Save Yourself $89,910

Back in February I wrote Prince of Pilfering about the selling by Richard Prince and his gallery of large-scale reproductions of Instagram images and comments without permission from the those who have produced the work. On the web, the photographs look exactly as the Instagram originals, though after having been enlarged and printed on canvas, the image quality must be rather poorer, but by adding his name to them, Prince has apparently persuaded some deluded individuals to hand over $90,000 a throw.

One image was by photographer Donald Graham, though it had been posted on Instagram, apparently without his permission by a third party, and Graham was understandably not amused, and it was reported that his lawyer had sent “cease and desist” letters to Prince and the Gagosian Gallery.

I’ve not been able to find any comment on-line as to the current state of play between the two sides over this case, though while it may seem cut and dried to photographers, for lawyers the issues it raises are more complex, as you can read in The Latest Richard Prince Controversy, Clarified by Patent and Copyright Attorney John Arsenault on Fstoppers.

A day or so ago came a development by another of those whose Instagram image was ripped off by Prince – in this case 5 images.  As I first read in PDN Online,  rather than go to law, ‘Missy Suicide‘ has decided to re-appropriate the work by Prince, making the five prints available through her own web site at the same size and printed on canvas like his for a mere $90 – with any profit being donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Dedicated collectors who bought all five could save themselves £449,550.

It’s perhaps a rather cleverer act of appropriation than Prince’s and one that Prince himself has responded to personally (thanks to PetaPixel for the link) with a tweetMuch better idea. I started off selling my “family” tweets for $18 at Karma not to long ago. Missy Suicide is smart.”

She may be smart, but Prince is already laughing all the way to the bank, though there is no way I would want to buy any of these images, either in the Prince or Missy Suicide versions, though I think the latter are more honest. They will also have considerably higher image quality, being reproduced from the originals rather than the low res Instagram. And in case anyone still thinks this is about photography, that will make them worth considerably less. While the controversy will undoubtedly have increased the art market value of Prince’s pilfering.

Personally I’m going to save myself slightly more – another $90 – by not buying the prints from Missy Suicide.  The site – described by PetaPixel as the “pin-up photo brand SuicideGirls” appears to deal in the kind of idealised soft-porn ‘glamour’ that I find boring, de-humanising and rather offensive. Lets keep photography real.

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