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Blog: Did Fairey Steal The Magic?

He may not owe AP anything, but that doesn't mean the image is his alone.

Amid the thicket of legal issues surrounding the recent Shepard Fairey/Associated Press dispute over rights to the iconic "Hope" image, I can't help but think that we seem to have missed a fairly simply point. Fairey may not owe the AP anything, but he certainly owes the photographer responsible for the image something. I'm not talking about a cut of the profits or shared ownership of the rights – just an acknowledgment of the artist who originally captured Obama in that moment.

When I finally saw the two images side by side – the photograph, taken by photographer Mannie Garcia and Fairey's subsequent interpretation of it – I was struck by how little the original had actually been altered. Though Fairey's attorney contends that Fairey only used the photo as a reference and transformed it into "a stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that created powerful new meaning and conveys a radically different message," the transcendent solemnity that gives the image its power is fully evident in the original photograph.

Fairey may have had the vision to immortalize the image, but it was Garcia who had the prescience to immortalize the moment. Why did it take a lawsuit for this photograph and its provenance to become public knowledge? If Fairey's talent as an artist lies within his ability to abstract and idealize existing imagery, then why is he so unwilling to openly reference his sources? In this case, I think Fairey should have given credit where credit is due and that he should have done so long before lawyers became involved.

Feb 10, 2009: This post has been updated.

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72 comments on the article “Blog: Did Fairey Steal The Magic?”

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Anonymous

In art histroy many great artists did that...Many of them used photos taken by others like reference in their work...Warhol did it, Baquiat did it, Gilbert and George did it, Koons did it, Gabriel Orozco...this is a recomposicion, pop art take others works, pictures and images in the streets, magazines...at the moment an image is in the street, or magazine, or comic it belongs to the people...to the popular culture... saludos desde Mexico paz!

Anonymous

In art histroy many great artists did that...Many of them used photos taken by others like reference in their work...Warhol did it, Baquiat did it, Gilbert and George did it, Koons did it, Gabriel Orozco...this is a recomposicion, pop art take others works, pictures and images in the streets, magazines...at the moment an image is in the street, or magazine, or comic it belongs to the people...to the popular culture... saludos desde Mexico paz!

http.elblogultr...

From a purely formal standpoint, yes I agree credit should have been given. However, I find it troubling that a court is involved in a case like this. I think the judge should not admit the case to court and tell both of them to get a life. I do agree that there are some social conventions, a certain protocol, and believe that referencing the source is a matter of politeness and manners. If Fairey wants to be an asshole too bad, but involving a court to prove it is way too much.

http.elblogultr...

From a purely formal standpoint, yes I agree credit should have been given. However, I find it troubling that a court is involved in a case like this. I think the judge should not admit the case to court and tell both of them to get a life. I do agree that there are some social conventions, a certain protocol, and believe that referencing the source is a matter of politeness and manners. If Fairey wants to be an asshole too bad, but involving a court to prove it is way too much.

Johnny Lothar

I think that we should recognize the photographer Alberto Korda who took the famous photography of Che Guevara entitled Heroic Guerrilla (1960), a photograph that is obviously the inspiration for the current photograph of Obama and which has probably (still) made it on to more merchandise objects than either Garcia's and Fairey's work.

Johnny Lothar

I think that we should recognize the photographer Alberto Korda who took the famous photography of Che Guevara entitled Heroic Guerrilla (1960), a photograph that is obviously the inspiration for the current photograph of Obama and which has probably (still) made it on to more merchandise objects than either Garcia's and Fairey's work.

skip-rat media

re: “Good artists copy great artists steal.” Picasso Geeez, it seems that every time someone wants to defend plagiarism they give the above quote. Picasso was talking about themes and concepts; he was talking about building art on the foundation that has been laid by previous artists. He wasn’t talking about outright taking someone’s work and changing the color and calling it your own. that’s fucking stealing. That’s what plagiarism is: stealing!" How does this sit with Picasso's many cover versions of Manet's Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe?

skip-rat media

re: “Good artists copy great artists steal.” Picasso Geeez, it seems that every time someone wants to defend plagiarism they give the above quote. Picasso was talking about themes and concepts; he was talking about building art on the foundation that has been laid by previous artists. He wasn’t talking about outright taking someone’s work and changing the color and calling it your own. that’s fucking stealing. That’s what plagiarism is: stealing!" How does this sit with Picasso's many cover versions of Manet's Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe?

I am so wise

"And then there is the fraud factor in Fairey’s self-promotion. He is a fucking capitalist marketing himself as a radical. Only in America where the public gets their ideas from the TV and tunes out their environment with ipods and cell phones every possible minute do so many people lack the basic cognition to recognize him for what he is. A fucking businessman selling fucking products." Sounds like Abdusters and Kalle.

I am so wise

"And then there is the fraud factor in Fairey’s self-promotion. He is a fucking capitalist marketing himself as a radical. Only in America where the public gets their ideas from the TV and tunes out their environment with ipods and cell phones every possible minute do so many people lack the basic cognition to recognize him for what he is. A fucking businessman selling fucking products." Sounds like Abdusters and Kalle.

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