Integrity is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Also dignity. And my thought is that these are things that have gone the way of the mimeograph.
Writing the words up there, they even sound quaint, if not stupid and ridiculous in the way that kvetching about the modern world makes you feel like a grumpy, out-of-touch old man (and old people are no good at everything).
There are several threads involved in this (which is how my brain works for better or worse) including:
- that the bar for celebrity has now been lowered to a point that we can be famous for… well I was going to say willingness to embarrass ourselves on camera, but I’m not even sure what this person has done;
- sub rosa shilling for companies via personal essays (now regulated by the FCC and who even remembers that once, product placement in a novel was grounds for much sturm und drang?);
- that we never apologize for anything (“sorry if someone was offended,” and “lapses in judgement” are not apologies);
- and, to get back on topic, Shepard Fairey. But I should keep this simpler and just go with the Fairey thing.
My point with the other things was that integrity seems to boil down to saying “no” to money; to there being some one thing at least that is, at bottom, not for sale. Or some one instance where you will forgo money that you could’ve taken, just because it’s the honorable (another dusty word) or at least fair thing to do. Which all seems like anachronism these days. It’s money and money is good!
Why would anyone ever say no to money? Which is why I’m wondering if dignity and integrity have any place at all in a country that has seemingly eliminated the last vestiges of “society” and now operates purely in an “economy.” But anyway.
So Fairey lied in his court documents and destroyed evidence and his lawyers have now abandoned the case. Which is something I did not expect to happen. He was (imo) hiding behind a mendacious concept of fair use to defend his image theft and the resulting badly-rendered (also popular) poster, although that was to’ve been a matter for the courts.
That he’s a cheesy copycat* is one thing. That he’d go so far to manipulate the case this badly is another thing entirely, and something I never saw coming.
The point about integrity might be something like this: if he had just paid the photographer – forgoing, really, a miniscule percentage of whatever money he’s gotten from the poster (he says none, but he’s said a lot of things that aren’t accurate) none of this would’ve happened and he could continue blithely LiveTracing photos for Nike** and whatnot (why is he called a “street artist” again?). So that’s your economic argument for doing the right thing. Hooray! We still live in an economy.
Here’s a link to the AP’s story (and bear in mind that it’s the AP reporting on a lawsuit against the AP, so, you know).
* Do click that link. Glaser rocks.
** Ugh, that’s so horrible. And it’s in my neighborhood.
What else – more Fairey shit. Hopefully this’ll be the last I’ll say about it. I have the attention span of Tom Arnold after nine speedballs and a six pack of Jolt, so I’m already tired of thinking about it.
So anyway, he’s suing now. Good strategy, if irritating. I just hope he doesn’t win. And I think it goes beyond whether adding “Hope” makes it something other than the photo. It’s that he did it for money and we’re supposed to pretend otherwise.
“Appropriation” or not, valid or not, why not just pay the photographer?* Plus, isn’t it a tiny bit absurd that Fairey’s claiming the photographer has no right to be paid, when he himself is most certainly paid? And, seriously, that stuff about him being a street artist is a bit tough to take when you look at his client list.
I wonder how far his defense will take us. Buy some shirts and let’s find out.
*I understand the Creative Commons argument, but a nagging part of me wonders how the (reductive) “information wants to be free” argument can be implemented in real life. I have a difficult time envisioning a world where creatives–and other generators of information–aren’t paid, because you have to eat to continue the making of the stuff.
So Fairey’s getting sued for the Obama poster. I have to say, I think the AP has a good case. If I believed that he used the photo as a source for an illustration, that would be one thing. And had he done that, it would’ve probably been nothing to get permission from the photographer, if not for the support of the candidate, then for some percentage commission. Which would be just plain fair – photographers gotta eat, too. And even if it is the AP which is suing, it’s good to remember that the AP is paying that photographer for his work (which is how we have the image in the first place – a photographer was getting paid to work).
But Fairey was kind of cheesy about the whole thing: grabbing the shot from Google, Live Tracing it, and then crapping out a poster for sale (remember, this was not a public service). That’s the thing – doing it honorably would not have taken much extra effort on his part. And presumably, Fairey’s making a decent living, so why not hire an illustrator? Why not shoot a percentage deal to the photographer? Think about the flip side – Fairey himself is hired by art directors, and he has been involved on the other side of the copying issue. It seems like he thinks compensating creatives doesn’t apply when it’s him.
Another update: This thing is really going crazy. Glaser weighs in here. Heller weighs in here. Even though Heller and Glaser are (for my money) a bit tepid, and there may be some schadenfreude in other critiques, I do think this is bad for the field of graphic design. With his complicity, he’s become a huge public face for design, and now we’re now just another fraud. First it was baseball, then the politicians, the newsmedia. And now we suck, too.
Post-election, I was hoping that this poster would go away and I could keep my carping to myself (and my long-suffering special lady). But lately, Shepard Fairey’s been all over the place, and while I think it’s great that we’re inviting graphic designers into the larger conversation, the downside is that the poster’s back again and so here goes.
I don’t hate it. It’s fine. But there are two major problems that just keep nagging.
The first is simple craftsmanship: it’s just not been drawn. It is more a demonstration of the limits of Adobe Illustrator Live Trace than it is an illustration. The shapes around the mouth, especially, are just horribly weak. It becomes a clip-art version of a WPA poster. Someone versed in anatomy would know how the philtrum is constructed and how the lips curve over each other and would (even if he was tracing it for a photographic likeness) be able to finesse the lines to push the perspective and the reinforce the overall strength of the image. This is what illustrators do that computers can’t (among other things).
Just look at the uneven lips, the shapeless shapes around the mouth, the incorrect perspective. It’s kind of exasperating if you get into it. Don’t even get me started on the nose (just look at the comparison! Ugh).
The second is more the fascist style of it. I’m not sure if it was intentional or subliminal, but it’s definitely there. It seems like, after the past eight horrid years, and with a great candidate to get behind, all of us Obama supporters couldn’t wait to shove some of our own fascist imagery down the throats of the other guys. I don’t think that a poster image of fascism is as bad as the more real-life shades of totalitarianism embraced by the neoconservatives of the past two terms. But still. I didn’t like the toothless fascism (they call it “school spirit”) of high school rivalries, or the subtler but slightly less toothless fascism of patriotic displays, and I don’t like fascism here, even though it’s my side that’s doing it.
Also: I am an Obama supporter. And I don’t know much about Fairey’s work, except that I did like the Andre the Giant stuff. But this thing – okay, maybe I do kind of hate it.