• Andy Przybyla

Appropriation of Work and how Social Media Aides it

So firstly what is appropriation and how does it differ from plagiarism?


Both revolve around using pre-existing art or photographs and making them your own, the real difference is in regard to ethics and how you change or manipulate the original piece. Simply taking someone photo from Facebook and taking credit for it is blatant plagiarism and has no real artistic benefit and requires little talent. Using an idea, concept or an existing images as a base for your own work can be just as creative as a fresh idea.


Many photographers have became famous (or infamous) for appropriated work. Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine are all people who have used the work of others in exhibitions of their own.

The above images are The Marlboro Cowboy by Richard Prince as used on Time Magazine, Barbara Kruger in her equality poster, and Sherrie Levine and her After Walker Evans Exhibition.


In my upcoming essay I am going to look more closely at the work of two artists and how they used existing photos and drawings as part of their work and how they justify and keep this legal. However in this blog were going to look at the work shown above and how it has been met.


Starting with Richard Prince and his Cowboys exhibition at the Guggenheim, also known as Marlboro Man. Richard even claims to have stole the photos although I'm sure this is more in jest at the criticism received on this piece of work. He was interested in a series of adverts used by Marlboro cigarettes in the 50s and 60s. He recropped the images to feature only the cowboys in the image.


Richard feels that as the images had lapsed into history and his highly effective crops refresh and bring new life to these images. He calls this recontextualisation and says it is a fair use of the work, even if the full peice is under copyright. Richard has found himself in court several times due to his practice.


My view on the topic is quite straightforward. Whilst I'd like to think there is some skill used in making images the end product should have the appearance of something new. Despite the ethics behind the decision, I find the After Walker Evans the one set of work that infringes my beliefs. It was done to make the work accessible, but it's robbed from the artist and basically the same piece of work.


I've chosen appropriation of work for an upcoming assignment as I find it quite a hot topic and something that will make an interesting discussion. The second part of this blog is going to look at borrowing the work of others on social media.

One of the biggest issues with uploading your photos to social media is losing control of them and that comes with a huge disclaimer from most companies. It's still the safest and best bet to link to private hosting where you can retain copyright and in some cases protect from downloading of images.

Appropriation is simply the taking ownership or take without permission. The very first website creators were heavily into stealing online images for their own use as it was faster and easier than scanning and uploading your own, not to mention taking them in the first place. This is where stock photography sites sprange from and are now big business and a way of making a money from your photos.


Typical Meme

The internet goes wild for a good MEME and these are often based on a popular photo which gets vastly appropriated. The generator sites often have a library of commonly used background images which you can add text straight to.


So while its a great way to get fast cheap exposure, you just never know when your image might end up somewhere you don't want saying something you never intended it to say.


You are stuck between a rock and a hard place as its neigh on impossible to stop the theft or copying of images online. This is why the social media giants have the disclaimers or they would be endlessly in court for allowing it to happen. I think we have to accept the appropriation of any image is here to stay and you're best of just getting on board.

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© 2020 by Andy Przybyla