Joy Garnett is known for her paintings inspired by accessible digital images. Following an exhibition of her work in 2004, Garnett received a cease and desist letter citing infringement of copyright, from a lawyer representing Susan Meiselas. After a debate, which became known as ‘Joywar’, both put forward their perspectives in an article for Harpers Magazine titled ‘On the Rights of the Molotov Man’.
Think about how you would feel if someone created an artwork that appropriated, referenced or remixed your image. Other than legal action, how could you use your practice to resolve the issue?
Post a concise summary of your thoughts. Try to think about the debate at different scales as well as in different contexts.
It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, although Oscar Wilde was rather less sympathetic of imitators in his appendage to that adage: “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”
How many times in this course have ween been asked to produce an image in the style of, or inspired by a particular artist? While not necessarily the same as mimicking work, there could be a fine line between the two. ‘Research’ is a useful get-out for such works.
Clearly there is always the chance that reworking of an image could be unflattering, inappropriate or damning of the original. However, if the copy is not defamatory to the subject or artist, and its usage or sale is not detrimental to the market value of the original image, then such mimicry may prove beneficial in drawing a wider audience to one’s photographic work. I would always wish to ensure an appropriate credit to my image in any usage of the artwork, but beyond that I would not be overly concerned. Perhaps such actions could be used to foster a mutually beneficial collaboration with photographer and artist each promoting their own work as well as that of the other’s.
There is a notable caveat to one field of my photography: a significant part of my portfolio is for the school in which I work, depicting the pupils therein. GDPR and a host of other limitations would render the use these images inappropriate and necessitate firm control over any such appropriation, reference or remixing.
The origins of photography were often heavily influenced by classical art. Oscar Rejlander mastered the very complicated process of combination printing to produce an image that harks back to the Renaissance tradition of multi-figural paintings such as Raphael’s School of Athens. Perhaps it is fitting to go full circle with art now imitating photography.
Oscar Rejlander (1857) – Two Ways of Life