During the lock down I asked a number of people to start taking pictures of their experiences. My friend Seb, who lives in Barcelona, shot a roll of film for me and mailed it over to process and scan. I am unsure where I want to use these, if at all, for my research project. For this week’s task however, I decided it would be interesting to see how I could appropriate his images. Using a slide copier, I re-photographed his negatives and the processed the film again creating the above diptych image (Fig: 1 & 2).
On the face of it, both of these images appear to be the same, albeit with different exposures. A fairly straightforward copy, however, it can be argued that Seb’s image is once removed from the concrete world as he originally photographed it.
In my appropriated version, I have further removed the reality by copying the image onto a new roll of film, creating a positive image onto the filmstrip. My copied version is also based on decisions that I have made during the copying process. As a result, I have created an object that is mine, in the form of the new negative. I have become quite interested in how a photograph can represent its subject and it can be argued that my version is even less representative than the original. Yet, if seen in isolation, would be considered on similar merit to the original it copies.
Not shown here, but during the copying process, I also made selections and edited the order of the images that Seb took, which further decontextualises them.
I am considering taking this idea into my own images to see how I can create a sense of separation through this kind of implicit abstraction.
To be quite honest, I think my personal reaction would come down to the context and how the use aligned with my own viewpoint. And as I write that, I am aware that an appropriation of my work may not align with my own view, yet provide a valuable meaning for others, which should ultimately be considered.
In my professional practice, I have had images taken and used without permission, which is a different issue. I have also had image used in publication, which were edited in ways that I did not intend them to be – for example, turned black and white, and in one case flipped to suit the layout of the magazine. These were both limited examples, which raised an eyebrow but I did not have too many concerns. I also have a number of images that are available on image libraries, that I have limited control on the usage in most cases, however I differentiate the images that are listed on these sites versus images for my art practice.
Figure 1: Jo Tutchner-Sharp (2018) Instagram post to highlight the appropriation of the slogan.
This does remind me of a couple of times this has occurred and dealt with differently with relation to the art practice. Jo Tutchener-Sharp created a t-shirt design ‘a superhero has my back,’ which was created to raise money in response to a period that she spent in hospital away from her children (Petter, 2018). Asda took the slogan and applied it to a range of products that had nothing to do with raising money for charity. Tutchener-Sharp chose not to pursue legal action against Asda (which would most likely come to nothing against such a large organisation), instead she mobilised her own social media audience (Fig: 1) to highlight what had happened. This quickly went viral and ultimately prompted a response from Asda to resolve it.
The ‘Hope’ poster created during Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is another example of appropriated image being remixed and has been referred to the modern Che Guevara poster, another famous example of image appropriation (Barton, 2008). Manny Garcia took the original image and was represented by Associated press who pursued legal action against the poster’s creator Shepard Fairey. However, Fairey countered the copyright claims with his own legal action, citing ‘Fair Use.’ The case was ultimately settled out of court after Fairey was found to have destroyed evidence that linked the poster to the use of the image. Garcia is said to have been proud of the use of his image in this way but objected to the way that it was used without permission (Kennedy, 2009). The hope poster has gone on to have a life of its own, which is far beyond the intention of Garcia when he took the image as a press photographer.
In the case of Tutchner-Sharp, I do not have anywhere near the audience available to me to create a strong response in the way that she was able to. However, it seemed like a good way to resolve the situation that might have been mired in legal action, which might distract from the original intention of what she was aiming to do.
In the case of the ‘Hope’ poster, I feel that it would have been useful to see the dispute between Fairey and AP achieve a more amicable resolution – an earlier acknowledgement of the appropriation, for example. I think that I would ultimately feel similar to how Garcia did about the use as now the image has entered into our collective conscious in a way that I would never be able to do with my own photography, on my own merit. I would hope that there was a fringe benefit for my own practice that my photography was associated with such a remix.
Barton, L., 2008. Hope – the image that is already an American classic. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/nov/10/barackobama-usa#maincontent [Accessed 8 June 2020].
Kennedy, R., 2009. Artist Sues The A.P. Over Obama Image. [Online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/arts/design/10fair.html [Accessed 8 June 2020].
Petter, O., 2018. CHILDRENSWEAR BRAND ACCUSES ASDA OF ‘RIPPING OFF’ TRADEMARK SLOGAN. [Online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/asda-scamp-and-dude-slogan-rip-off-accusation-trademark-childrenswear-a8223471.html [Accessed 8 June 2020].