A few weeks ago I asked the question: Is photography art? I cited examples of painters who licensed my cowboy photography (and some who didn’t license it) and essentially copied it with their paint brush and then present it as something wholly produced by themselves. No credit to the photographer. No disclaimer. No provenance. And no story behind their creation or the photograph that inspired their creation.
The reason I brought it up was because some galleries and art shows and artists will not even consider photography as art. Yet they will accept a painting where a photograph was copied almost entirely.
Well, not too long ago I was searching the Internet to keep an eye who use my photos in licensed and unlicensed ways when I stumbled onto something created by an artist named Jennifer Mehigan. You can see the image that caught my attention upper right. It looks like she called it “Flash of the Hand.”
She should have called it “Slight of Hand.”
There are two things about this image that struck me funny. For starters, the underlying canvas she used for her brush strokes is a photo I created with my camera and edited in my digital darkroom. The other thing that caught my attention was the fact that she was charging many thousands of dollars for that piece. Despite contributing more than half of what people see in the image, I received no credit and I was lucky if I netted $4.00 as the image was purchased I presume through a stock photography website–though there’s no proof of that. That’s one of the down sides of having your photography sold by a stock photography website.
Am I jealous? No. She has better contacts than I have. I guess that’s smart. But it is yet more evidence why photographers are artists every bit as much (and sometimes more) than the so-called “real” artists.
Mehigan is a Sydney-educated artist who now lives and works in Singapore. I pretty much guarantee she’s never stepped foot in Belleville, Wisconsin where my photo (right) was created. Her art is very abstract and avant-garde, to say the least, but you can be the judge. Critics call her work “remarkable” and “inspiring.” And she obviously has made a pretty good living combining digital work with painting, drawing, and sculpting. Which means instead of using a bare canvas she starts with a stratum someone else before her created and then she adds her work to it.
Is it ethical for her to represent the entire work of art as her own? Is it ethical to do so without giving credit to the underlying artist who created the colors that light bounces off of and enters any human’s eye who sees it? I don’t know.
I do wonder a couple of things, though. I wonder who purchased that particular piece of art. And I wonder if they would enjoy knowing the story behind the photo.
Because I know the photographer.
And my work is 100% my own.