M3 Wk2: You are a business

Week 2: Whose Image is it Anyway?


Image on left: original photography by Patrick Cariou / image on right: artwork by Richard Prince

Copyright law.  There have been some notable art copyright cases in recent decades. One of the most significant is French photographer Patrick Cariou’s claim, suing Richard Prince and his gallery, Gagosian, for copyright infringement. Read more about the case here  or an even more detailed report here.

I am no fan of this style of work – how can a few crude daubs of paint and a magazine cutting make this a new work of art (or indeed ‘art’). There seems far too much sympathy in using the work ‘appropriation’ – there is no synonym that can make it acceptable. If it necessary to exhibit such work, I could come close to tolerating it if there were clear apologies to the original artist/photographer and if the exhibition was clearly labelled as being one of intellectual property theft and vandalism.

I cannot begin to agree with the decision of the court.

I find it saddening that one level of argument in favour of the court is that Cariou did at least gain publicity for his work. When Cariou took the original photography, he had no intention of gaining from the exposure of this case. It must be rather galling to be better known as the person whose work was appropriated by someone else, rather than for your skills as a photographer.

Cariou was not approached with regard to permission, so it would seem improbable that the subject in the photograph received that common courtesy. I wonder how such a case would be handled in Europe? The GDPR issues alone could be sizable.

In the back of my mind is the thought that my project could be seen as being repurposing of other people’s art: the project sees me photographing then editing stained glass windows. However, the artists are all deceased, I always seek permission from the owner of the art work prior to any photography, and I gain approval for use of the photograph once the editing is complete. My project does not see me reinterpret the works (despite Course-based encouragement to do so) and the only editing is corrective (removing cracks in glass; erasing grime and dirt; removing support bars). Any publication of the images sees full reference to the original artist, the copyright owner of the original item and details the location of the item: I am working in collaboration with the owners (in the absence of the artist). I believe that this is the only acceptable way of ‘using’ pre-existing art works… however, for the benefit of my project, should you feel that I am omitting an important step, please do comment to that effect.

Leave a Reply