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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?”

Displaying 51 - 60 of 72

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Anonymous

One important thing to acknowledge is that Fairey is not just appropriating, but also copyrighting images that exist in our common history. Posters and graphics made in the heat of political struggles are often made by anonymous individuals or groups that want to keep the images in the public domain for use in further struggle. It is unfortunate that Fairey is attempting to personally capitalize on the generosity of others and privatize and enclose the visual commons (as seen by the prominent copyright symbols on his website and products)." http://www.justseeds.org/blog/2007/12/a_response_to_obey_plagiarist_1.html

Anonymous

One important thing to acknowledge is that Fairey is not just appropriating, but also copyrighting images that exist in our common history. Posters and graphics made in the heat of political struggles are often made by anonymous individuals or groups that want to keep the images in the public domain for use in further struggle. It is unfortunate that Fairey is attempting to personally capitalize on the generosity of others and privatize and enclose the visual commons (as seen by the prominent copyright symbols on his website and products)." http://www.justseeds.org/blog/2007/12/a_response_to_obey_plagiarist_1.html

Anonymous

The final image is a joint effort in which both artists used their skills and talents. Shepard didn't take the time to be present at wherever Obama was to find the perfect picture to alter and create his image. Mannie didn't photoshop/illustrate it before he put it out. Both deserve credit for the final image, however much credit you feel is due, and whatever the legal precedent is, which is probably the photographer should get a shot out.

Anonymous

The final image is a joint effort in which both artists used their skills and talents. Shepard didn't take the time to be present at wherever Obama was to find the perfect picture to alter and create his image. Mannie didn't photoshop/illustrate it before he put it out. Both deserve credit for the final image, however much credit you feel is due, and whatever the legal precedent is, which is probably the photographer should get a shot out.

Anonymous

It's been stolen so many times. I stole it myself, changing the tag line to "Same Shit Different Asshole" and putting Bush's face over the button. I also did the same graphical treatment to a picture of George Carlin with the tag: "The Public Sucks Fuck Hope"

Anonymous

It's been stolen so many times. I stole it myself, changing the tag line to "Same Shit Different Asshole" and putting Bush's face over the button. I also did the same graphical treatment to a picture of George Carlin with the tag: "The Public Sucks Fuck Hope"

Anonymous

Anyhow, with the A.P. seeking compensation for copyright infringement, the artist has sued for a judicial ruling of fair use. This audacious counterattack aside, the general issue is an old story of our litigious republic. Appropriative artists, including David Salle, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince, have been sued at intervals since Campbell’s soup went after Warhol, in 1962 (but then thought better of it). As an art maven, I’m for granting artists blanket liberty to play with any existing image. I also realize that it is not going to happen, and I’m bored by the kerfuffle’s rote recurrence, with its all but scripted lines for plaintiff and defendant alike. It is of a piece with Fairey’s energetic but unoriginal enterprise involving a repertoire of well-worn provocations—imitations of Soviet agitprop on shopping bags designed for Saks, to cite one example. Warhol sublimely commodified images of Mao and the hammer and sickle four decades ago, in keeping with an ambition—to infuse subjects and tones of common culture with powers of high art—that has not grown old. Warhol’s revelatory games with the cognitive dissonance between art and commerce have galvanized artists in every generation since. But you can stretch a frisson just so many times before it goes limp. Like the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who included a Louis Vuitton boutique in his Los Angeles retrospective, Fairey reverses a revolution achieved by Warhol, along with Roy Lichtenstein. He embraces a trend in what the critic Dave Hickey has called “pop masquerading as art, as opposed to art masquerading as pop.” http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2009/02/23/090223craw_artworld_schjeldahl

Anonymous

Anyhow, with the A.P. seeking compensation for copyright infringement, the artist has sued for a judicial ruling of fair use. This audacious counterattack aside, the general issue is an old story of our litigious republic. Appropriative artists, including David Salle, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince, have been sued at intervals since Campbell’s soup went after Warhol, in 1962 (but then thought better of it). As an art maven, I’m for granting artists blanket liberty to play with any existing image. I also realize that it is not going to happen, and I’m bored by the kerfuffle’s rote recurrence, with its all but scripted lines for plaintiff and defendant alike. It is of a piece with Fairey’s energetic but unoriginal enterprise involving a repertoire of well-worn provocations—imitations of Soviet agitprop on shopping bags designed for Saks, to cite one example. Warhol sublimely commodified images of Mao and the hammer and sickle four decades ago, in keeping with an ambition—to infuse subjects and tones of common culture with powers of high art—that has not grown old. Warhol’s revelatory games with the cognitive dissonance between art and commerce have galvanized artists in every generation since. But you can stretch a frisson just so many times before it goes limp. Like the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who included a Louis Vuitton boutique in his Los Angeles retrospective, Fairey reverses a revolution achieved by Warhol, along with Roy Lichtenstein. He embraces a trend in what the critic Dave Hickey has called “pop masquerading as art, as opposed to art masquerading as pop.” http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2009/02/23/090223craw_artworld_schjeldahl

AKA

If any of you half-wits who accused Fairey of being nothing more than a photoshop monkey had bothered to look at the ORIGINAL Fairey piece, rather than let yourselves be spoon fed by the author of this blog (who shows a clear bias), you would know that the original piece was in fact a mixed media collage, not a photoshop minip. Fairey didn't run a photo through photoshop and call it a day: the original is a separate piece of work that used the photo as a refference. However, it is really fun to read this and see how pissed off anarchists and assorted other radicals are getting at the idea that a social democrat can be cool. The indigence at Obama for trying to break the new new left's self-proclaimed monopoly on radical chic is pretty transparent. Given that as a movement a cool image is all anarchism has left going for it, I can see why this would piss a lot of people off.

AKA

If any of you half-wits who accused Fairey of being nothing more than a photoshop monkey had bothered to look at the ORIGINAL Fairey piece, rather than let yourselves be spoon fed by the author of this blog (who shows a clear bias), you would know that the original piece was in fact a mixed media collage, not a photoshop minip. Fairey didn't run a photo through photoshop and call it a day: the original is a separate piece of work that used the photo as a refference. However, it is really fun to read this and see how pissed off anarchists and assorted other radicals are getting at the idea that a social democrat can be cool. The indigence at Obama for trying to break the new new left's self-proclaimed monopoly on radical chic is pretty transparent. Given that as a movement a cool image is all anarchism has left going for it, I can see why this would piss a lot of people off.

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