Mannie Garcia has been identified as the photographer who produced the now iconic American image of Barack Obama. The image, taken at the National Press Club in 2006 of then junior Senator Barack Obama, was a part of work he was doing with the Associated Press. The image, at right, and with the inset poster of the image as it was used for both the HOPE and PROGRESS posters. This image, that Shepard Fairey used as the basis for his artwork which has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for Fairey, and others. So, we wanted to know from Garcia directly, what was going on for him.
Since I have known Mannie for probably 20 years (that's him at left, in the desert on assignment - used with his permission!), I thought I'd get in touch with him following the previous article, to see how things were going. Mannie has been freelancing with Washington DC as his common ground for almost 30 years, and he's travelled the globe on assignments for a wide range of clients, causes, and so on.
As such, we've gotten him to give us time to answer 10 questions. Here they are.
1) Is the now famous photograph used as the basis for the Shepard Fairey artwork, in fact, taken by you?
Yes. it is. I was informed by James Danziger who represents the art gallery that represents James Fairey on January 21, 2009, while I was on White House Duty, that the photograph used by Mr. Fairey was in fact, based upon a photograph I made in April of 2006.2) Where you either an employee, or a freelance photographer, as defined by their contract, for the AP when you took this image?
I was a temporary hire, filling in for a staffer at the AP. It is my understanding that I was neither a freelancer nor a staffer, but rather a temporary hire. I have never been an AP staff employee, and no, I have never signed an AP contract.3) So, you own the copyright to the image?
The ownership of the copyright is in dispute, as per the AP. It is my understanding that since I was not a staffer, and was not a freelancer, and did not sign any contract, that I am the owner of the copyright, but I am in discussions with the AP over this issue.4) Are you interested in precluding further use of your photograph in this manner?
That's a hard one. I'm concerned about the usage of the photograph in a number of commercial ways that I've seen it on the street here in Washington DC. I don't know how it's being used in other parts of the country, or the world. I'd like to talk to the people responsible for putting it out.5) In the future, artwork carrying your signature along with that of Fairey could be very valuable. What are your thoughts on this? Any plans?
I realize, based upon conversations I've had with people at the AP and Danziger studio, that the photograph that I made of then Junior Senator from Illinois Barack Obama, that it has significant value with my signature. Now, monies - monies that might be made by me signing my photograph. I am concerned, that the image out there - I would like very much to figure out a way that my signature on a photograph that I made of then Senator now President Obama, that maybe the monies = most of it - could be donated to the American Red Cross, children's cancer research, and women's breast cancer research. This is not about me making money off this, it's about recognition. I made the most iconic image of our time, and I'd like it to make a difference, not make me money. I'm a blue collar photographer - I am out there on the grind every day. I spend more energy looking for work than doing work. I just want Shepard Fairey to say "alright, you're the guy. Thank you."6) I've known you for many years, and this is consistent with who I know you to be, karmically speaking. Talk a bit more about your efforts to make a difference through your photography?
I'm a buddhist, and I believe in compassion, and the suffering of sentient beings, my teacher Holiness Penor Rinpoche. I asked him once when I was in India talking to him - "I make some pretty ugly pictures - they're brutal, they're ugly. People suffering. I don't want to make these images anymore." he said "you need to make these images. You need to make people in the world see this, so they will help in some way. I want you to continue doing what you're doing. Recording the suffering, the misery - we, in the world, will all benefit, hopefully in a positive way." That way - I don't want this to sound totally weird, but, basically, my teacher has said "keep doing what you're doing." People are reacting based upon those images. It's a strange dichotomy there.7) It sounds like the AP has been receptive to you and this issue.
The AP has been receptive to me and this issue. I've received assurances from two people at AP higher up, that said they would "take care of me", and I have no reason to doubt them. I've had conversations with both of these individuals and I have no reason to doubt tha this is accurate and true.8) This seems like it is a pleasant situation, where the AP has previously come across as hard-nosed. Is this the newer more friendly AP?
I don't know if this is the newer and friendlier AP. I believe this is a unique situation. It's a one-fer. It's not a two-fer. It's a unique situation, and it calls for some very unique solution to the problem that we're facing. Certainly it's going to raise some eyebrows here and there. This is unique. This is not typical. This is different, and it has to be treated in a unique way. you can't treat this generically, maybe as the AP has treated things in the past. This is very unique.9) So you are pleased with how things are going?
Honestly, no I am not pleased with how things are going. I think things could be going in a more positive way. Meaning, I want to be kept more in the loop with things. I know AP management is keeping me in the loop, so sometimes I have to ask questions more than once to get an answer. I honestly believe that AP is doing it's best to resolve this situation in a fair way. I mean fair with Mannie Garcia, fair with Shepard Fairey, and all of that. Basically, I hope that all turns out well with all parties concerned.10) So are you interested in being a part of the historic team documenting the President or Vice President in this new administration?
Yes, I am. And yes, I applied. I applied well before I knew about any of this - the revelations about the Fairey poster. I would be honored to be a part of the White House photographic team. Especially if I were a part of the team documenting Vice President Joe Biden. He is going to be so cool to cover. I think this administration is going to do so much, so yes, I would be honored if that happened.
- Photo Business News - Shepard Fairey's Talk on the Obama Image
- Photo Business News - The Associated Press v. Shepard Fairey
- Photo Business News - Derivative-Work Liability - Copyright Infringement?
- PDN Online - AP Claims Shepard Fairey's Obama Poster Infringes on Copyright
- LA Times blog - AP now Hopes for $/credit for Fairey's iconic Obama poster
- Huffington Post - AP Accuses Obama Artist Shepard Fairey Of Copyright Infringement
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