PetaPixel

Photogs Find Paintings That Look Just Like Their Photos Hanging in a Gallery

Getting your work copied, ripped off and/or stolen is a sad reality in the digital age. In fact, earlier this year we shared a website dedicated to ousting copycats and were shocked at how much copyright infringement was really out there. But where finding your work on another “photographer’s” website would be startling enough, how would you feel if you found it while browsing a major art show?

That’s exactly what happened to artist Jason Levesque this last weekend. While walking around Art Basel in Miami Beach, Levesque noticed that three of the pieces presented by the Robert Fontaine Gallery looked a bit more than familiar.

That’s because two of them were based on his photography, and one on his good friend Marie Killen‘s work. After returning home, Levesque did an online search and discovered additional paintings “inspired” by his and Killen’s photographs.

In the photos above, the images on the left show paintings by the artist, which are obviously based on the Levesque on the right. Here are a few comparisons with Killen’s work (again, the infringing artwork is on the left, and the original photos are on the right):

Understandably upset, Levesque took to Facebook to share his findings, exposing Josafat Miranda (the artist behind the three paintings on display). He writes,

What Josafat Miranda has done here reveals a total disrespect for photography as an art form. He’s quickly and with very little creative altercation, harvesting the yield of someone else’s hard work. What makes a painting strong, isn’t just the brush strokes and the rendering method, more, much more, than that is the composition, the subject matter and the hundreds of creative decisions that go into making an original piece of art.

Miranda’s Facebook page has since been taken offline.

While this case won’t get nearly as much publicity, this type of derivative work is reminiscent of the HOPE poster controversy — how much do you have to change before a piece of art becomes original?


Update: Here’s what Miranda tells the Miami New Times:

I didn’t steal these images. My only mistake was not giving the original artists credit. I’ve now spoken to them and apologized to them. We came to the agreement that I have to take everything down and destroy it, which is exactly what I’m going to do [...] Now everything is all f**ked up. I don’t have a gallery. I don’t have a job. I don’t have any way to make money … Now nobody wants to buy my work, even though most of it isn’t a copy of anything. I’m not a millionaire! I live in a tiny little room and people think that I’m some famous millionaire. It’s not the case.

People are cursing me online, wishing I were dead. In my series there is no specification because it’s not a projection of ‘my work.’ There are millions of piece of art in the world by millions of artists. Yes, I made a mistake by not giving the original artists credit, but come those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. It’s art.


Thanks for sending in the tip, Sam!


Image credits: Photographs by Josafat Miranda, Jason Levesque, and Marie Killen


 
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  • Oskar?

    Is Petapixel censoring? I cannot find my comment on this subject. It was nothing but only theoretical arguments and personal opinions.

  • Oskar?

    Plagiarism means an exact copy of a text. Painting from photography is not at all like rewriting. What if a painter paints a book by painting the text on canvas or even painting the book pages on canvas? Would you still call that product, the painting, as being plagiarism? P.S: English is not my natural language and I have problems expressing complex phrases. I hope I made myself understood.

  • Tutterz

    Slight OT, but what about all the photographers who have taken photos of circular things in the fold of a book with light falling on them to create a heart shadow, who’s idea was that?

  • MMielech

    Wow, those images are just ugly. Both the original and the copies. Some people buy that stuff and put it on their walls? Why?

  • Unpopular Opinion, but…

    I’m both a photographer (who has had work stolen) & a painter… But I gotta say, the paintings are far superior to the photos. The painter has modified the images significantly in terms of colour palette, lighting, & background, all of which belong in that list of what Mr. Devesque says constitutes an original piece of art. The only thing he stole was the costuming and gesture of the models. Was it wrong to use source material without asking permission & paying usage? Yes. But is it reasonable to publicly broadcast this mistake & call for the work to be destroyed? No. This is not as clear cut as the “yes rasta” controversey, or even the hope poster. The way this should have gone down is for the artist to pay “rights” to the photographer. In this instance after the fact, the photographer should have sent a cease & desist letter then named their price for rights, either sharing in profits or paid up front for usage. Calling for them to be destroyed is ludicrous to me, not to mention unfair given the time painting takes to create versus the time photography takes to create.

  • Unpopular Opinion, but…

    I’m both a photographer (who has had work stolen) & a painter… But I gotta say, the paintings are far superior to the photos. The painter has modified the images significantly in terms of colour palette, lighting, & background, all of which belong in that list of what Mr. Devesque says constitutes an original piece of art. The only thing he stole was the costuming and gesture of the models. Was it wrong to use source material without asking permission & paying usage? Yes. But is it reasonable to publicly broadcast this mistake & call for the work to be destroyed? No. This is not as clear cut as the “yes rasta” controversey, or even the hope poster. The way this should have gone down is for the artist to pay “rights” to the photographer. In this instance after the fact, the photographer should have sent a cease & desist letter then named their price for rights, either sharing in profits or paid up front for usage. Calling for them to be destroyed is ludicrous to me, not to mention unfair given the time painting takes to create versus the time photography takes to create.

  • Russ Catalano

    I wish it was the same artist that took the picture, and painted. Painters a lot of the time go off of a picture for inspiration, or if they took the picture copy it with a paintbrush. I love the photography, but the paintings I would buy. These two shouldn’t fight, they should join together and sell the paintings BASED on the photography to people like me who absolutely love both.

  • Russ Catalano

    Upload a movie to YouTube, then when they give you a case against all the unpaid views use that excuse, not fun. I love both the painting and photos, they should join together and sell them.

  • http://ddon.myopenid.com/ John

    By signing up for facebook you allow them a non exclusive right to publish your stuff, that’s it. If they didn’t have that clause included, the share and cross-wall posting system would not be able to exist…

  • http://ddon.myopenid.com/ John

    You probably gave him a good idea, he’s certainly already searching on google for it now…. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ldarroch Lynne Darroch

    There’s a line between inspiration, source material and copying. Is there skill in those drawings – hell yes. Is it ok to use photos for resource material? Sure. If you are trying to draw something complicated, then having a resource or two to help figure out where the parts go does help. Are they inspired? No – they are exact copies with a few minor changes. Because there was setup and concept to the photo, copying is not valid artistic expression.

  • Peter

    Not necessarily an exact copy >> “Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the “wrongful appropriation,” “close imitation,” or “purloining and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work”

  • Paul Hartzer

    Miranda himself admitted it was plagiarism, in admitting that he’d taken someone else’s work without crediting it, thus creating the impression that it was his original work.

  • Paul Hartzer

    Yeah, that’s the saddest part of this. Miranda did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the photos in art form. Had he approached the original photographers beforehand, this could have resulted in some really awesome work. Now it’s just all mucked up.

    So, note to anyone who wants to do something like this again: ASK first. If the original artists say no, there are bound to be other artists who are willing to go along with it, for a share of the money or recognition.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cathy.f.fothergill Cathy Farr Fothergill

    The establishment they (tribute bands) play in has to pay royalties, though. Even restaurants have to pay royalties if they play the radio for their customers. I just researched this for a friend…..

  • John Kroetch

    Oh, please.

    Can you honestly say that this was ‘inspired’? The paintings are virtually copies of another’s art.

    By your logic:
    If I take a picture of your oil painting and print it out on Canvas, I guess because it’s a ‘brand new world’ and therefore I can profit off of your vision, talent, and hard work without crediting you or offering you a cent. Man… I can make a lot of money doing this.

  • Michelle

    This article did not specify as to if the photographs were copyrighted. If the photographs weren’t copyrighted, than Miranda did absolutely nothing wrong and Levesque really has no legal basis for his complaints – inspiration for art comes from many sources, especially other art. If Levesque did copyright his photographs, he should sue – not complain via social media like a high school child.

  • Oskar?

    Photography is not a new world. The reflected photons go through the lens on to the film etc… and that makes a COPY. Painting is a new world as it is made of strokes, coming from hand. I am amazed how people who do not know what a painting is jump in to cry.

  • Fotogal

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse!

  • CindyS

    They do not have to be registered w/the copyright office. That requirement was done away with in 1989. There are advantageous reasons to register work, but it’s not mandatory, so this was still infringement. Also, in copyright law there is a difference between derivative work and transformative work. The paintings here were definitely derivative as they were near direct copies. That is illegal. There is no magic formula for how much is transformative, but this was nowhere in the ballpark.

  • CindyS

    if the great artists are long dead, chances are their work is off copyright now. Copyrights exist for the life of the artist plus 70 yrs in the US, generally. If there was a copyright on it, they may have violated it, and we just don’t know the outcome.

  • CindyS

    Sorry but that’s just not true. Misconceptions like this are almost always at the root of ‘fan artists’ who cry about their STar Wars tee shirts being taken off Print On Demand sites by Disney/Lucas. There is no law that you can reproduce something in a different medium and it’s ok. The well known artist Jeff. Koons was sued successfully for reproducing a photo as a sculpture. I don’t know where these myths arise from or how they live on so long, but they are wrong.

  • http://profiles.google.com/saucywench S E Tammela

    I can understand the public announcement. Remember, the painter had already been quite public in telling the world that it was his own work. Why shouldn’t the photographer be just as public in exposing him as a liar?

    For what it’s worth – if the painter TRULY thinks he was expressing himself, why the heck didn’t he take the IDEA instead of copying each image exactly, even down to the individual hairs? A painter with talent could have drawn a girl with green hair or mouse ears and in a different pose. Only a thief feels the need to “create” using the exact same dimensions and perspective.

  • http://profiles.google.com/saucywench S E Tammela

    My daughter can do this in Photoshop in a few hours. It doesn’t require any artistic inspiration when you simply “paint over the lines” and change the colours with a computer program.

  • Kate

    A small point: The photographer is a man. Several posters have said, “she,” probably because the last name confused them. Miranda is feminine as an Anglo first name but also a Latino surname.

  • Kate

    Opps. I was referring to the painter, not the photographer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michelle-Maani/1500257622 Michelle Maani

    So tracing and painting over someone else’s work isn’t forgery or plagiarism..just the act of putting paint on someone else’s creations makes it a new creation? Hardly. It’s theft, and lack of originality, and it’s also a lack of talent on the part of the so-called artist. Glorified paint by numbers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michelle-Maani/1500257622 Michelle Maani

    He could even have traced. It’s hardly original.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michelle-Maani/1500257622 Michelle Maani

    A high degree of technical skill? I think any kindergartener can trace.

  • snapshot1

    Or they could simply come up with their own d@mn idea and not have any issue!

  • snapshot1

    Umm no they can’t.

  • snapshot1

    I wouldn’t be overwhelmed, I’d tell them to kiss off and have their own ideas and concepts, unless it really is only an inspirational element to some thought they already have. That’s called collaboration, Miranda’s work are really just copies after some filter alterations in Photoshop.

  • snapshot1

    “The only thing he stole was the costuming and gesture of the models.”

    Um what? Every hair, prop, clothing is copied here. What else is there in the shot besides the background? Who cares how long it took the artist to copy. This is what’s wrong with modern artist, they think the mere “doing” of art is art, not the idea or concept. We only have Warhol, NYC art world, fame whoring, and laziness to blame for where we are now. Art historians in the future are going to laugh at this time period and the lost decades of any real art.

  • Ken

    This whole affair is both sad and funny…Just google for “girl in heart shaped glasses” and start a new thread wondering if the photographer plagiarized any of the pictures that match both the angle and the expression…

  • Benjamin

    I made a mistake like that at high school once. Was very embarrassed, learnt my lesson and never copied anyone else’s work again. Nowadays, while still feeling some shame at the memory, I’m glad that I learnt that when it didn’t really matter that much. So while I really don’t condone what Miranda did and dislike his lack of honesty, I do feel some sympathy.

  • http://www.dutchamsterdam.nl/ DutchAmsterdam

    I guess Mr. Josafat Miranda is satisfied with merely being a ripoff artist. What a loser.

  • shthar

    He should have been thrilled that there was at least one person who didn’t think his photos were hacky crap. Puh-leeze!

  • Jason

    Sure the imagery is a clear copy but that alone doesn’t disqualify it. Sherrie Levine is famous for photographing the photographs of famous photographers. What Levine did and Miranda failed to do was offer any new viewpoint or contribute toward reading the imagery in a new context. There is no new or original conceptual idea coming through. its strictly surface for surface. #plagiarism

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Owen-Caterwall/100003045783057 Owen Caterwall

    Michelle, your ignorance of copyright law is surpassed only by the childishness of your final line. Shut up and let the grown ups talk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Owen-Caterwall/100003045783057 Owen Caterwall

    I’m surprised this plagiarist is not employed as a university professor. He’d be welcome at Wisconsin.

  • theearthplanet

    “I don’t have a gallery. I don’t have a job. I don’t have any way to make money.” And that’s EXACTLY the way it should remain you piece of garbage wannabe artist thief.

  • JMBphoto

    “Lib generation” is condescending, and a blanket assessment. I’m 25 and make my living as a professional photographer, and fully understand and respect these laws. I also consider myself a liberal. Respect for reasonable and well thought out laws, and being young or liberal are not mutually exclusive. This man would be better described as lazy, ignorant, entitled, and unethical. But, an old conservative is just capable of these faults as anyone else.

  • lulubel

    As a person who does graphic art as a hobby, I do not want others to make money out of photos and images I have personally worked hard to create. We all get ideas from elsewhere, but we don’t copy them, we use the idea to create our own works, which vary a lot in the creation and subject matter. Public domain images exist for people to use in that manner. You don’t have to steal someone else’s work of art. The person who said something about taking a photo of this thief’s paintings and selling that being the same thing was quite right. I bet if the shoe was on the other foot, he would have kicked up a fuss. Buy a camera and make your own photos to paint from. It’s really easy, and the camera doesn’t have to be very good, either.

  • http://twitter.com/bjornwilde bjørn b

    I was brought to this page cause it just happened to me, not the first time. It’s fine I think mutual respect should be given, either credit and/or asking for permission.

  • http://about.me/mitchlabuda Mitch Labuda

    It’s startling that people are startled by other people copying works, what with the near weekly news stories.

  • Ami

    This is such a moronic question that I wonder why people were still nice enough to answer it.

  • Ami

    “Do you give credit to Adobe for the countless hours of creativity and work that went into creating the software that you use?”

    This is such a moronic question that I wonder why people were still nice enough to answer it.

  • Ami

    If your stolen images were then sold for thousands of dollars, how would you feel?

  • rekanize

    I still find it amusing/infuriating when the perps play the victim card after they’ve been put on blast.