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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

My goodness AKA-did you happen to notice that the colors on the Fairey poster follow the light and shadows of the face in the photograph? I don't know how Fairey did it-but the photograph is very clearly the foundation for the poster. As far as the rest of your opinion goes-you American conservatives had eight years to prove the value of your ideology and the competence of your leaders. You failed and failed miserably and the entire world is paying for your failure. Fuck off!!!

Anonymous

My goodness AKA-did you happen to notice that the colors on the Fairey poster follow the light and shadows of the face in the photograph? I don't know how Fairey did it-but the photograph is very clearly the foundation for the poster. As far as the rest of your opinion goes-you American conservatives had eight years to prove the value of your ideology and the competence of your leaders. You failed and failed miserably and the entire world is paying for your failure. Fuck off!!!

Anonymous

you are idiots. of course the photograph was the base for faireys image!! what the hell is wrong with all of you? why not go try and create something of your own as opposed to destroying something that belongs to another. this tripe is as bad as womans gossip magazines. you all lower the tone of art.

Anonymous

you are idiots. of course the photograph was the base for faireys image!! what the hell is wrong with all of you? why not go try and create something of your own as opposed to destroying something that belongs to another. this tripe is as bad as womans gossip magazines. you all lower the tone of art.

Manu

It's not news that Shepard Fairey always chooses a photograph that's not his,changes a few things on photoshop and has his friends go and stick it up a wall.

Manu

It's not news that Shepard Fairey always chooses a photograph that's not his,changes a few things on photoshop and has his friends go and stick it up a wall.

Anonymous

Shepard Fairey should be called out on stealing from minority artists and for twisting the message of other artists. I read articles that open my eyes to how horrible he is as a man. He does not allow artist to comment visually on his art but takes, takes, takes all he can from minority artists and photographers. If he thinks that fair use is creative freedom he should accept that artists will comment on his work visually and profit from it just as he does. NPR did not ask him about any of his contradictions and ICA did not either. He is a hypocrite and steals culture for his own profit and messages. He is a rightest selling a leftist message for his own fame and fortune. Support the ASL group in exposing this fraud. Please read and see what he does from the words of this man who has been critical of this artist, http://www.myartspace.com/blog/2009/02/shepard-fairey-sues-associated-press.html And the Supertouch article bashing Mr. Vallen is bogus. They only bash Mr. Vallen becauses Vallen is a true revolutionary artist and mentor of the streets. They do it because Mr. Fairey makes them money. http://www.myartspace.com/blog/2009/02/jamie-oshea-obeys-shepard-fairey-by.html

Anonymous

Shepard Fairey should be called out on stealing from minority artists and for twisting the message of other artists. I read articles that open my eyes to how horrible he is as a man. He does not allow artist to comment visually on his art but takes, takes, takes all he can from minority artists and photographers. If he thinks that fair use is creative freedom he should accept that artists will comment on his work visually and profit from it just as he does. NPR did not ask him about any of his contradictions and ICA did not either. He is a hypocrite and steals culture for his own profit and messages. He is a rightest selling a leftist message for his own fame and fortune. Support the ASL group in exposing this fraud. Please read and see what he does from the words of this man who has been critical of this artist, http://www.myartspace.com/blog/2009/02/shepard-fairey-sues-associated-press.html And the Supertouch article bashing Mr. Vallen is bogus. They only bash Mr. Vallen becauses Vallen is a true revolutionary artist and mentor of the streets. They do it because Mr. Fairey makes them money. http://www.myartspace.com/blog/2009/02/jamie-oshea-obeys-shepard-fairey-by.html

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