Does Fairey have a posse?
January 21, 2010 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Shepard Fairey's Fight for Appropriation, Fair Use and Free Culture Evelyn McDonnell ponders his career and quotes Fairey's reasoning about the Obama "Hope" poster that got AP angry.
posted by dabitch (7 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
A couple of points about that case:

1) Fairey is suing the AP, the AP is not actually trying to stop anyone from using that image. Instead, Fairey is pro-actively trying to use the courts to establish that he has the right to use the picture

2) It's not all that clear that the AP is the only one who's ever captured a photo of Obama from that particular direction. If you think about how many photos of Obama have been taken, it's kind of ridiculous to think that they are. Plus Obama's facial expression is actually a little different.

3) The Hypocracy angle is kind of interesting.
posted by delmoi at 6:51 AM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was stunned, when I finally got to see the "HOPE" portrait up close at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum, at how mixed-media it is: it's a collage of newspaper articles, advertisements, wallpaper, words, and patterns. The original work, at least (not the mass-produced image), is surprisingly unique.
posted by steef at 7:10 AM on January 21, 2010


A fascinating read on an important subject. Thank you.

I tried to read some of the lawyers' opinions on it. Some parts were interesting, some parts made my head spin, some made me question the need for such complication. Every one was good insight into a subject I know nothing about.

The only thing I personally can be sure of after reading, is that we will have come far as a species when problems like this have a simple solution.
posted by Rei Toei at 7:34 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


In 1989, he made a stencil of Andre the Giant and added the words "Andre the Giant Has a Posse," plus the wrestler/actorʼs height and weight. He plastered the stickers around Providence enough that a local weekly, The Nice Paper, took note. Soon, the Andre campaign spread to nearby Boston and New York. Fairey sent stickers to friends who put them up wherever they lived. He advertised in punk magazines and sold the stickers by mail order for five cents each.

Within seven years, he had printed and distributed a million of them. Fairey also made Andre posters and stencils. André René Roussimoff died in 1993, but he and his make- believe posse were ubiquitous on urban street lamps and walls for years afterwards.

According to one news account, Fairey had to alter the image of Andre, as the owners of World Wrestling Entertainment threatened to sue over it.8 The face evolved into a Constructivist-inspired abstraction, and now the words just said "Obey" or "Giant." The forced change actually enabled Faireyʼs art to become more sophisticated and distinctive. The style that was to become famous with "Hope" was apparent in the "Obey" series of works of 1995.


Stop using that image of André the Giant on your stickers or I'll call in the Brute Squad.

Copyright is a blunt tool. As much as it can be said to be a hinder to artistic expression, as a hinder it can also be a force FOR creative expression.

Fairey's "appropriation" of the AP image seems to be a poor subject for analysis. The image itself is not particularly distinctive. As delmoi points out, anyone could have taken that photo. What made the Obama Hope poster distinctive was Fairey's own style (perhaps inspired by the threat of copyright infringement litigaiton.) The photo was a minor element.

It seems Fairey was lazy and found it easier to free ride off some hard-working AP photographer instead of taking the time to browse through the Creative Commons closet to find something he could freely use.

That's the real crime.
posted by three blind mice at 7:38 AM on January 21, 2010


Its all well and good to nick off corporations or whatever - but when you're taking stuff from other punks....... (i classify shep very loosely as a punk). People who have walked the walk way more than you have, its shabby and should be addressed. Precisely how my debts get bigger while hats sold by shep with my net nom de plume keep selling, is a mystery to me. Anyway, thats fairly tangenital - but it illustrates a lack of discernment thats miles away from standard punk 'ethics' (if there is such a thing). There just seems to be no difference between ripping off a corporation and ripping off an individual in sheps modus operandi. The stuff about coming from risd doesnt exactly boost the punk ethic either.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:02 AM on January 21, 2010



It seems Fairey was lazy and found it easier to free ride off some hard-working AP photographer


Gimme a break. I'm not a big fan of Fairey's work , and I don't care much about that Obama image, but I can tell you as a graphic artist myself- he spent more "hard work" of that image than whoever snapped the photo.

He didn't infringe on anything. He's got a right to work from a photo. It was different enough to be its own piece of art.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:08 PM on January 21, 2010


sgt.serenity, scotland will win the world cup and your name will be yours again.

Thanks for the breakdown and extra link, delmoi. I hadn't seen that article on Fairey vs. Orr.
posted by dabitch at 1:16 PM on January 21, 2010


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