Photographer of Marlboro Ads Exhibits Photos Richard Prince Copied

“Clasen says, “It just dawned on me how much work [ad agency] Leo Burnett and the various photographers…had put into this campaign.” He shot his ad assignments on film, following real cowboys who had been selected and cast for the ads, and spent long days shooting on location. He explains, “I thought of all the pride the cowboys, the agency, the photographers put into this, and then for someone to sit in their living room and take a picture of it, crop part of it out and sell it for a million dollars, finally sort of got to me. I thought: If this isn’t morally, ethically and legally wrong, what is?””

Two observations:

  1. Photographer of images still not even named in headline. Prince has taken Clasen’s images, but also his likeness as an artist in a way.
  2. Interesting for Clasen to speak about the morality of “taking” a photograph and recontextualizing it (as well as materially altering the composition) without speaking about the morality of the situation under which the photograph was commissioned. Is a picture using the likeness of cowboys made to sell cigarettes really to be treated so preciously? Does the labor of the photographer (which he emphasizes) involved justify the work as valid? I noticed this a lot while working in photojournalism – equating the physical effort and time spent making the images, getting access etc as justification for ownership/publishing.