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

  • Rob S

    Does a painter credit his brush? His oils? Does the sculptor credit his hammer? His chisel?

    A camera is a tool. Not the same kind of tool that some posting here and the “artist” who ripped off these photographers, but still a tool.

  • Rob S

    Doubt that will work when Apple decide to come after you for using their image as the background for your business website.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    no, tribute bands don’t usually pay royalties as they are usually paid in beer. Hardly any tribute bands make any kind of money

  • olafs_osh

    WOW! In the end of his speech he even “throw stones” at original authors! Effing prick.

  • Rob S

    wait beer isnt money??

    I need to rethink my life…….. :)

  • rangepig

    The venue usually pays a blanket rate for any cover song played in their establishment.

  • CindyS

    I’m a painter and I would never work from someone else’s photo without it being a a previously agreed upon collaboration. No self-respecting artist would! Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t know, or don’t care, about copyright laws. The art sites I’ve been part of are loaded with people, mostly very young, who believe myths like, “If I find it on google, if I change it a bit, (etc), it’s my ‘original’ work.” I have seen forum threads where people tried politely to explain what the law is, and they just don’t get it. Send the site that the infringement is on, a DMCA takedown notice. Site hosts generally remove infringements within a few days, even a few hours. Don’t bother contacting the infringer or trying to “teach them a lesson.” They will just argue as if copyright law is optional. Go straight to the site host and be done with it. I’ve sent numerous takedowns to sites using my artwork without permission. This is the same thing.

  • CindyS

    BTW if you DO agree on a collaborative work with an artist, have a written agreement, even if it’s an informal email. Make sure the agreement allows you both to keep your own copyrights to your own work, and that the artist credits the photographer whose work it’s taken from, in every reasonable way. E.g. I have done a few collab’s now and all displays of my work have a link and credit to the photographer, and to the project that we both participated in.

  • John

    Not really, copyright is still copyright no matter if you post your stuff on the web or deal out free postcards to the entire planet… Good there’s an “unlike” button when one needs it..

  • Little faggot

    Oh no, someone actually liked and used his photos without interfering at all with his business. That must have ruined the photographer, the artist should be killed for drawing something that had a copyright mark!

  • Radovan Rasho Pavlic

    I found my photo on a local painter/artist’s personal FB, with another girl commenting how she has the same seagull on her desktop?! And the other girl was a art professor at a local Uni!

  • Cindy

    It doesn’t matter if his photo was a bad snapshot or a work of art. By creating it, the photographer owns the copyrights to it, and only the copyright owner can decide how their work is reproduced or used.

  • Mike M

    I believe that they were taught to copy the masters techniques, the brushwork, the use of lighting, compositional elements, etc., not the actual work. If that was the case there would be tons of Birth of Venus’ and Mona Lisas out there!

  • Duke Shin

    “I didn’t steal these images”
    Yeah, like hell. Tracing it like a grade schooler with wax paper is definitely copying.

  • Tzctplus -

    That is all well and good. But as soon as you share your “artistic insight” with others you would be braking the law.

    If you are prepared to pay the consequences, hey, be our guest.

  • Guest

    Do you give credit to Adobe for the countless hours of creativity and work that went into creating the software that you use? It is all arbitrary.

  • Guest

    The laws of Andy Warhol’s time are no longer relevant. Why would I think that after I am gone that the same would not be the case? Laws are arbitrary and have little business in the discussion of art.

  • Chris

    Yes, by paying Adobe you give them credit. Dolt.

  • brandon

    boo hoo. “most of my work isn’t copied.” wow, i’m glad it’s f- ed up, it should be, he’s a thief. “now i don’t have a gallery…” good, you shouldn’t. the only way this guy should “have” a gallery is if he finds some way to make some money, then pay to open one, then he could present all the works of art that he likes while giving proper recognition to the artists who made it.

  • brandon

    Second post, so pissed. so some douche bag could scour the net, pic and choose whatever people like, minimally change it, then throw it on a gallery wall as his…… know this, if that was my work he’s stolen he’d have to learn how to work a mouse with his tongue.

  • Dave

    Wow. You are THAT clueless?

  • Joe

    BTW Warhol was sued for using photographers work without permission, He was smart enough to make out of court settements

  • matt jones

    As a painter and a photographer I believe if he photoshoped the guys work then he deserves what he got. If he free hand painted them then I think he has been hard done by. But really they look so photoshoped. It would be easy to tell just be close examination of the canvas, I am surprised nobody mentions it in the article.

  • JA

    I get that it is “art” in a pretty low form.. but should we go destroy Andy Warhols Soup Cans? Because he didnt design that can, only copied it and package design is art too.

    I think the artist should be pissed off that someone is making more money off his art than he is.. but then again he should be happy someone actually thought (and this is an opinion not an insult) that his art was worth copying. What did he really hope to benefit from this work any way it looks as though it was meant for stock, and if that is the case it shouldnt affect his revenue.

  • bob cooley

    Certainly – we do that by PAYING for the software. That’s the agreement that Adobe has with those who use the tools.

    Its not arbitrary, its the law.

  • CindyS

    The soup co could have sued him, but they chose not to for their own (likely advantageous) reasons. Others have sued Warhol and other artists, famous and not famous alike, for roughly the same thing. The copyright owner has the sole rights concerning their work.

  • Wolfmann Creations

    I paid money to Adobe. No need to give credit.

  • Wolfmann Creations

    What’s up with the name calling? Really not necessary.

  • JA

    I must not have properly gotten my point across. I am aware that he can demand this to be done, but what I was trying to get across is what is it really accomplishing or how is this work really damaging him. I think he would have have been further ahead in demanding that Miranda credits him as an inspiration for the work (like Miranda said they should have originally done).

    But again I dont think the work by either artist is very news worthy so obviously im walking into this with a bias. (actually if the artist did in fact hand paint and not photoshop then they are physically talented just not creatively)

  • Aaron Tsuru

    fucked up, man.

  • Wolfmann Creations

    You are correct Bob.

  • Joi Carey

    It is pretty funny though that when photographers recreate famous paintings they are called geniuses, but when painters do it they get slammed with stealing..
    Personally I love when painters recreate my work..Credit should always be given though.

  • Ítalo Brito

    Are you dumb?

  • CindyS

    I follow you now, sorry I misunderstood. But, creators/copyright owners cannot let someone hold their work hostage with the potential that if they complain, it’ll only make things worse. The photographers were exercising their rights, to determine how their work was used. Disney no doubt alienates fans every time they send a takedown to a tee shirt site where someone’s selling Disney designs. But Disney can’t let it go, nor can small copyright owners, particularly those who do it as a business. If people want to let it go, that’s their right, but many times in the long run, it is worse to let it go. Campbells made what was probably a good call financially, but then what they were selling soup, not art, not even labels. Had Warhol copied the labels to sell soup, I think it might have been a different outcome.

  • Alex Glanville

    But, no copyright infringement intended!

  • E

    Just to add a thing to the Campbells example: they were getting recognition (I even saw the painting and got to know of Campbells before I’d heard of the brand.. they’re not huge in Europe), the photographer was not.

  • E

    If a painter gets models and sets up a scene similar to the photograph and paints this, then I’m with you (this is what photographers do when recreating paintings). Just making a painting based on the picture, even keeping it so close it looks like the original picture’s been blown up and printed on the canvas as a template to follow, then I’m not.

  • guest

    I don’t call it shoplifting, I call it borrowing without paying for it. Duh!

  • guest

    I saw a comment on here from Joe, Joe not against you, just using you as an example.

    I wonder if Andy Warhol were alive today, could he do the Cambell’s Soup Can series again. He didn’t seek out permission at 1st, but it worked out for the both of them though. Just a question.

  • Karinua

    Just so you know, Facebook does not own anything you put on it. They expressly state in their policies *that hardly anyone reads through* that you retain the rights to all you post. They can only share your information with their sister Facebook in Europe, and you choose how all your information is shared publicly or not. You should probably read up on it. They’re voting on a new policy or the old policy right now.

  • jmco

    This should have been resolved with a letter from the photographer’s lawyer and then either a meeting or a court date to decide on damages. At the very least, the photographer could have gotten restitution from the painter over a period of years. As court ordered. Get a lawyer if this happens to you and keep it off social networks until it is all said and done.

  • CKphoto

    They did copy the actual work. Basically in a school setting. The difference is they didn’t try to sell it in a gallery. Those “studies” usually never saw the light of day.

  • [email protected]

    Extremely funny seeing the “artist” commenting here in it’s own defense. Sorry your life (of crime) is over. Guess now you will be forced to go out and make an honest living, I sincerely hope you are capable of that, but I have my doubts.

  • Ederson Nunes

    Same thing with Bob Dylan paintings…

  • Sean

    The photographers could take photographs of the paintings and sell it as their own work. Same principle.

  • Matthew S. Sunday

    Seriously? I buy Adobe products that they create for me to purchase… we coexist because of each other. They create a product to meet my demand.

    Are you implying that photographers create art for others to use how they see fit?

    Who up-voted that…………

  • Oskar?

    1. Painting is a brand new world created by the painters strokes. No matter how close/similar it looks to the original, it is a different world, therefore no copyright infringement.(using collages of printed materials is a different issue and that might be copyright infringement). Mentioning the photographers name would have been just an act of grace not a necessity.

    While Levesque asks respect for photography as an art form he shows a total ignorance and disrespect for painting as an art form.

    If I were Miranda I would exploit this scandal and I would start painting only inspired by photograph s/ers.

    Miranda, you stole nothing, be proud of yourself and keep up the good work, do not give in! You are good! If your present curator refuses to talk to you go find another one, a smarter one!

    P. S: I cannot stop noticing snobbery, arrogance and ignorance in basic matters of art. Plus: are Levesque’s photographs that original, have not you seen before women with rabbit ears? Someone may come and claim copyright on ‘women with rabbit ears’.

  • eraserhead12

    In a surprising amount of situations like this, there wouldn’t be backlash if not for public outcry. That, and he wanted to give credit where credit was due.

    Though, I do think it was pretty unnecessary to provide a direct link to Miranda’s facebook page. That basically guarantees unnecessary harassment.

  • GC

    What about photos based on paintings from great artists?

  • Urs

    That line is incredibly blurry, and it’s possibly not even a line but a wavy, blurry something, this I agree on, but this is clearly beyond.
    Hey, here’s a great song of mine, it’s called “Ob-Li-Dee Ob-Li-Dee”, it’s on my new album “The White Record”… Wanna buy?