SHEPARD FAIREY – OBEY GIANT WITH A LITTLE HYPOCRISY

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Fri, 03/06/2009 - 17:29.

shepard fairey ica institute of contemporary art boston plagiarism images photography museums

Over the last few weeks a group of Realneo users has been carrying on an  email discussion about digital copyright issues which might be faced by Realneo due to users cutting and pasting entire articles or entire images taken from another web source and posted into Realneo. As part of this email discussion I have been reading up on copyright law and talking with friends.  

 
So about a week ago when a Realneo user heard an NPR radio broadcast by Terry Gross which was discussing the copyright issues surrounding  the Obama “HOPE” campaign poster (which is the work of Shephard Fairey), they telephoned me to tell me to turn on my radio.
 
 Ms. Gross was interviewing  people in relation to several copyright lawsuits over the Obama “HOPE” poster.    Among those interviewed was Shepard Fairey, who is the 39 year old Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) trained artist who created the poster.  
 
When the poster was made in early 2008, Mr. Fairey did not credit anyone for supplying a photograph for the basis of Mr. Fairey’s colorized poster image of Mr. Obama.   And the lack of any photographer credit had produced curiosity among photographers like Tom Gralish of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  
 
Mr. Gralish asked on his blog :”Who took the photo of Obama?”  Why hadn’t the photographer come forward?    Mr. Gralish sent Mr. Fairey and email asking who had taken the photograph, but Mr. Fairey never responded.
 
Mr. Gralish, and others, were intrigued by the mystery, and took on the challenge of researching where, when, and who took the photo of Senator Obama upon which Mr. Shepard build the campaign poster.   In interviews, Mr. Fairey had indicated that he had found the Obama image on Google, so Mr. Gralish began to load search terms into Google Image.  
 
Bingo!
 
Mr. Gralish found the original photo had come through Associated Press and had been taken by freelance photographer Mannie Garcia.   
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Back to Terry Gross’s interviews:    Ms Gross interviewed Mr. Fairey, Photographer Garcia, and aired statements from the Associated Press (who would not speak on tape),   and discussed with an attorney who specialized in copyright law the two precedent US Supreme Court cases which define US  copyright law.  
 
Mr. Fairey has launched a preemptive suit against AP claiming there was no copyright violation and that AP is harassing Mr. Fairey, and Mannie Garcia is litigating with the AP over whether he was a free lance photographer or a employee of AP the day he took the photo of Obama.    You can listen to the entire 2/27/09 45 minute NPR podcast  here.    A big cat fight!
 
 
 
So when I heard that Shepard Fairey was the main exhibit at the  at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, Massachusetts, I knew I had to go to enlarge my understanding of what Mr. Fairey did and how he did it. 
 
I had intended to hit the ICA on a free admission day (Thursday) and I wanted to get to the building during the daylight so I could photograph the exterior of the museum completed in 2006.   As it turns out, I ended up paying the $12.00 admission, because free admission didn’t begin until 5:00pm.  
 
And as I was putting my change back in my wallet, I saw the first sign outside the elevator:
 
“NO PHOTOGRAPHY”    (This place wasn't like the Art Institute of Chicago which encourages public photography.)
 
I brought my camera along anyway.   When I got out of the elevator on the fourth floor where the Fairey exhibit was, there's another prominent blue sign: please “NO PHOTOGRAPY”
 
--------------------------------------- More to this post will be coming soon…..
Find follow up story here on Realneo

 

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