Last week we reported that a photographer was in hot water after photographing public art and selling it as stock photography. It just so happens that a new case has arisen involving just the opposite: sculptors basing work off a photograph without permission.
The above image, “Sad Vader”, is a popular photograph made by New York City-based photographer Alex Brown that has become ubiquitous on the Internet and sometimes published without crediting Brown. UK-based sculptors Craig Little and Blake Whitehead of littlewhitehead created a sculpture based on the photograph titled “Spam” due to how the photograph can seemingly be found everywhere on the web. Here’s a photograph of the installation:
When emailed by Brown, the artists replied,
On all the blogs we found it on, none of them mentioned the maker of the image. We never knew the image had been taken by a professional photographer.
In an email to Photo District News, Brown states,
My main objection to all of this is that I exhibit this image in galleries and sell limited edition prints, [...] By appropriating it, they directly undermine my ability to do so.
What are your thoughts on this situation? What action should be taken?
Update on February 10th, 2010: Dave, a reader, tells us that the British Journal of Photography got in touch with littlewhitehead and received a pretty lengthy statement. Here’s a snippet:
We contacted Alex immediately after hearing of his concerns and asked if there was anyway we could deal with the situation amicably. We assured him it was never our intention to upset him, nor was it merely to copy what he had already done. However, instead of replying to us, he has selected certain parts of this email and posted blogs slandering us plagiarists. He has also contacted galleries we’ve worked with also slandering us plagiarists. We do not really believe this is an appropriate first step towards dealing with the situation amicably.
Image credits: Sad Vader by Alex Brown. Spam by littlewhitehead.