Many artists, particularly illustrators, will use just about anything as “reference” and “inspiration” for their paintings, including photographs. And most of the time, no-one will ever know just what photo or photos were used as a “reference” for a painting. If you think about it, whether they know it or not, artists use everything they see as reference. It’s called “experiencing life & re-creating it.” Just as writers (like myself) write what they know, so do artists with their paintbrush.
But then there’s that bold artist who paints EXACTLY (without re-creating) what he sees from a photographers’ copyright-protected photo. Is this illegal? Is it unethical? Is it just plain plagarism?
If you asked the photographer, he would most likely feel ripped off, as he may have put his life on the line to get that photo, or swam with sharks, or jumped out of an airplane, or put in years of blood sweat & tears into his craft, just to have someone copy his hard work onto canvas.
If an artist wishes to duplicate a photographer’s (c) image EXACTLY AS IT IS (without altering it in any way) they should first contact that photographer for permission and credit the photographer somewhere on their materials, website, anything connected with that painting. This is the right thing to do, it’s fair, and ethical. Anything else is, well, stealing.
On a slightly different topic: There’s a HEATED debate involving the famed photo of Obama that was re-created by artist Shepard Fairy. Apparently, the Associated Press (AP) claimed rights to the original photo that Fairy used for this artpiece. Then, in soap-opera fashion, the story took another turn when the actual PHOTOGRAPHER came out (Mannie Garcia) and claimed that HE owns the rights to the photograph. There’s a lot of money involved here, and many heated opinions. You can read some of the dribble here and also here. If you want to know what Shepard Fairy himself thinks of all this, click here.
What do you think? Should an artist get permission before copying a photo that was taken by someone else? Should art be freely shared and everyone love each other? Or is it plagarism? Give your comments below – let us know what you fine people think!
Maria “Spunk” Brophy xxoo
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