(UPDATE: We spoke to Shepard Fairey, so now this post comes with notes! Ta-da.) When Shepard Fairey reached out to photographer Andrena Douglass to use her portrait of a fellow cancer survivor to use in his work, she consented under licensing terms: credit her photo and let her take a portrait of Fairey with the work in his studio, before it goes off to be exhibited. They confirmed it by phone and email, but the credit didn’t make it. She found out after the fact that the work based on a photo of a friend that she met while they were getting chemotherapy together was being exhibited without the promised credit and heads up. (UPDATE: According to an email forwarded to us by Shepard Fairey, Jamie O’Shea, the curator for the Livestrong exhibit has apologized for not including the credit, saying it was a rushed misunderstanding. Andrena maintains it wasn’t. Fairey points out that he made the correction on his website.) So, what do you do if Shepard Fairey — or another artist — uses your photograph? ANIMAL asks Andrena for some advice.
Andrena was aware of the AP/Fairey copyright lawsuit, then still pending, in fact, that’s why she hasn’t told her story about her months-long legal battle with Shepard Fairey
while still undergoing treatment for cancer until recently. (UPDATE: Andrena clarifies that she had just finished chemo treatment or was just about to, when she took the photo, and she was still recovering.) Finally, she got credit. (UPDATE: And an undisclosed settlement sum.)
This is the original photo of Jessica Ikenberry which holds a lot of personal meaning to Andrena. Fairey cropped it, in hopes of getting a bigger bid at a charity auction. (UPDATE: Andrena approved the crop.)
In this stressful situation, how is one able to handle herself and her emotions?
“I’ve tried very hard to keep the retelling of this story focused on photographer rights, as the emotions I went through are perhaps not as important as my desire to use this situation for future good. I will say, though, that this was a very stressful and incredibly emotional situation. I did choose to put off telling the story until after Shepard Fairey’s current court case concluded, so as not to add fuel to the Obama ‘Hope’ case fire. But that was just a personal choice.”
What would you say to a photographer who’s just recognized their photo in Shepard Fairey’s — or another artist’s — piece?
“I would hope that this wouldn’t happen, and that any use of any photographic image – by any artist – would be preceded with a phone call and a license agreement. Once a license agreement is in place, the artist (or licensor) has a responsibility to honor that agreement. Remember, Shepard Fairey didn’t steal my image. He licensed it, then failed to honor my very simple license terms.
If someone does see their work used in another person’s art – without permission, or in a way that violates their license agreement – I would encourage them to contact a copyright attorney. I used Carolyn E. Wright. Carolyn’s blog is a must-read for anyone interested in copyright matters. It’s also important for photographers to copyright their work with the US Copyright Office, as this helps should a legal matter arise.”
What would you like artists to know about the practice of photography in general that would help artists and photographers understand that all art forms are created equal?
“Value the work of others as you would your own. Shepard Fairey has brought legal action against other artists for infringing upon his copyright. But his copyright is no more or less important than mine. I haven’t studied my craft since the age of 12 to have my work be treated as though it has no value. My work has just as much value as that of any other artist.
If there’s one thing I could encourage artists to do, it would be to request permission before using an image in their art, and then honor whatever license terms the photographer sets forth. Half-hearted apologies and excuses after the fact aren’t enough. Images that are published in print or online aren’t there for the taking. They are there because there was a license agreement in place with the print or web publisher. Thus, for another use, another license agreement must be put into place.”
Andrena says that the photograph “was taken after we’d both just come through a journey that’s very humbling and hard to explain.” We’re glad to hear that Jessica and Andrena are both doing great and are healthy.