Thursday, April 13, 2006

Homage or Ripoff? You Decide.

On of my favorite photographers, Annie Leibovitz, is in a bit of hot water over her recent Vanity Fair cover shoot.

According to Women's Wear Daily, the May 2006 issue of Vanity Fair (dubbed the "Green Issue" even though it does not use recycled paper!) features a Leibovitz cover that is very reminiscent of a 1948 shot by Irving Penn called "Ballet Society." The Vanity Fair cover features Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Al Gore, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney and has a series of articles about the environment (thus the "Green" designation).

Critics claim that Leibovitz ripped off the Penn shot for the cover. It does look like an exact duplicate of the Penn shot. But, Leibovitz says the cover shot was "inspired" by Penn, not a ripoff.

Here's how Woman's Wear Daily described the cover:

Although there's no mention anywhere in the magazine of the connection, the composition of the two photos is virtually identical, down to the leafy garland on Roberts' head.

WWD points out that while Leibovitz may have liberally borrowed from Penn for the shot, she is not very forgiving of others borrowing her work. In 1991 she sued a movie studio for using one of her shots (the famous cover shot of a naked, pregnant Demi Moore) in an ad campaign. The studio replaced the head of her subject with the head of the lead actor in the movie. The court ruled the ad was a parody.


D said...

I've read a couple things about this, and I think it's a lot of hype over nothing.

It's not like she edited his photo to make it look like she took it or something - she paid homage to it by arranging her own photo in the same manner.

If all photographers were subject to this kind of treatment each time they snapped a shot, how many photos of the Eiffel Tower, or a desert moon or the Taj Mahal or the pyramids, etc... would there be?

Stealing and/or editing art that is not your own is completely different than simply admiring an arrangement and doing something similar, with completely different people to boot!

Albano Garcia said...

Check this:
Leibovitz was "tributed" on a very popular argentine magazine called Gente (People).
Really nice site by the way.

Tim said...

"D"'s got it right there. I'd say imitation was a form of flattery and have done. I'd also ask how many photos there are of a group with 3 blokes and a lass, because that's about all the two shots have in common. The colour/b&w difference is the least of it: the tones are nothing like the same, the positions, postures and expressions are not the same, the lighting is different, etc. IMHO the VF edition looks like a typical staged magazine-cover splash-shot while the Leibovitz actually has photographic merit.