Artist Plagiarizes Photographer’s Picture for Pro-Russia Mural

Side by side comparison of Whittle's photo and the mural
Joti’s mural in Mariupol, left, Helen Whittle’s photo of her daughter, right.

A photographer has expressed her disgust after a graffiti artist used her photo as the basis of a giant pro-Russia mural in the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Australian fine art and portrait photographer Helen Whittle says she is “sad and angry” over Italian street artist Ciro Cerullo’s painting which features an image of Whittle’s daughter with the unrecognized flag of the Donetsk People’s Republic in her eyes and a falling bomb with “Nato” written on it behind her.

Cerullo, who goes by the name Jorit, admits he came across Whittle’s photo while searching for “pigtails” on Google. According to The Guardian, he says the mural uses “the composition and elements of this Australian girl…And so what?”

“I have been made aware that this photo of mine, taken in 2018, has been used to create a mural in Mariupol, Ukraine,” Whittle says in a statement.

“I was not contacted by the artist and do not give permission for this image to be used. My thoughts and opinions are in no way aligned with those of the artist involved.”

In an interview with an Italian website called Fanpage, Whittle adds “it was distressing and painful” for her photo to be copied and used in this way.

“It seems that he [Jorit] finds inspiration by copying images found on the internet. I am sad and angry that an artist feels the need to copy someone else’s work without asking permission. And I am very saddened by the way my image, my daughter’s portrait, has been used.”

Pro-Russia Street Artist

Jorit is accused of spreading Russian propaganda. Insinuating that Nato bombs were responsible for the devastation of Mariupol is reprehensible and plain wrong. Russian forces laid waste to the city, shelling Mariupol in a full-scale attack that saw at least 22,000 residents die, including hundreds of children. The Red Cross called the siege “apocalyptic.”

Joril has previously made a mural of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky in Naples, Italy just a few weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Guardian further reports that before the full-scale Russian invasion, there was a mural dedicated to a girl from Mariupol called Milana Abdurashytova who lost a leg and her mother in a missile strike launched by pro-Russian Separatist forces in 2015. After the occupation, Russian forces covered the mural.