« Random Excellence: Taran Morgan | Main | ...The Single Use Device is No More of Use »

Thursday, 01 November 2012


I'm not sure that I see this as any different from a musician who covers or remixes a song from another artist. It is just creating new art from existing art.

A couple of pedantic points. It's usually spelled Bamiyan, which I was lucky enough to visit in 1973.

Re the Duchamp Mona Lisa, it was actually annotated "L.H.O.O.Q." which pronounced in French read as ""Elle a chaud au cul" - ie "She's got a hot arse" (I guess this might be better rendered "ass" given your physical location!)

Given that (IMHO) Marcel Duchamp was arguably the greatest and unquestionably the most influential artist of the 20th century I think the above is a correction worth making.

It's important that images and ideas enter the creative commons, precisely so other people can play off them and work with them.

Thanks for those thoughts. Your right, the violence done to the original artist had not even crossed my mind until you brought it up. I was just concerned about whether I liked it or not.

@ Mike: "and drew on my drawing"

This used to annoy me intensely too, and for the same reasons. I wish I'd had the self confidence then to respond as you did. It still annoys me when I think about it now.

So is it accurate to condense your position as feeling that it was simply disrespectful of the young lady to color-tint those photographs?

If so you, and others who similarly objected, should probably send a strong letter to the folks at Time.

Personally I think that y'all are just making too big an issue of it and, consequently, drawing even wider attention to the images. (I would never have seen them if not for Ctein's notes.)

Protest to those who are committing the outrage. Otherwise you're just advertising.

People don't get incensed about the destruction of a copy in the same way they get incensed about the destruction of an original.

Rather than Duchamp, a better example would be "Erased DeKooning," in which an irreplaceable original was destroyed to make a similar point.

I found the Time disaster to be offensive, but mainly for the sailor/nurse photo and the Anne Frank colorization. The first was an issue of bad art, the second an issue of, well, obliterating evidence of genocide.


Mike, your story from art class is amusing. Twice in fifth grade, I finished a test, knew I hadn't done as well as I would have liked, then just pocketed the test and never handed it in. Needless to say, it didn't go unnoticed very long!

I have mixed feelings about the colorizations. The truth is that we are all working off of the foundation of others, whether it's literally drawing a mustache on Mona Lisa or using a technique that we learned from another photographer. I have a conflict every time I shoot architecture, sculpture, or really any art. Yes, it's my photo but my subject is a creation by someone else.

I'm of two minds about this, which probably means I should just keep my fingers off my keyboard and my thoughts to myself. But here goes.

I see a distinct difference between these colorizations and the pedantry, not to say hubris, of your seventh grade art (sub) teacher, and you do point out this difference: Your (sub) teacher was indeed defacing your work by altering it without your permission. I'm curious, though, whether you would have felt less aggrieved had she magically made an exact copy of what you'd done and applied her "improvements" to that copy, leaving you free to accept or ignore her suggestions at your will. In the case of the colorizations, as you note, the originals are unharmed. The original photographer is credited in all instances, and under the colorized versions Dullaway is noted as the colorizer, not the original photographer. Could this be a case of "fair use" in another piece of (attempted) art?

My other question is about whether these are supposed to be improvements. Perhaps I missed a subtext in the Lightbox blurb, but I'm not sure they're claimed to be improvements, just reinterpretations. In that respect, Dullaway might be seen as akin to a band that does a cover of another band's song and reworks it significantly, perhaps with different instrumentation or at a different tempo, so that it has only echoes of the original song.

When I hear such songs I am usually offended by the lack of respect for the original, but I grudgingly accept that such things are legitimate.

Which brings me to the other half of my mind: For the most part, I agree with Ctein, with you, and with your growling friend. I think these colorizations are largely inappropriate, and most of them degrade, not improve, the original, sometimes horribly ("migrant mother" and "relief station" being chief among these). Some are neither better nor worse, just different. The reason I'm of two minds is that I can't decide whether my objection is principled or aesthetic. And, unfortunately, writing this comment hasn't helped me figure it out.

"Try this as an exercise: imagine your very best picture—something you're really proud of and think you got just right. Now imagine someone else coming along, taking your file, and completely changing it in some fundamental way, and then spreading that version around with your name on it."

Yeah, when you're a staff photographer, this happens pretty much all the time. Not that most of my work is any sort of great art, but I do put a fair amount of effort into it, and some of it is pretty decent. Then it gets converted to B+W, or cropped to a panoramic to fit the website, or "enhanced" in some other way that makes the teeth quietly grind. Alas, I don't technically own my work; the Trustees do. Not worth getting too upset over in the long run.

I take the point about disrespecting the artist's original vision but I think it is one thing to colorize the original photographs rather than do it in Photoshop. Some might call that re-interpreting the work. I may not like the results but I am not sure I can safely object to it on the grounds that it is not the kind of art that I like or think is "good" art. I'm bound to get it wrong at some point if there even is a right or wrong.

No originals were harmed in the making of these pictures....

Had the originals been altered, I could understand all the fuss.

Argue about it's effectiveness and execution by all means, I could see why some may find it poorly done or unattractive, but Ctein's outrage was diluted when his comments centered on their historical inaccuracy. Would it have been OK if accurate? Would it have been OK if you thought the execution were better?

I cannot bring myself to see this as any more than curiosity, a bit of fun aimed at making history in general (not the images themselves) more immediate and understandable to a modern generation raised on color. I detected no intention to supplant or devalue the originals.

I'll save my outrage for deliberate attempts to copy or steal credit for other people's work, or defacing actual originals (eg. the recent Rothko incident at the Tate Modern), or other examples of human ignorance, like attempts to assassinate teenage girls for having the temerity to seek an education.

This really does not warrant so much hot air and righteous indignation.

Fine, except I'm not outraged or indignant. Any more than I am by this. So you're flogging a straw dog as far as a response to this post is concerned.



You are such a great example of an INFP. Knew it.

And I saw the Rockwell cover joke. That's good!


'Ignoramuses have always considered photographs to be "appropriatable".' Photographers have always considered the world to be appropriatable. Pity the model or the landscaper or the architect who has buried their soul in their work. OTOH, the rights of photographers to take (or "capture", perhaps, another word of power) violating photographs are increasingly constrained by law.

An artist takes their pay, if they can get some, in hope enough barely to live, and gives to the world. It's something else than art to insist that one owns what one gives. Insofar as it is mine to give, I will give my image to an artist, but I will begrudge my image to one who steals.

Ownership and rights, as far as the law enforces, create tension in anything of value that they touch, both for the owner and for those who are jealous of what is owned. Then again, there are many worlds from which we may choose, including one in which our talents will not be defiled if we bury them. Peace, Mike. I prefer to see you celebrate what has not been buried and that you see to be good. There is all too much to rail against.

Your sub crossed the line the first time- and purposely pushed your buttons the 2nd. But I think a rather large line has to be drawn between what a Prince does, and what the photo colorist did.

Recently, someone commented something to the effect that one of my photographs that you published looked like crap in its original B&W. Now if someone came along and "colorized" it for fun or comparison, I really wouldn't mind for purposes of comparison and contrast- what TIME did. If someone "appropriated" it for profit (Prince)- I'd be out looking for him.

Personally, I thought it was a rather humanizing gesture to see Anne Frank in color- rather than the usual, stoic, B&W historical document. We see her more as a flesh and blood human being- and the colorized image does not (or ever can) replace the original. Yes, I think colorized movies are an abomination- fortunately, thus far, we can change the channel or watch the original. That said, attention does need to be vigilant that the substitutes do not replace, or deny access to the originals.

And I never equated the term "hot pants" with 1919.

Again, I'm just commenting, not trying to be an arbiter of what's right and wrong here. I think it's harmless and in bad taste, and in some cases disrespectful. That's about as far as I'll go.


Unfortunately it's probably more true that the artist owns the art until she shows it to someone. Then it's out in the world and to its fate is beyond the author's control.

An interesting flip side case study is the constant whining and outrage that George Lucas has caused the fans of his work by applying his absolute authorial control to "fix" the things that he owns and feels need fixing. I guess Star Wars is not as high falutin' as fancy photography, but it's interesting the forces that work against the artist owning the work even when he *does* own it in every way... well, until yesterday.

I give up, what happened yesterday?


P.S. My favorite George Lucas film is "American Graffiti," which I've seen about five times...but I only ever saw the first "Star Wars." Haven't caught up with the sequels yet. (Just so you know what you're dealing with here [g].)

This describes metaphorically how I felt when my daughter got a tattoo on her arm...a sad case of defacing a living work of art in my eyes.

Ouch. I get hot under the collar just reading about the idea of teachers drawing over your work. Not, however, "because it's yours", but rather because it's a forcible imposition that "they know better".

Herein lies a potential difference between the situations: what the Swedish lass did, she did to completed works whose copyright terms can be established (you probably be happy if that were all-rights-reserved with photographers or their estates willing to sue under the DMCA). What your teacher did was to a work still in progress, and I don't know quite how one might apply copyright considerations in that case - as photographers we deal mostly with "copyright from the moment of hitting the button" and published files as complete works. Still, there's more to ethics than law.

Have you considered at the time for most of those photographs that color was not available?

How many of those photos would have been taken in color instead of black and white if it were available?

I'd class the substitute teacher's drawing on your drawing as morally on a par with the Taliban's destruction of the Buddhas and Toth's attack on the Pieta. In each case it was originals which were defaced or destroyed. The colourings in the Time LIfe article were done to copies, not originals, and that I think is a big difference. "No original works of art were injured in the conduct of this exercise."

I think the issue of permission is a separate one, and one can't ask permission from the dead. Duchamp did not ask Leonardo and we don't know what Leonardo would have said had he been asked; and Duchamp worked on a copy of the original image just as Sanna Dullaway worked on copies. I'm not equating Dullaway's result with Duchamp's, but then I doubt that you would equate your defaced drawing with the Buddhas or the Pieta. I'm just marking territories here, trying to define the actions involved without making artistic judgements.

I suspect many were, perhaps many are still, outraged by Duchamp's "treatment of the Mona Lisa" and many others either "got it" or appreciated it. It seems many of us who read your blog are outraged by Dullaway's treatment of these photos. I guess I'm merely extremely underwhelmed by the results. If I had to make a prediction I'd predict that in 93 years time (93 being the current age of Duchamp's work) no one will remember Dullaway's treatment of these photos. In fact I'd predict they'll be forgotten much sooner than that. On the other hand a lot of the originals of the photographs she coloured will still be appreciated in 93 years time.

We may be able to do something about people appropriating the work of others without permission but it's a thorny issue if you want to allow scope for a Duchamp without allowing scope for a Dullaway. I don't know if that can be achieved and if the cost of doing something were to be no Duchamp and no Dullaway, then perhaps it's worth putting up with the Dullaways in order to get the occasional Duchamp.

On the other hand we should do something about people destroying or defacing the work of others, no matter how significant or insignificant we regard that work, even if what we do can never bring back the original work.

Lucas sold his film company and all its IP to Disney yesterday.

Note: might have been the day before yesterday.

John Camp wrote:

"try covering a song without the permission of the composer, and you will find yourself in court."

No, you won't. In fact, it's almost the opposite- as long as you pay the license fee, you're free to cover and modify any song that is still covered by copyright. If you want to put it on YouTube or on a recording, you contact the publisher of the song, find out the license rate and then pay the money. After that, you're free to come up with whatever twist you want on the source material.

When a cover band plays in a venue, it's the owner of the venue, not the musicians, who pay the license fee.

[this post is for entertainment purposes only and does not constitute legal advice: contact an attorney licensed in your state for legal advice]

If artists needed the permission of the composer to cover a song, Jazz would pretty much cease to exist.

Having taught drawing I sympathize with your 7th grade experience. I always carried around my own sketchbook to demonstrate my critiques of student work. It absolutely is their work and deserves to be respected as such. Same for painting or any other creative endeavor.

I didn't think of the colorization in quite those terms (my bad, I should have)but did wonder why they felt to need to colorize an image that obviously worked as a B&W. In all the ones I looked at it added nothing and in most it detracted from the original. I have hand colored some of my own work over the years. It was popular for portraits back in the '60s because a color photo hung on the wall quickly turned funny colors. I would only do it on someone else's photo if asked by them.

OK Mike, you got me. You're right. a great point well made.

I agree with you at least 95%

wasn't it Magritte and not Duchamp who made the 'Ceci Ne Pas...' Joke?

INFP...indeed. Well, one might argue that Myers and Briggs did little more than add "attractive" colours to C G Jung's austere and challenging Blue Period original, destroying its deeper, richer meaning along the way.

I can empathise with your point of view, but I think it's misguided. As several commenters have noted, some art forms have been built on reworking.. We are, I suspect, dealing with a How rather than a What when it comes to the dreadful work Ctein elected to give us nightmares with (thanks for that, by the way.) However, more importantly I think that the colourised images (or Duchamp's moustache) are simply a reification of what goes on every single time someone looks at a photograph or reads a poem. Any special claim the originator may have had goes out of the window and the viewer/reader/listener takes over ownership. The viewer or reader can do all kinds of horrible things with our work in their own minds, and there's exactly nothing we can do about it. These internal transgressions and disrespecting of the authors of the original may go much father than any overt, actualised reinterpretation. If we want much higher levels of control, authority and the opportunity to assert our rights then other fields may be more rewarding; real estate development, perhaps, or inventing patentable drugs.

The Prince problem is probably also a How rather than What one. It's lazy, tacky and boneheaded, but that doesn't make it wrong in principal. There is a lot of lazy, tacky and boneheaded lawmaking, but Iweather not prevent lawmaking in general as some of it comes in quite handy. However, as Prince is extracting very high rents from his somewhat feeble reworkings, it's probably right that the Reworked should see some of the loot and get a mention along the way.

I recommend a close reading of two essays by the late Frank Kermode: "The patience of Shakespeare" and "The survival of the classic."

PS I happen to think MBPT is tosh, albeit very handy tosh for fhe nefarious purposes of corporate HR (I know whereof I speak as I used to be one until I saw the light--or rather, the darkness.) But in terms of How not What, your use of it could still be very productive for you even if it gives the shade of Jung the heebyjeebies.

John Camp, copyright laws only protect art/music up to X amount of years after the artist died, depending on the circumstances, if we're talking about legality.

If we're just talking about art outside of the legal ramifications, then I'd consider it all art.

How do you suppose the artist behind "World's Highest Standard of Living" felt about it being photographed as the background of a relief line?

Part of the point of making art is that other people react to it, and sometimes they react to it by making art themselves. If they don't it's sterile; inevitably failure. Having someone make bad art out of your stuff is still the second-highest success there is.

When I was a sophomore in college I took a painting class taught by Elizabeth Murray. We would start out painting the platonic solids and then Elizabeth Murray would make some changes with a brush or a knife. Then the class would talk about each others work and we would do another painting over the first, repeating twice a week for the semester. Even with scraping the thing down occasionally, the penultimate week of the semester Elizabeth Murray said something like "OK now make it your own"

So I had this big 36x36 canvas with about 5 pounds of oil paint on it that was not really my painting and certainly wasn't her's and I couldn't think of what to add to it to "make it mine" and didn't even want to have to store it. So I set the thing on fire, caught the smoke and drips on another canvas and handed that in. Some of my classmates were agitated about it especially after she thought that it the most effectively transformed painting, I had made it my own, and nobody should think about doing that again unless they could make it their own.

Perhaps Sanna Dullaway's work is a case of Nominative Determinism*. I was struck by the attempt to take away the dull in her project.

Much to my surprise it turns out that in Sanskrit Sanna means means perception and is also "One of the three esoteric Kumaras, whose names are Sanna, Kapila and Sanatsujata, the mysterious triad which contains the mystery of generation and reincarnation." according to wikipedia.(!)

It sounds to me like the French beat you to this by about 500 years with the idea of inalienable moral rights "droit moral" , a nice little article here http://www.taradji.com/color.html although googling "droit moral" will get you a whole bunch of interesting stuff (this makes everyone on the right except maybe Ayn Rand's head explode)

"I give up, what happened yesterday?"

Here in the U.S. of A. where unlike in France selling your soul is a simple matter of contract law , it turns out that George Lucas sold his yesterday to the Disney for 4.05 billion dollars.


I am of the opinion that George Lucas's best film was THX-1138 even though American Graffiti's story takes place where I grew up.

Oh, and listen to the Kronos Quartet's version of Purple Haze , best chamber music ever ( at least I thought so in in the 80s ) but certainly transformitive.

* when I did black and white every so often someone would say that they expected me to do color photography on account of my name

I sort of agree with Mike here, in that I know the feeling I get when I hand off a photo to someone or some organization, and it gets cropped or converted or whatever to suit their purpose... but at the same time, as artists, we have no control over what people do with our work. Sometimes, it's merely source material for further work that another artist will do, and sometimes that transformation is terrible, in the case of these colorizations, and sometimes it's magical.

I think the difference between the two, besides the exercise of good taste, is there is a necessary transformation that has to happen. The next artist in line to use my work has to put enough of themselves into it that it's identifiably theirs. The teacher that drew on your art wasn't making it better, or their own, but just drawing on it to make a point.

My point is, you can't go making sacred objects out of every piece of art ever; disrespect is a much a part of art since the renaissance as homage and deference.

Maybe your sub art teacher looked at student's work in the classroom as 'practicing technique' or 'doing a draft', and that if you really want to make it a finished work of art you will do it on a separate canvas (or right over the top like Picasso), picking up advice along the way and using it, or not.

Mike, you said:

Fine, except I'm not outraged or indignant. Any more than I am by this. So you're flogging a straw dog as far as a response to this post is concerned."

If so, my apologies for misreading the tone of your post, it seemed pretty indignant at first reading. By all means ignore my last two paragraphs, but the rest stands.

I think this was done without intent to misrepresent or improve on the photos themselves, but to make history more accessible and immediate.

To imply another motive on the part of Ms. Dullahan is purely an assumption and therefore a little unfair. The exercise seemed particularly guileless to me, naive if anything.

Hi Mike,
I laughed out loud at your "There, that's better. Stupid Picasso" (and I'm laughing as I write it again. Lovely post (and I remember your battles with the art teacher!). Blogspeed, S

...George Lucas films...He sold it for 4 Billion to Disney ....My guess is for tax reasons next year....Anyhow I want to touch on the artist who like your photographs... and makes almost a true copy of the photography into a drawing/painting....I have it happen more that a few times with my published shots over the years....flattered, hurt and pissed off that someone is making money from my vision.....

Stealing from you know who: The only thing worse than having your photographs colorized after you're dead is not having your photographs colorized after you're dead.

For better or worse, people are looking at old photographs and thinking about them in a way that makes those historical events somewhat more relatable to modern events. I think that's a good thing.

I think it's ok to think of Lincoln as a person who is more like us than less like us. It'd be nice to see a color picture of Lincoln, but there isn't one.

I found the Vietnam pictures very moving.

Dear Mike,

Interestingly, that aspect didn't bother me at all. The photos are either public domain or stock (and I can't imagine Time used them without a license from Getty). The thing about stock is that unless you (the creator or agency) put restrictions on how the work may be used, you're giving explicit permission to the buyer to do whateverthehell they want with it. It's understood to come with the territory.

I've had my work that's with agencies cropped, slashed, flipped, posterized and monochromized, depending on the art director ad editor. Does it do massive violence to the intent and sensibility of the originals? Oh yeah. And that comes with the territory; if I don't like that, then I don't put them out for unrestricted use. It's so much part and parcel of stock use that I don't feel the horrors I wrote about violate that particular social contract.

pax / Ctein

So what did she draw on your work? I take it she was no Marcel Duchamp.
For some reason I think that might be relevant, I could be wrong.
The current flap is something I find rather ho-humm.
But it reminds me of the flap over Dylan's "electric" period. What everyone seems to ignore is that the recordings had awful sound, they were quite painfully distorted and nobody seems to mention that or consider it relevant.I take it that the concerts were even worse. Does it make any difference whether music sounds good or awful?
I have the CDs, and it seems quite surreal that the central issue (to me) is ignored.

Dear Steve,

My column did not center on the historical inaccuracy. It was one small point among many to demonstrate how little thought went into that crap. And, that IS my objection-- that it is incompetent crap.

So, yes indeed, I would be much less outraged if I thought even some minimal thought, talent or insight had been applied.

I still might not like it. Or I might. It's a hypothetical so far removed from the reality that I honestly can't say.

pax / Ctein

Some of those pictures are historical documents, some of them are photojournalism...

I think that's the crux of the issue, right there. Your seventh-grade original artwork was indisputably yours and yours alone; but these beyond-famous, super-iconic, and ubiquitously reproduced images are now ours. They don't belong to the makers anymore, not really, not in anything but the customary intellectual "property" legal-fiction sense. They're a part of my mind, of your mind, of our collective cultural consciousness now. Does Malcom Browne (to pick an example at random) have some sort of claim on part of by brain because he took this photo that is indelibly printed there? Should he?

Call it the price of success, if you like, but different standards of respect apply to famous and successful people and artifacts, and always have. Tourist trap shops have sold cheesy knock-offs and parodies of The Last Supper since forever. Terrible rubber masks of the sitting President have been a part of Halloween parties for as long as I've been alive. Our "disrespectful" treatment of such people and such things is part of what keeps them relevant and fresh in our minds.

To "disrespect" something in this way is also to remember it and to pay tribute to its importance. Sanna Dullahan isn't colorizing any of my grandfather's family photos, after all.

Wow. I thought you understood the internets. LOL

Grade seven eh?
Just in the throes of puberty.
Which partly explains the non-creative outburst.
Mind your current avocation reflects on your past more than you may realize.
Contiue as before, kind sir.
We await the next episode with baited breath!

Well, I wouldn't want anyone to colorize my black and white work with out my permission, the one thing about my work that I insist on..... it's composed and shot the way I want it, I wouldn't want it colorized o re-cropped which irritates me just as much. If I wanted my pictures to be in color, I would have shot it in color.

When I was studying film in New York City a number of years ago, the editing professor chose my short student film as an example to "re-cut" (this was with actual 16mm film, not video) for the class. No doubt he was doing it as a favor to me, as he was Taiwanese-American, and we had chatted amicably before.

But when he asked me if it was ok, I said, "Uh, I'd prefer if you didn't."

Shocked looks all around. You see, I'd spent a lot of time editing that film on an old Steenbeck table, and I was proud of it. Lord knows why, though; it was complete crap.

In any case, to this day I regret telling him that, and wonder what he would have taught me, had I given him the chance.

Mike, at least the negatives and original prints in the TIME exercise weren't defiled by the substitute teacher.

But much ado about nothing and feigned outrage of the overly sensitive.

How do you think the Lakota might feel about someone 'drawing' on their mountain to begin with? I'd imagine they might see it as a crime of the same order against the spiritual and ethical "ownership" of their sacred places. Though, going back, the Cheyenne might have views on rights held through conquest or appropriation.

I do find it interesting, the whole idea of "original" and "copy" and "appropriation". Painters and sculptors have been stealing, or appropriating each others works for centuries. Compositions, either entirely or in part. Colour and tonal combinations, paint or chisel effects.

I can remember several years ago, walking through the Louvre with a knowledgeable friend who was pointing out the bits that kept reappearing in paintings ... Compositions in particular, or in one series of examples sunset colours. Very interesting.

In fact, last night I went to a show of Chinese Ink Painting whose compositions to my eye looked a direct lift from Matisse.

Really, after all, all art is appropriation in some way, shape, or form. We all develop by standing on the shoulders of those who have been before us. It's just more acceptable for painters and sculptors to do it because, well, they have been doing it forever.

As to the colourised versions on the Time site, I feel the question has to be asked, even if it can't be answered, what would the original photographer have done if they had had a choice between colour and black and white? Some may well have opted for colour, others stuck with black and white for an emotional appeal, or nuance. It depends on what they wanted to convey aesthetically I would think.

And as to Mr Camp and his thoughts on Duchamp and his usefulness only to drug induced discussions, I can introduce him to several art historians who might want to discuss, rationally and soberly, Duchamps importance to contemporary art.

Keep up the interesting and thought provoking post Mike.

Pete Seeger once said, "Plagarism is at the heart of the folk process . . ."

The most dramatic instance of what you are talking about is the Insult to Injury series by Jake and Dinos Chapman. They bought a set of Goya etchings, and systematically and permanently defaced them. This takes the Duchamp provocation to another level and is truly disturbing and unforgettable. Very difficult to come to terms with or to decide how to take, which may be one indication that we are in the presence of real art, of course.

You can see them here:


I am probably not allowed a second comment, but I have a question. Is there information that Time/Life and Dullaway did not obtain all the necessary permissions before publishing this project?

I think comparing your art class experience to colourisation is flawed. There is a huge difference between altering an original and creating a derivative work.

In fact, all art, in all fields could be said to be derivative to varying degrees.

When we create a picture, compose music or write a book we are (consciously or subconsciously) drawing on knowledge of what has gone before. We may deliberately apply this to create something "in the style of .." or to make a creative point of our own.

I don't like the colourised photos, but I don't think they are wrong in any moral sense. They are just another "what if?" or an alternate point of view. Surely if we start to object to a creative work on the grounds of "it shouldn't be allowed!" we are on a very dangerous slippery slope.

By all means, object to the images on aesthetic or technical grounds but I think we all must have a right to create 'bad art'.

Actually the artist in this case does perhaps provide an important service by illustrating the strength of the B&W images.

BTW - what happened yesterday is that Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney (who are promising/threatening at least 3 more episodes).



As long it is not actually drawing those thing on Mona Lisa actual, I think I have to ok to it.

We have been burnt too many times because something done is inappropriate, it is not Arts. Just an impression... Only do it in an hour and does not worth a dollar...

I think as long it is seriously made, I am ok with it and try to understand or better feel the message by the artist.

In fact, in Hong Kong we are fighting laws to be enacted that does not allow this kind "graffiti" especially on political people/event, without the copyright explicit consent (which of course would not come).

Commenting on major art/culture artifact, say, Micky Mouse (and Star War) should be allowed in many forms and should be part of any culture. May be too liberal to be of someone taste but I believe that comment on other people work with serious intent should be allowed. (Of course some has limit e.g. something related to Muslim but are all off limit, not sure either.)

For those colored pic you saw, I think the issue is whether they are really serious e.g. are those color really the color of those time. What are the messages of the artist. If there are some message, I would say it is ok. Whether this is art is another matter but the right to try seriously using this kind of "art form" should be ok.

Picasso in BW.

Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936.

Isn't it marvelous that all the comments needed can be encapsulated in two URL links?

Some of the photos were interesting to look at, since she didn't just colorize, but cleaned them up in other ways. The civil war scene seemed to gain depth in the switch. Presenting black and white versions next to color versions is jarring too. If I make a black and white in Lightroom and then switch back and forth the color always looks garish as the eyes take time to adjust.

Photographs and documentaries can be considered works of art and historical documents and artifacts. In this case I suppose the colorizer treated the photos like artifacts, bits of dinosaur bone that she then used to make detailed, fleshed out models of the full creatures.

In response to Camp's claim that one needs permission to cover a song, I believe that one needs a license to record or perform someone else's song, but I don't believe a songwriter could turn anyone down who wanted to purchase said license.

Also, I appreciate that shifts in the philosophy of art can occur 'on the canvas,' so to speak, and would possibly agree that they are more effective that way. But to dismiss Duchamp and his ideas as only of interest to undernourished, possibly high, kids is just snarky.

Lastly, I feel that Sanna Dullaway's colourizations are not significant enough for me to be furious about. I don't feel the photographs she works from are being harmed, and the discussion around her work seems to be less about Lincoln, the war in Viet Nam, etc., and more about her process. While I feel the process is pointless and garish, I also feel that it is creative, not destructive.

That said, I'm surprised that Time has any interest in her work, but that's rather beside the point.


I sympathise with you and how you feel about the way the teacher destroyed what was yours.

And I agree about adding anyone to Mount Rushmore. Actually, I don't go along with it entirely, because I think Mt Rushmore is an eyesore - but that's my taste.

However, colorising a copy is just - well, it's just colorising a copy.

The original is still intact.

For Stan B, (If someone "appropriated" it for profit (Prince)- I'd be out looking for him.") or others with images out there, image theft is a problem. One person I see on flickr has posted a number of locations where his images have been taken and are for sale. On one site it looks like the person copying images is actually reprocessing for more intense effect and then selling. So, theft and/or violence done to the artist . . ?

Mike: George Lucas sold his stuff for a massive amount of money.

"Drew on my drawing": maybe this is why you once brought the gavil down hard on me when I argued against a position one of your contributors had taken. I drew on your drawing--though I thought I was paying homage to your work with serious attention and a deeply felt response. But I guess I stepped into the shoes of the substitute teacher. It sounds sanctimonius to say that the greatest thrill of being a creator is that people take your work and make it theirs. They steal, they parody, they adore. What do we own anyway? So why regard the appropriation of art or point of view with anything but gratitude? By the way, Lincoln in color is exactly how I imagine him, down to the blue eyes (his were grey) and the rosy skin (which he described as "dark").

John Camp wrote: "It's not like covering a song—try covering a song without the permission of the composer, and you will find yourself in court. If you get permission, then he's essentially approving your alterations (if any)." But in fact, the law does not protect composer's from unwanted covers. Once a composer/song owner has released an original version of a song, anyone can do a "cover" version. The law only requires that the owner get paid. So for instance, Paul McCartney does not get to approve every version of "Yesterday." But he must, by law, be paid royalties. The only reason, beyond artistic courtesy, to notify the composer in advance is to negotiate a lower royalty.

Photographers are (supposedly) protected by "fair use" laws, although these tend to demand a lot of gray-area interpretation by the courts. AP Photographer Mannie Garcia won his suit against Shepard Fairey, but it took a lot of lawyers and court time.

"And even if any of them would have made their pictures in color if they could have"

I should have been more expository when i suggested that. That comment had nothing to do with my feelings about authorship and ownership. It was meant to relate to the objections of people who persist in asserting that a 'classic documentary photograph' IS 'classic'/'documentary'/'significant' BECAUSE it was originally created in black and white. The implication is that color somehow negates its power or newsworthiness or substance or what have you.

And, yeah, deciding the issue of appropriation and derivative works and all that is often the work of attorneys, since "ignoramuses" seldom can interpret those interpretive laws. The "ignoramus" is the person who demands everyone trust his answer when there are clearly alternative ways of considering that same subjective matter.

Another question:
With whom should we really be angry? The retoucher, for amusing herself with a technical/creative exercise that 'happened to go viral,' or TIME, for 'legitimizing' the products of that exercise?

To me, if there is no legal issue, this is no different from a LOLCat. Someone finds an image online, and manipulates it to their own end. I'd wager all of your readers have, at one time, found an image online and did something to it. The fact that these are "important" images doesn't change anything for me. I'm also not one to scream or burn things in the name of blasphemy, nor am I devastated when the US flag touches the ground, or when Roseanne Barr butchers the National Anthem. From the outcry, one would think The Retoucher Who's Name Must Not Be Spoken added a subliminal cartoon depiction of Mohammed to each photograph.

Hand-colored black & white photographs are inexplicably appealing to me. I appreciate the many examples of such photographs I own, including some from the 19th century. And hand coloring is an art form I know from practicing it as well.

In my view, the major issue with Time's altered images is the colorist's violation of the esthetics of the hand-coloring medium.

What I mean is layering transparent color on top of a monochrome image is not the same as replacing levels of gray with saturated color. Instead, hand-coloring results are highly influenced by the underlying grays especially in darker gray regions.

The merit of hand coloring is the way it gives a hint or cue to what the eye might have seen but doesn't erase the monochrome tonality, therefore its visual appearance is quite different from color photography.

Hand-colored effects can be produced by digital image-editing tools, but experience proves getting a worthy result requires skill and understanding of the visual properties of hand-colored photographs.

The real "sin" of the Time images was that they were badly done, colorized rather than hand-colored. "Colorization" is an offense, a futile exercise of fictional invention, because it's unknowable what the original scene actually looked like.

OTOH, carefully produced "hand-colored" images would be far less likely to arouse controversy or such strong irritation, compared to responses to the strident colorized versions. But isn't provocation the main (or even the only) reason the images were published in the first place?


I'm very glad D.C. Wells wrote the comment that he did. When I first read the post, the comparison to music and music scores seemed obvious to me but I couldn't be bothered to say it. I'm glad someone did. Maybe we should all have a think about our "principles" and see if they really are principles or merely preferences for a particular thing.

Mike, you are the best. Chapeau!

This is not a comment.

Most hand drawing can be considered art. Only a tiny, itsy bitsy fraction of photographs earn that title. Therin the perception gap.

Well I have to say this whole debate has evoked some of the best and most erudite responses (on both sides) I have seen on the (normally moribund) Interweb for a while. Hats off to TOP once more for stimulating debate.

I don't wholly disagree with Ctein's reaction to the portrait photos. Lincoln looks like someone who has been made up in a morgue. If the series had started with the burning monk however, I think the point may have been more obvious.

I guess I am so used to having to accept editorial changes to my own creative workings (ever tried writing a book?) that I find the objection to modification somewhat less shocking than some other artists.

Cheers all.

John Camp is aware of the licensing provisions for most -- not all -- music because he's tried to use lyrics in books. When you pay a licensing fee for music so that you can cover it, you're taking advantage of a permission that the copyright holder has issued to the licensing agency. The amounts you pay for a cover may differ from one song to the next, and, in addition, it's possible (though it would be unusual) that you may not be allowed to cover a song at all, because the copyright owner has not agreed to license it to anyone. But at the bottom of the whole pyramid is permission from the copyright owner.


I could not agree less with John Camp: I think that without any doubt Duchamp was the most influential artist in the 20th century. Main reason is that his works were not about craft or style or representation, but about art itself. He introduced a way of perceiving and conceiving art and the work of the artist that gave birth to modernity.

It's impossible to imagine modern art without him, yet it is perfectly possible to imagine it without Van Gogh (whose art started and finished in himself), Gauguin etc.

Re. general opinion, here is a relevant poll, the Saatchi thing that attacted 1,5 million votes. It's rather a popularity contest, but still Duchamp comes in at fifth. http://artscenetoday.com/artist_resources/times-top-200-artists/

My guess is that a poll of critics and art historians would raise Duchamp's position to 1st or 2nd.

As for the rest of the post, seems you are confusing two different activities: One is altering an original (what your art teacher did to your masterpiece :-)), the oher is making a derivative work based on an existing one, which is a common practice. In the visual arts it's a bit shocking, but it's routinely done in literature, music, theatre, etc. In fact it is the core practice on some of those disciplines.

Mike replies: "Glad a few people picked up on that. It's too obtuse, I grant that."

I expected a picture of a post! I will take one at Monticello later today and contribute!

I haven't read all the comments, but I will say this: I disagree with John Camp on this one. Duchamp was clearly the most significant and influential artist of the 20th century, as he really was one of the great inventors of art as concept, thus killing the great romantic notions and bringing the biggest shift in the history of art in quite some time. For better or worse, Art is now wedded first to concept and process rather than truth and beauty, or the other ideals that held sway before that. Duchamp did it with an agility, style, and self-awareness that is sorely lacking today, and either his foresight was immense or he was quite lucky...

Very interesting list; imagine my surprise when I got to #20 and had never even heard of the artist! After that I have to go to #34 to find another artist I didn't know.

"As for the rest of the post, seems you are confusing two different activities: One is altering an original (what your art teacher did to your masterpiece :-)), the oher is making a derivative work based on an existing one, which is a common practice."

Except I'm not analogizing the one to the other, merely trying--in blogger shorthand--to imply how artists feel about their work, on the way to making the point that OTHER artists ought to understand that and respect it.

I also fundamentally disagree that what's she's doing is "making a derivative work based on an existing one." She's not doing it to recontextualize; she's doing it to REHABILITATE. That's a very different project, seems to me.


I had a drawing teacher draw on my work too... I was at a life drawing class.. I had paid for ten weeks, and this was on week three. I never went back.

Now I create a virtual copy when I start working on my students photographs.. and religiously ask their permission.. And I only do it when they ask me how they can improve the image via post processing...

But somehow this all sits a bit uneasily on my mind... Just like the times a teacher put my work down...

The comments to this entry are closed.