am one of only six still photographers in history that have been authorized to photograph the Shroud. I am one of only a few photographers (including Vernon Miller) that were allowed to retain the legal rights to the photographs we made of the Shroud. The copyright ownership of our images is not in dispute (and there are 34 years of ‘custom and usage’ as described in the copyright law to support that) but that ownership does bring with it an awesome responsibility.

For thirty-four years I have made those photographs readily available to any researcher who asked. And not just pro-authenticity researchers either. Emily Craig, Nicholas Allen and Luigi Garlaschelli, to name a few, all used my photographs in their research, as have hundreds of pro-authenticity scholars. We have never charged any fees for the research use of the images, or for their being reproduced in hundreds of scientific papers, articles and presentations. The angry blogger, who seems to have some problems with my actions, needs only to write and ask us for the images. He never has. He can even go to the Image Library page of our site where he can review and choose from nearly 300 different images from our various collections. His rude tactics are simply unnecessary.

When I first built the website in 1996, the internet was new and I had every intention of putting the larger images online. However, in those days, with slower dial-up networks, large images took too long to download, so we settled on 72dpi versions for the web. (Some of the research quality images are over 300MB each). In the ensuing years, the internet matured and changed. Over time, sadly, respect for online intellectual property rights declined and many people felt that everything online was fair game. I disagreed, so our solution was to only allow 72dpi files to be published online. But that also presented me with some serious and unique issues to consider: how could I make the images readily available but still protect them from inappropriate uses? The copyright law provided the answer.

The image of the Shroud is iconic. It is revered by about a billion people on this planet. I was privileged to make and own the photographs so it is my legal responsibility to insure that any uses of the resulting images were carefully screened to make sure they were not inappropriate. The very first rule we instituted was that we would never allow the images to be placed on any products. For thirty-four years we have strictly enforced that rule. Because of that, you won’t find any of our Shroud photographs on glow-in-the-dark tea towels, lunch boxes, coffee mugs (as Dan Porter recently reported on this blog), tee shirts, bed linens, lamp shades, or ball caps. (All actual requests I received and denied over the years). I continue to screen every image request we receive to insure that any uses are reasonable and not disrespectful of the subject matter, even if they are strongly anti-authenticity. However, we have never denied access to any researcher and we never interfere in the editorial content of any written materials in which our images are used (which is why you will find our images in most anti-authenticity books as well). And we always stipulate an appropriate, printed copyright notice be included, since that is required to protect the images under the copyright law. For research uses, that copyright notice is our ONLY stipulation. You can also find our images on nearly every Shroud related website on the internet. They are all 72dpi files and look great, and each is identified with an appropriate copyright notice (or should be). That is the law.

The only commercial uses we allow of our high resolution images are for books, periodicals or television documentaries. And yes, we do charge a licensing fee for these uses. That is normal in the commercial media world and all of these organizations have Rights and Clearances departments to specifically deal with these issues. I know because I work with them regularly. The licensing fees we charge help to pay the bandwidth and server costs of the website and keeps the site free of any advertising. We even pay extra every month to keep advertising off the results page of our Search Engine!

Now imagine for a moment what would have happened had I never applied these rules and simply allowed the high resolution photographs of the Shroud to float around the internet. Within days there would have been a host of tacky, commercial items for sale that would include my very identifiable photographs. No one would think less of any of you if that happened, but my name, reputation, integrity and credibility would be totally destroyed if my photographs were used in that manner and I would have become a pariah in the Shroud world. None of you are in that position, but I am. However, as a professional photographer for 41 years and considering the subject matter, I knew how to protect the work I produced, particularly on a subject so important to so many people in the world. And that is exactly what I have done.

So, no, I won’t be posting the high resolution files on the internet any time soon. There are already some other high resolution Shroud images available online that should satisfy most requirements. We will continue to provide the highest quality images that result in the best quality reproduction of this important relic to anyone who requests them, but only directly and on an individual basis, allowing us to still maintain the integrity of the images themselves. We will not do so by simply posting them all on the internet or without following a standard procedure that has served us well for thirty-four years. Some have suggested that all Shroud photographs should be available to everyone online. In a perfect world, perhaps that might work, but we do not live in a perfect world so I will continue to strictly enforce our copyrights as I have always done. It is my personal responsibility and one that I take very seriously. I should also add that, beyond this statement, I do not intend to debate these issues any further.

As for the comments made about STERA, Inc., if the blogger is so concerned with the other collections we hold, perhaps he can personally fund our Archiving Project. I was greatly honored when so many noted Shroud scholars decided to legally leave me their personal collections upon their deaths, but that also brought with it a great responsibility. In fact, STERA, Inc., our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed specifically to insure these collections were not lost should something happen to me and to provide an organizational framework that would ultimately insure the materials were made freely available to the public.

I legally transferred ownership of the website and all the collections (including my own photographs) to STERA, Inc. in January, 2010. Our goal is to scan and OCR every page of every document in every collection (totaling tens of thousands of pages), enter them into a searchable database and make it all freely available to everyone via But we have almost 200 large boxes filled with materials (not counting my own archives) and it will take considerable additional equipment and manpower to achieve the goal. It is far larger than one man can do or fund by himself. Instead of making rude, unprovoked attacks, perhaps this blogger can put his money where his mouth is and help fund our project. Noting his adversarial tone however, I somehow doubt it. However, I refuse to be baited into an ongoing, time wasting argument on this topic and will totally ignore all future attacks, so take your best shot, but consider this my last word on the subject.

Barrie Schwortz
President, STERA, Inc.

15 thoughts on “Barrie Schwortz responds to Colin Berry’s Rude Criticisms”

  1. One of the really gratifying, if not edifying, events in my life of the past few years is having made the acquaintance of Barry Schwortz through the web and an occasional telephone conversation. He has always been open and helpful.

    JFK concluded his Inaugural address saying: “that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” In preserving the work of STURP, and since STURP making accessible the work of so many others, Barry is “truly” doing God’s work.

    So too are many so many others for if the Shroud is authentic, it is not only the most important physical object in the world at this time, it may be the most important physical object ever.

  2. I do confirm: although I don’t share Barrie’s opinions (and even some of “his facts”) as far as the Turin Sindon is concerned, he kindly allowed me to use one of his Sindon face negative photographs in my research for inscriptions.

  3. I do confirm that Barrie Schwortz has probably the biggest heart in all the Shroud world. No doubt that if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t know half the things I know about the Shroud… Thanks for all Barrie and keep on your great work ! I sometime wonder what would it be if he wasn’t there.

  4. Excellent response Barrie! Just sorry you had to waste your valuable time because of some irresponsible blogger.

  5. I agree with you, John (and all others). Barrie is a first class human being whom I consider to be a close personal friend. He is very warm and generous with everyone he meets and his reply shows his class as he did not attack, but rather gave a unique perspective to the issue explaining the reasons why they do what they do. Obviously, those who have no idea of the copyrights applicable to the Schwortz photos erred. Perhaps we ought to try to be charitable towards one another, or simply give each other the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

    I was cautioned when I got involved with the Shroud through creating the website that there are those who are not civil in the Shroud ‘world’. Presuming this is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, this is a terrible irony (I believe from the evidence I have seen and the tremendous affect it has had on my life personally, but hold no ill will toward those who do not believe similarly, rather I only wish them the best). Each person should be permitted to hold their own beliefs about this and many other subjects. The world is a big place and there is room enough for diversity of personal opinion on this and many other subjects. After all, we are human. Imagine how boring it would be if we all thought the same and believed exactly the same? That doesn’t sound like a race of human beings, but of robots.

    Larry and Yannick, nice to see you in here. As Tiny Tim would say, “God bless us, everyone!”

  6. Andy Weiss: “Presuming this is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, this [people not being civil in the Shroud ‘world’] is a terrible irony”

    Just remember what Yeshua said :

    ‘I did not come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword [the sword of the Word of G.od/Truth].’ (Mt 10: 34-36)

    He aslo said:

    ‘He who is near to me is near the fire [of the Word of G.od/Truth], and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom.’
    (Thom. 82)

    I think we can infer real/serious incivility mostly comes here from self-illusional people who live on die hard intellectulal/spiritual illusions….

    1. It’s a very clever remark Max !!! This blog (and the Shroud world in general) is a very big proof that Jesus words concerning the sword was completely true ! When he said those words, he knew by experience that his message was not received by everyone and, on the contrary, that it caused frictions, debates and even war and hate ! It’s also true that he his the Prince of Peace but that would only be fulfilled on the other side. Here, on earth, we the humans, we’re not transfigured and resurrected yet, so our ego represent often a big barrier against a real peaceful relation with others… And Jesus knew that.

  7. Reeal/serious incivility shall not be confused with mild provocation and pedagogic anger….

  8. You would be hard pressed to find anyone that is more kind, honest, and fair than Barrie Schwortz-his integrity, dedication,and professionalism are second to none. Barrie is one of the most generous human beings on the planet-through his efforts a wealth of information about the Shroud is easily accessible for those wishing to learn more about it. As I’m certain anyone who has personally interacted with him will attest, Barrie is more than helpful and willing to provide information about any aspect of the Shroud and suggest other sources that may also be useful. It is easy to take for granted the amount of time and responsibility that are involved in creating and maintaining a site such as Barrie’s (or this blog) which many of us frequent regularly-Thank you for your work

  9. Barrie Schwortz is a professional…in every sense of the word.He obviously knows and understands the meaning of respect,and we can all learn from him.Colin Berry is the complete opposite and reminds me of the Dead Sea…because there’s no life in it.

  10. Here in the Antipodes, I don’t have the privilege or opportunity of a close personal acquaintance with Barrie. However with hope in my heart, I wrote to him concerning the Aragonite limestone studies, and was delighted to receive a personal detailed response. He was courteous enough to include the following postscript:

    “I was in New Zealand in 2005 but never got to Wellington. I spent all my time in Auckland as we put on a Shroud exhibit there. Of course, we did make a little side trip to Matamata to see the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton village! I sure love New Zealand! What a beautiful country.”

    What a delightful man!

  11. Max Patrick Hamon :
    Andy Weiss: “Presuming this is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, this [people not being civil in the Shroud ‘world’] is a terrible irony”
    Just remember what Yeshua said :
    ‘I did not come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword [the sword of the Word of G.od/Truth].’ (Mt 10: 34-36)
    He aslo said:
    ‘He who is near to me is near the fire [of the Word of G.od/Truth], and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom.’
    (Thom. 82)
    I think we can infer real/serious incivility mostly comes here from self-delusional people who live on die hard intellectual/spiritual illusions….

    Yes he did say those things. I think the meaning is that he came to bring division between those of this world and those of his kingdom. That division in the Shroud world seems to be between those who encounter the man on the Shroud and those who do not.

  12. Barrie is one of the kindest and most decent people I have met. His unwavering commitment to the authenticity of the Shroud, and the research that has been done thus far will continue to have a far reaching impact on the scientific as well as the religious world. The integrity he puts forth in the work is evident when you speak with him. Simply put, he has given his life- his career to the Shroud of Turin. In the end, he and all of us must anwser to our God, and having said that, it seems to me his obligation to the sacred preservation of it (in all its forms) is not taken lightly. Bless you Barrie….God be with you.

Comments are closed.