Thoughts on Molotov Man

In this article, we can see the problems related to reproduction of artworks. Copyright infringement is a serious issue. From all the talks at school about properly sourcing data and not plagiarise, it becomes almost scary to even dare look for information anywhere when you know that you have to do all the work in afterwards sourcing it appropriately. Although I understand that Garnett did not intend to infringe on Meiselas’s image and that she was inspired by a fragment of it, I think she could have at least mentioned Meiselas in her exhibition as an inspiration. I found it a bit funny however that Meiselas engaged a lawyer and asked for a pay for Garnett’s action which I think maybe was a little too much. I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions of the online artists all around the world who stood in “solidarity” with Garnett to fight for her right to use the image in her painting. By then, it seems that the whole story seemed to take even greater proportions because people all around the world understood the image differently and reproduced the image differently, and maybe due to language barrier did not quite understand what was happening to Garnett, and as a result their reinterpretations of Molotov man and appropriations stirred the image even further from its original meaning.

On the topic of original meaning, one of the important points the article touches upon is about how contextualising and decontextualising images affect their meaning and value. Meiselas wants to protect her piece of art and preserve the specific story it is telling of the time and place that particular image was taken in. I believe it is her right to know what other people want to use her image for, but at the same time I think that if she published her image out there herself, even without wanting it to be spoilt by someone decontextualising it, she is still sharing it to the public. In sharing this knowledge to the public by publishing it, she also gives way and freedom for people to interpret the image and to a certain extent using it to form their own ideas. Thus I feel that if she didn’t want it to be decontextualised and preserve its meaning, then she should not have published the photo. At the same time, I understand the strong feelings she has for her representative photo that she tells us at the end of the article.

One of the other key points of the article is the question raised by the online artist, “Who owns the rights to this man’s struggle?” and the previous questions raised by Garnett in the article. This is an important question because it drives back the issue of copyright back at Meiselas. Neither Meiselas, Garnett, nor the internet users who reproduced the photo personally knew Mr Pablo Arauz and thus I don’t think that anyone asked his permission for the photo. Meiselas did not ask Arauz if it was okay to photograph him nor if he liked the photo nor if he would appreciate the photo to be published. As such, all of this just becomes more tangled and complicated and sheds light on questions and connections about art and copyright issues. We all take pictures, even random ones of our surroundings and people without asking for a direct permission, and this I think raises interesting questions because even when you take a picture of your friend for example, and people ‘happen’ to be in the background, should you ask their permission before taking the picture of your friend? Without people taking pictures and recording things, we would not have historical data or evidence, and if every historian had to ask for permission before taking a picture, we would not know how for example: the happenings at a sight of war or how the castle of an ancient King looked like. This connection between art and copyright seems very complicated to me but also interesting to consider.

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