Gallery Drops Photo Artist After Works Found to Be Sourced From Stock

Tim Olsen Gallery, a prestigious art gallery located in Sydney, Australia, has dropped popular Australian photo artist Ben Ali Ong after it was discovered that some of his photo artworks were actually based on uncredited Getty Images. An exhibition featuring Ong’s work, which was set to open this week, was canceled, and a number of art buyers will be refunded.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which broke the story on Saturday, writes that the gallery disputes Ong’s claim that his use of the Getty stock photographs was appropriate appropriation:

Ong’s technique involves scratching and crunching film negatives and putting multiple negatives together to form final black-and-white images with moody atmospherics.

Olsen, however, said this was different: ”There are certain ways that appropriation can be passed but this was just too close to the bone.”

[…] Ong did not respond to calls for comment yesterday. But he told the Herald earlier that he did not see a need to acknowledge the original photographs. ”There’s nothing wrong to admit that you outsource photos. You’re not calling yourself a photographer, which is not what I do. I call myself a photo media artist.”

The question the gallery faced is whether artists these days should be able to base their works off existing photographs without revealing the fact that they’re “remixes”, even if the base photos are appropriately licensed for use.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Isaac!

  • Jonathan Maniago

    “photo media artist”

    At least Instagram users could claim that they actually took the photo before slapping filters on it.

  • jdm8

    This is a tricky subject. However, he was quoted: “There’s nothing wrong to admit that you outsource photos” It sounds like the fact that it was an outsourced photo wasn’t acknowledged except after the work was challenged. The gallery claims the artist said they were original shots, so it’s possible someone changed their story.

    However the facts may lay in this case, I think it’s safest to declare credit in the first place, omitting that makes it seem like you’re claiming the work yourself.

  • Chris

    the originals are better than his versions anyway…Nothing like ripping off someone else images only to make them worse..

  • olafs_osh

    oh, the shame, the shame

  • Valentino

    . . . why I keep saying that photography is becoming a joke in the gallery and especially curator world. They are all a bunch of people that should not have graduated from art/business school, and instead should’ve gotten jobs sweeping floors. . . would’ve been more honest work!

  • Daniel Berman

    Cool. Steal someone’s pic, slam some iPhone photo app filters on it, sell it for a profit and call yourself a Photo Media Artist. Nice racket.

  • karmaportrait

    i think we can all agree this was crappy “art” though

  • jdm8

    I’m on board with that. These two examples look like prints that have been run through a copy machine once or twice.

  • 4dmaze

    At least he didn’t stoop really low and just alter a pre-existing photo of Marilyn Monroe. Or just shoot some soup cans and alter the colors…

  • 4343

    it´s right… he fuked up.
    you have to give credits……

  • Sergei Zhukov

    Do you still want to sell you images for pennies through these image banks?

  • Jeff Willey

    There may have been miscommunication in how he sourced his ‘media art,’ but he still needed to acknowledge the source when creating a derivative work – ESPECIALLY given how similar the images are to the originals.

  • Kamo

    1. Download stock photo
    2. Convert to black and white
    3. Increase contrast and clarity
    4 ????
    5. PROFIT!!!

  • Ab

    Nice business model. Why didn’t I think of it.

  • Olivier Marteaux

    Ben Ali Ong’s art has spirit, and soul, what the two much-fussed-about images don’t have. It is quite obvious. Furthermore, all his pictures present a unity, an inspiration, which transcends all the elements you could want to isolate. A distinctive mark which makes an artist, and prefigures a master. Some commentators might benefit from using their own eyes and listening to their own feelings, instead of relying on others’ words and relaying others’ envy.

  • John Kantor

    Just more hypocrisy from the art establishment.

  • viki reed

    I’m sorry. These images could all be created in photoshop in about 2 minutes and he’s a paid artist with a gallery show (well not anymore). Who do you have to overlay to get a show in this biz?

  • branden rio

    You forgot about giving them “meaningful” yet ambiguous titles.

  • Richard

    Hey, what’s the problem, “everything is a remix.”

  • Benji

    Australia, not Austrlia!

  • gregorylent

    i think tim olsen was wrong in this .. though wanting to protect his clients, and with the richard prince lawsuit, we live in an era where everything influences everything and artists who work with this are ahead of their times

  • Tomi Tarkin

    always remember to credit the source if you haven’t taken the original picture yourself, unless you want to gamble your credibility, reputation and future opportunites.. ;)

  • ceebee

    Hugh. But. I mean, even Bob Dylan copied some photographs.

  • Ian Ludwig

    That goes in #4 I guess.

  • Matt

    Wow, we all could use a PR person like Olivier.

  • Felipe Paredes Schulz

    WTF is this SH¡T

  • Daniel Fisher

    Nothing wrong with that. He’s not claiming to be the original photographer, he’s not breaking the license …… he’s identifying a product that’s popular in the market and creating to suit. Sounds smart to me.

  • I steal people’s images

    Pathetic. So Ben has no morals and not a lot of talent either hey.

  • Bua

    Goddamn! In this day and age, you can get done so many ways it’s not funny.