Duran Duran’s Rio Cover Model Identified 42 Years Later
June 12, 2024 1:02 PM   Subscribe

A surprise for the subject of the photo and the band members themselves [Consequence of Sound] The mystery subject behind one of the most iconic album covers of the ’80s has finally been uncovered. For decades, fans have speculated about the identity of the inspiration for illustrator Patrick Nagel’s artwork for Duran Duran’s Rio, who has now been revealed as model Marcie Hunt.

In an Instagram post of her own, Hunt added, “Thanks so much to the illustrator of this album cover, Patrick Nagel, who is no longer with us. And now Barry Hahn, his technical assistant who confirmed that the cover and smile is inspired by this photo.”

More coverage:
SF Chronicle
Daily Mail

The February 1981 issue of Vogue Paris [YT, time 21:49]

More photos that inspired Nagel prints.

Duran Duran Fandom wiki
posted by indexy (20 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Cherry ice cream smile, I suppose it's very nice!

On the boat, in the video, the woman is Reema Ruspoli
posted by chavenet at 1:13 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Oh good Christ, those two images side by side. If I'd just seen the picture without the album cover context I'd have been wondering, "Where have I seen this pose and smile before? Where?"
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:17 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Forgot to add: Duran Duran Instagram with a fun overlay of the two images.
posted by indexy at 1:24 PM on June 12

Yeah, I'm legitimately kind of surprised to discover that Nagel worked that closely off of reference photos and that it wasn't just a wholly original illustration. But yeah, if I saw that picture in Vogue out of context, I would've been just as puzzled.
posted by Kyol at 1:25 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]

So are there any copyright/permissions issues now? Like the Warhol-Prince thing?
posted by gottabefunky at 1:32 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Know is there anybody who can tell me who the cover model is on The Low End Theory?
posted by jonp72 at 1:35 PM on June 12

I still love his work. His art book is the first I ever bought and I still have it.

If you ever feel suddenly short of breath and/or have severe chest pain after unusual exertion, call 911. Nagel died of a heart attack in a parking lot after an aerobics class (in the deepest of ironies, in a benefit for the Heart Association). He was 38.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:13 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]

Count me as someone else who's surprised that Nagel worked from photo references, at least once. (And, given that one of the Nagel prints available on Amazon is of a woman on the toilet, brings up Certain Questions.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:20 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

(Also mildly flabbergasted that there are YT videos of people flipping through old magazines. I can smell the perfume/cologne inserts.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:24 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Halloween Jack: (Also mildly flabbergasted that there are YT videos of people flipping through old magazines. I can smell the perfume/cologne inserts.)

Ha!, yes. I was hoping to find the issue online to see the full page image, and this was the best I was able to locate on a brief search.
posted by indexy at 2:27 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

“countless hours” figuring out the reference photo

I'm going to guess they did this by pointing some kind of AI engine at an archive of Vogue magazines.
posted by Lanark at 3:22 PM on June 12

Remember this was 1981, photoshop and illustrator had not yet been invented, nor had computers/displays suitable for running them, this was probably traced over a photo
posted by mbo at 4:15 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm legitimately kind of surprised to discover that Nagel worked that closely off of reference photos and that it wasn't just a wholly original illustration

It is very common when you see a drawing with perfect proportions that the image was basically traced off some reference image. Maybe it was a light table, maybe a projector, maybe a grid system... There are devices dating back to the Renaissance to help artists in this way. Not to say that there aren't artists who are just that good at proportion, or lighting or whatever, some are, but a lot are using assistance (and that's fine! Nobody is going to say Norman Rockwell couldn't draw just because he worked closely from photo references)
posted by surlyben at 4:35 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]

I’m fairly sure Desire Of The Endless was the cover model, despite these claims, just like how Robert Smith was clearly based on Dream
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:59 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]

Another "it never occurred to me that these were based on reference images." If anything, that makes his process more intriguing to me. He distilled something out of fashion images with other purposes.
posted by Miko at 6:32 PM on June 12

When Pat first started working as an illustrator, most, if not all, of his commercial work was created from images found in print media.

Please believe me when I say I had to muster the courage to ask this sincere question:

How is this not just the manual form of AI generated art?

No, really, please explain it. He's tracing over other people's work without permission to create his own commercial work, right? Is nostalgia for this artwork causing us to excuse the ethical considerations here? And aren't young people today going to do the same with AI art in 40 years?
posted by AlSweigart at 4:44 AM on June 13

That argument (are you a real artist, or just tracing) has played out for centuries. If there's any fence it's one of substantial transformation and novel application of creativity. Maybe the outlines of the model's lips and shape of her face are the same, but the resulting art is clearly the result of Nagel's own artistic vision and inspiration. All art is theft, to a degree, say some, and the degree of theft matters somewhat less than how much new art has been applied on top.

I think the quintessential case about this was about Richard Prince's Untitled (Cowboy) basically a rephotographed Marlboro Man cigarette ad. The visual image was 100% appropriation but Prince's context and commentary about advertising affecting society, within which the reproduction was exhibited, it was argued, made it a new work.

Nagel said "i like those lips, I like the shape of that face, I like the breezy sexuality implied by the model's expression" and created a new work using those ideas.

There's a comic book artist -- Greg Land -- who is notorious for tracing / digitally "remastering" pinup imagery (and possibly porn) for his poses. That's a lot murkier to me. But on the other hand, are the poses themselves part of the art of comics, or is it the storytelling portrayed with them?

There's no simple answer, and artists and consumers (and the legal system) have to feel their way towards what's acceptable and what isn't.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:15 AM on June 13

Hi AlSweigart - my 2c - It depends which argument one is going after.

If it's the "AI uses artist's work to inform its own to an extent that it is a derivative work created without permission" then, yeah pretty much bang to rights. I think the existing law has something to say about that. Probably badly.

Another argument is that at least with the 'tracing' version, another artist was involved and created something. the AI version does away with the human.

In the first argument, is the law around copyright robust and flexible enough to give original creators their due? (I don't know. I suspect not. And if it tried, it would probably do a bad job of it.). And for the second argument, I think it's informed at base by how much weight you want to put on human creativity and whether or not you'd accept the premise that AI creativity can or is replacing human creativity outright.

For my part, I feel dismay at how much it's being used as a full replacement for human creativity because its cheaper, and feel like optimistic talk of leveraging AI for human creativity in the arts is just that, optimistic. And also that the cases one can imagine where AI is handling things we couldn't and is really helping with artworks, are, at least currently, outliers. No one will need a human for a simple illustration, soon. And so, again for my part, I think that's a shame. Hence I'm more concerned about the second argument than the first, and yes, I am pessimistic that it will be leveraged to the benefit of human creativity, rather than just annulling the possibility of making a livelihood that way.
posted by aesop at 5:29 AM on June 13

How is this not just the manual form of AI generated art?

One part of the answer is that only humans were involved, and all the art is the result of humans doing human scale things with human style intent. AI does creepy AI things, and that bothers people.

The other part is that any artist using images as a basis for thier work like this incurs significant copyright liability. If the owner of the copyright of the photograph (presumably the photographer) saw this, they might feel outraged in the same way a lot of people feel about AI, and if they wanted to sue, they might well have a case.

Nagel's estate would likely argue that the use is transformative, and they might win or they might not. The amount of copying (you can overlay the images and they match exactly!) would be in the photographer's favor, and the fact that it looks exactly like a Nagel image and contains many elements not in the original image argues for Nagel. The nature of the use might also matter: are the two images directly competing? It's an album cover not a fashion magazine, but the song is about fashion.

This is potentially a big pain in the ass for everyone concerned, which is why it's a good idea to always get permission when you use reference photos. A solid objection to LLM-style AI is that they didn't get permission, they didn't get permission billions of times (the scale of the thing!) and the resulting models compete directly with the original content. If the New York Times case is to be believed, the models contain copies that aren't transformed at all (which is surprising and kind of dumb) and that's a big issue.
posted by surlyben at 6:52 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

If there's any fence it's one of substantial transformation and novel application of creativity.

Yep. It took someone 42 years to spot the particular source photograph (in a not-very-obscure magazine), but it's immediately identifiable as a Patrick Nagel artwork. Nagel's style was so evocative of the 80s that it ended up being the basis for the character designs in the 80s-themed cartoon Moonbeam City. (The criticisms of Greg Land generally stem not so much from the fact that he uses porn stills as the basis for much of his work, as that he seems to favor some of the most vapid, orgasm-faking facial expressions, and that he reuses them over and over again. Put it another way: there's an old joke that Rembrandt couldn't draw feet, but that doesn't make Rob Liefeld the equivalent of Rembrandt.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:53 AM on June 13

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