Appropriation versus fair use


To many photographers, a federal appeals court ruling last spring that permitted Richard Prince to use someone else’s photographs in his art was akin to slapping a “Steal This” label on their work.

As the New York times reports, “The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reasoned that as long as Mr. Prince’s work transformed the images into original art, he was not violating anyone’s copyright.

But photographers are pushing back against that interpretation. Several membership and trade organizations have banded together recently to press their cause in Congress and the courts.

“More than half a dozen groups, including the National Press Photographers Association, Professional Photographers of America and the Picture Archive Council of America, have joined together to submit a friend of the court brief to support the photographer Patrick Cariou, after part of his case against Mr. Prince was sent back to a judge for reconsideration. That informal coalition is considering hiring a Washington lobbyist, said Victor Perlman, general counsel for the American Society of Media Photographers, and, last month, several of the groups sent representatives to meet with legislators, including members of a House of Representativessubcommittee.

“One photographer has also decided to pursue a similar court fight, despite last spring’s ruling. In December, Lois Greenfield, a dance photographer, filed a lawsuit in federal courtin Manhattan, arguing that paintings of dancers a Texas artist made violated her copyright. Continue reading “Appropriation versus fair use”

Photographic truth

The Associated Press (AP) has an obvious interest in maintaining the idea that its images are “true,” even in an era in which the line between reality and fiction is known to blur.Unknown

But people still debate the issue, as evidenced last week in the dust up over whether Lena Dunham’s Vogue pictures by Annie Leibowitz had been doctored. Hence, we find the following pious article from AP about its firing of a photographer who photoshopped a tiny corner of an image taken in Syria because he wanted to eliminate a camera laying on the ground:

“The Associated Press has severed ties with a freelance photographer who it says violated its ethical standards by altering a photo he took while covering the war in Syria in 2013. The news service said Wednesday that Narciso Contreras recently told its editors that he manipulated a digital picture of a Syrian rebel fighter taken last September, using software to remove a colleague’s video camera from the lower left corner of the frame. That led AP to review all of the nearly 500 photos Contreras has filed since he began working for the news service in 2012. No other instances of alteration were uncovered, said Santiago Lyon, the news service’s vice president and director of photography.  Contreras was one of a team of photographers working for the AP who shared in a Pulitzer last year for images of the Syrian war. None of the images in that package were found to be compromised, according to the AP. AP said it has severed its relationship with Contreras and will remove all of his images from its publicly available photo archive. The alteration breached AP’s requirements for truth and accuracy even though it involved a corner of the image with little news importance, Lyon said.  Continue reading “Photographic truth”

Back to the darkroom

“Digital images are inherently less interesting just because everyone does it,” said the 22-year-old photography student. He brushed some of the liquid on the wood, one step in developing photos using platinum, a technique that was last widely used before World War I.

“When someone sees something like this, it’ll hold their attention longer because it catches them off-guard,” Willie Wenzlau said.

Wenzlau is voicing an interest growing in recent years from students wanting to learn traditional analogue photography techniques. Wenzlau is part of the Southern California’s Art Center’s efforts to plan a potential graduate photography degree, in part by taking a step back to the future, as the LA Times discusses:

“The Pasadena school began offering elective courses in these old-fashioned techniques about two years ago, hoping that students would get a better grasp of photography history while also mastering methods that will help them stand out in a field where everyone with a phone can be a photographer. Students are using boxy Ansel Adams-style cameras mounted on tripods, developing photos with antique processes and spending more time in the film darkroom.

“Earlier this year, the school received a $75,000 grant from the Annenberg Foundation to study the ways that the photography and imaging department could change to fit the digital age. Administrators looked backward instead, and found that learning the basics will only help the new photographers. The course electives have been so successful that they plan to incorporate more traditional methods into their graduate courses, which could begin in several years.

“We want to build a graduate program on top of firm foundations,” said Dennis Keeley, the department’s chair.

“The Art Center, located near the Rose Bowl, has produced alumni such as film director Zack Snyder and one of the advertisers behind the “Got Milk?” ad campaign, but the majority of undergraduates major in illustration. The four-year school costs undergraduate students about $18,000 per term in tuition, school officials said.

“It’s not unusual for art schools to offer classes in antique processes. The Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore has long had classes in Van Dyke printing, a process that involves ferric ammonium citrate and tartaric acid, among other old-fashioned methods, said Lynn Silverman, a professor.”


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Allan Sekula

For those of us coming of age as photographers in the 1980s, Allan Sekula was a beacon of light. Brilliantly compassionate, Sekula eloquently spoke truth to power well before many of us were aware of what we were up against. In this he was an artist, scholar, and teacher in the most noble sense of these terms, whether this meant reading photography against the grain, analyzing the invisible adaptability of capital, or noting that school can be a factory. He changed my view of the world and his passing is a great loss to all of us. – David Trend

Brian Boucher’s thoughtful obituary appearing in Art in America follows: “Artist and critic Allan Sekula, known for his politically pointed photographic projects, died Aug. 10 in Los Angeles from gastric-esophageal cancer. He was 62, and he taught at the California Institute of the Arts for nearly three decades.

“As a writer, Allan described with great clarity and passion what photography can, and must do: document the facts of social relations while opening a more metaphoric space to allow viewers the idea that things could be different,” said school of art dean Thomas Lawson in a statement. “And as a photographer he set out to do just that. He laid bare the ugliness of exploitation, but showed us the beauty of the ordinary; of ordinary, working people in ordinary, unremarkable places doing ordinary, everyday things.”

“Born Jan. 15, 1951 in Erie, Penn., Sekula grew up in San Pedro, Calif., and earned a bachelor’s degree in art at UC San Diego. He earned an MFA in 1974 at the same school. After teaching briefly at New York University, he was on the faculty at Ohio State University’s department of photography and cinema for five years before, in 1985, going to CalArts. Continue reading “Allan Sekula”

Photography now booming in museums

imgresA new generation of museum curators and directors is pushing photography to unprecedented heights – and audiences seem to love it.

On a recent wintry afternoon, Jeff Rosenheim, the newly appointed head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s photography department, stopped in at its special exhibition galleries, reports today’s New York times.  “He was checking on the installation of a new acquisition: a 61-minute video called “Street,” by the British-born artist James Nares.

“As brilliantly colored images splashed across a 16-foot-long screen, teams of art handlers and curators were placing photographs, drawings, sculptures and paintings in adjacent galleries. “This is exactly what we’re trying to do,” Mr. Rosenheim said, “to show photography in the context of many different kinds of art.” Continue reading “Photography now booming in museums”