The Theft Of An Image
What photographer doesn’t like to have their work admired, or serve as inspiration for someone else? What photographer hasn’t used or sought inspiration from other peoples work? Indeed, I would imagine that most photographers at one stage or another would have copied another photographers work, if even just to learn how a certain look or feel has been achieved. But where does inspiration become theft? And when boundaries cross between a photograph and a painting are things more or less clear cut?
I am in the privileged position that my “day job” affords me the luxury to indulge my photographic hobby. I do not look to make any financial gain what so ever from my work. But just because I do not look to make money from my images, does not mean I do not assign a value to my photographs. If I am not gaining financially from my work, I certainly don’t want someone else to
Yesterday I was made aware from Chloe-Jasmine (the model in the shot above) that artist Sam Shaker had used my image as the basis for one of his paintings. This was carried out without Sam having sought my permission, so the first time I became aware of this, was when I saw a camera phone picture of the portrait, posted on my FaceBook wall.
Whilst this sort of thing goes on quite a lot, the norm and indeed the right way to do it, is for the artist to seek the consent of the photographer. And indeed, in the past artists have contacted me, seeking my permission to use my images and in virtually every case, I have been more than willing to oblige. An example is the image of Kayt-Webster Brown above that was created by TheSigner over on Deviantart. Indeed when I found out initially about the painting, my initial reaction was to be flattered. But it is a different story entirely when a commercial artist, who sells oil canvases for 1000′s of pounds, copies your work without consent and then passes it off as their own, with no credit given to the original photographer and no offer of financial recompense.
Once I discovered this infringement, this theft of my work, I was assured (again by the model, not the artist) that the work would not be exhibited without my consent. However, this morning, I found the work displayed on an online portfolio for the artist, clearly marked for sale This prompted me to contact the photographer and what surprised me was their reaction. They seemed to feel there was nothing what so ever wrong with them stealing my work and that there was not theft of copyright.
Subsequent to this conversation, the artwork has been removed from the portfolio site (an admission of guilt??), but a lot of his other work are also based on the work of other photographers. This prompted me to contact Mario Testino’s office relating to his version of the portrait of Prince William and his fiance and they have since replied, thanking me for pointing out the infringement…. I would love to be a fly on the wall for that one.
What is also very interesting about this just how closely the painting resembles/matches my original photograph. In the image above, I have overlaid the painting on top of my portrait (using the eyes as the reference for alignment) and set the opacity to 50%. They are remarkably similar. Obviously I was not there during the painting of the portrait, so I can not comment with any authority, but this certainly looks to me to be an “over painting” of the image. Where the photograph was some how sketched/traced exactly. Does this make it any more of a theft than it already is?
What do you think?