In my view, photography as an art form has always suffered (or benefitted) from appropriation. From the days of the first images, the photographer has always been susceptible to having images re-used by others, often without any consent.
The debate around what is considered appropriate use of images and what is considered miss-use has grown ever more louder. With todays digital age, the use of social media and instant access means that anyone posting an image online has the risk of it being used by others, for either art or finical gain – often the latter.
The use of an image taken by a photographer for commercial gain by another is something I don’t agree with. However the ability to control the image does throw up challenges. If the photographer places a heavy watermark on their image, could it then create a barrier which can put others off using that photographer?
A case is point is within the equestrian work that I do. It is not uncommon to find images taken by photographers of equestrian events being used without permission on social media, often with very heavy watermarks on. This practice does deny the photographer a fee for that image, but can also provider exposure to that photographer in ways they would not have achieved themselves. However it has been found that an overly strong watermark can put others off using that photographer, as the mark is seen as a barrier between the image and its creator.
In terms of appropriation in art and its history, we see that the practice of artists using pre-existing objects or images in their art as common place – often such images have very little transformation over he original.
A good example here could be the early conceptions of Andy Warhol. His work in the early post-modern era created the role of artist-as-instigator/provocateur, transforming modern pop culture into an artists subject matter that used multiple creative methods. Now recognised the world over, Warhol’s work to transform culture into subject matter through the use of artist representation of the everyday – or the famous – has led to a style now frequently subject to appropriation. This itself has generated its own term of being “Warholized” and it now even has its own App!
The image below shows an original Andy Warhol: Marylin Monroe,1962 – the style of which is now common place.
Marylin Monroe – Andy Warhol, 1962
A more modern example of appropriation is through the work of Shepard Fairey. He famously re-produced an image of the US president Obama taken by Mannie Garcia during the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.
Mannie Garcia/ Shepard Fairey
Fairey applied his own artistic style to Garcia’s image and created a new art movement that, as with Warhol, has now become commonplace. Fairey was sued by the AP photographer for the unauthorised use of one of his images. But this action did nothing to stop the use of Fairey’s own creative style by others – in some cases, directly against Fairey.
Not wishing to get sued myself, I am looking to explore the use of appropriation in a way that would fit with my main practice.
There are a number of images (photo and painting) of the local areas around the river Otter that date back into the last century. I am currently looking to explore local collections and make a request for local people to submit images of the areas around the river so I can factor them into the main project.