Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Poster Boy


The Barack Obama Hope Poster has inspired countless discussions, imitations and controversies since its inception in 2008. Created by graphic artist Shepard Fairey, the minimalistic blue, red and beige stencil outlines of then US presidential candidate Barack Obama became the proverbial poster boy image for change during the 2008 election season.

The most popular version is the one you see above, but other variants by Fairey exchanged the word HOPE with PROGRESS or CHANGE. In fact, the original poster had PROGRESS written on it with the artist's Obey emblem subtly added. Whichever words used, the poster conveyed the message of Obama's campaign simply and effectively.

It's iconic yet seemingly effortless design has made it easy for other artists and even ordinary individuals with some basic computer skills to make their own posters. You can probably find close to a thousand different designs today, from former US presidents and former presidential hopefuls to hopeless leaders and mad men (Those last two links and descriptions are interchangeable by the way).

Inspiration also comes from reality show pop stars in the UK to Hollywood stars in a galaxy far, far away. Another famous variant comes from the distant planet Cybertron while another iz in ur ceiling.


It only took a two-second Google search to find these images, and it's not unlikely that you'll find new designs by the time you do your own search. On the off chance that you don't have two seconds to spare, you can always go here for all you poster-variant needs.

The quality of a good artwork is its ability to encourage different interpretations, so it's not surprising that the Barack Obama Hope Poster has also inspired dissident designs. This one, from an unknown source, is quite well done in my opinion.


This is all interesting and informative, but what is a piece of vectorized poster art doing on a photography blog? Well, such an iconic image isn't without controversy, and the same is true for this one, only that it involves an unassuming photograph, the Associated Press and the artist Shepard Fairey.

To make a long story short, the source of the Obama poster was discovered to be an AP photo taken 2006. In 2009, the AP decided that Fairey violated copyright laws because he used the 2006 photo as the basis for his poster without the AP's permission. You can see in the comparison below how the poster and photograph match up.

The artist sued the AP, admitting later on that he did use the AP photo but arguing that it was under the fair use doctrine. The AP counter sued, arguing that the artist knew that the photo was copyright, but deliberately ignored that fact.

On top of it all, the original photographer of the Obama picture, Mannie Garcia, fell into the fray and argued that he retained the copyright of the photo and not the AP.

The back and forth accusations finally stopped three months ago, when the case was settled out of court without any confirmation on whether or not any copyright laws were violated. It should be noted however, that both parties agreed to share the profits from future sales of the poster; it's always a win-win solution when money is involved.

I had followed the progress of the poster's copyright issues with light interest over the course of last year, but I can't help but feel that the issue hits closer to home now that I started this blog. As a site that's primarily devoted to photography, I find myself "borrowing" most of the images used in each post from other websites. The goal of this blog is to freely share the beauty and power of different images that I feel should be seen by others, but then again, their use may have inadvertently breached some law or regulation.

I recently posted a disclaimer on this site to clear up any issues regarding fair use and copyright images on the blog, and if anyone who owns the rights to any of the images used here believes that the images should be taken down, then please feel free to comment below or contact me through this form.

On a lighter note, I would be interested to know how you feel about this copyright issue, as well as your favorite Obama Hope variants. Personally, I like this Charles Darwin poster by Mike Rosulek the best.


Whatever your opinion of the Barack Obama Hope Poster copyright issue, you have to admit that it's brought out some good by making the free use doctrine more recognized, as well as by inspiring other people to create their own Obama Hope-esque digital artworks for the whole world to see.

143 comments:

Sam said...

Nice story...and yeah I see that poster everywhere! I really like it.

wang said...

I really enjoyed that. I think that the Obama portrait has become so iconic, that it's recognition may even parallel the recognition of the Che portrait in the near future. Hit me back with your thoughts.

wang said...

There's certainly a very strong sense of imagery associated with the Obama posters, and I think this may even begin to parallel the almost worldwide recognition of the Che portrait in times to come. Hit me back.

MRanthrope said...

That Darwin poster, along with Luke Skywalker's, might be the greatest ones I've seen!

I agree that the Obama HOPE poster was a powerful and effective tool during his campaign, but I never really bought into his hype (I voted Clinton in the primary) so I don't feel as duped as others do these days.

pezasied said...

lol Love the Darwin pic... and these hope pictures used to be huge a few years ago, thanks for the background on them

Spike said...

really nice read

The Emancipator said...

this is a great collection. and interesting insight as well.

Grafted said...

Really interesting post. Luke Skywalker's my fav

Asty said...

very iconic, whether or not we'd like to admit it

My name is Maman. I'm one who likes all kinds of music. said...

great pic and story.

Hansson said...

Love the Darwin one :)

JaksonHunt said...

Man i can't believe the AP gets half of fairys profit when they practically had no involvement what so ever in creating the artwork! I mean any old bozzo could of taken that picture, fairy was the one who made it into something amazing :(

Joe said...

I seriously laughed out loud at the change itno a truck poster.

Billl Righteous said...

Now this is some real cool shit, im going to try and make one of my own face :)

Stare Dad said...

He got sued? Oh haha. Anyway very interesting post.

The Angry Lurker said...

Copyright is an issue if you take somebody elses work to make money off it, I take images of the internet to show ideas and for reference only and do not see a problem.

The Game Store Guy said...

Points for impressive design but points lost for copyright problems.

Daily01 said...

They gave obama somehow a half white face. The red is a 'warm' color, and the black outlines his face. It is all psychological.

Blk Jesus said...

nice post love the optimus prime lol

mac-and-me said...

great post

Obi-wan Mikenobi said...

Thanks for the info, the new hope one is still the best. Shame about the law suits, seems you can to anything over there without going to court.

DOn't get anything like that over here o_O

thenitefalls said...

In America it's called be freedom of speech ;D! So forget the copyright issues! BTW loving the sarcastic Darwin poster LOL

CandleintheDark said...

It is art. I'm pretty sure this is covered under fair use. There are millions of pieces of art that use larger content

consuela bananahammoc said...

Lol, like the darwin one :D

AJ said...

These are... these are just... BRILLIANT!

gangsignslol said...

lol darwin, love it

Lenny said...

awesome post :D

http://le-nerd.blogspot.com/

amBored said...

change in a truck :D:D got me hard

Potholderz said...

Nice post, i've got to say the last picture is my favorite.

Matti said...

U can haz it!

MrBunni said...

I used the like them, but after a while they started getting boring, some are still nice tho.

Fang said...

I've always liked that art style. Keeping it plain and simple, but still stylish.

Rumbler Reporter said...

The Darwin one FTW +followed!
Remember to return the favor /b/rothers.

http://rumblereport.blogspot.com/

Jaccstev said...

The artist wasn't the first to have created a work of art based on a photograph. In fact, most contemporary artists use press photos for their portraits.

SirJohnBear said...

I was wondering when I'd see something from you again, and I'm glad you didn't disappoint. What a fascinating article.

ExoticBlogger said...

great photos

Alessria said...

Copyrights are getting a little insane lately. Music and game companies take it to the utmost extreme. Nice article!

Internetttt said...

FKEN LOLD @ OPTIMUS

Clarence Miller said...

therichesthappiest.blogspot.com

following and $upporting

best friend on the blogosphere

Bart said...

when did osama get a hair cut?

Banacek said...

I think leg wrestling should be used to settle all disputes.

elexerdelex said...

HAHAHAHA you just made my day with all these posts!
Especially darwin!

Malkavian said...

ha Darwin is always right.

ChazWellington said...

lol @ the posters for other people.

Nate said...

Shepard Fairey is great.

wronyr said...

Great post dude.
I really enjoyed reading it.

Rob said...

Darwin lol. All of these are funny.

OatmealStout said...

I had no idea the artist was sued for this o.O

Mr. Dough said...

Very good point, excellent way to express it.

Leizer said...

great story .. I liked the one with Bush

Rorschach Redemption said...

I didn't know the art had such a (legal) history behind it. And ow it is part of our image-culture.
On that lighter note, there were quite a few I haven't seen yet!

Trelin said...

I'd never really noticed the obvious use of red white and blue.

DocStout said...

Whenever I hear stories about copyright lawsuits, I get angry. Fair Use is ignored all too often in the "sue now, sort it out later" mentality. Copyright was designed to protect the individual creator against big companies stealing and marketing their ideas, it has been twisted to do the opposite.

Aaron M. Gipson said...

If only he had lived up to the hype...

Tasos said...

I am actually looking for photoshop tutorials for this kind of effect, the obama flyer. They all look soo cool and retro!

taio said...

excelent

JKS said...

Great post, man!

duffboi said...

This is an aesthetically pleasing format, i think. As far as copyright issues, I guess there was a right for an issue, which they pursued. I'm glad they found resolution, tho.

Reilly said...

hey man i did not know the story behind the posters. Thanks!

Colin B said...

I never saw much in the hope poster anyway

AP0976 said...

Wow, there are some really good posters there.

las3R said...

Ahaha so that's where people get them from 0; I see these everywhere aha >_>

Devon Davidson said...

Personally, I prefer the parody versions. :P

Team Panda said...

i think it was a clever way to win an election, im pretty sure that picture helped a lot. I remember in 08' when i saw the picture EVERYWHERE.

KrillKrones said...

Fairey is so talented, I have to say his Obey posters deserve to be more iconic, though.

Moob said...

I would have never thought something as simple as those posters could stir such a legal mess

Jessica Pendleton said...

Hahha I love the darwin "very gradual change!" poster. Heck, I love all of these they're brilliant (Change into a robot!) Following and supporting.

Rockinrule said...

this is really thought provoking. i wish everybody would just get along.

jblogger45 said...

great post!

Brut said...

Asking for change.... sigh

Anthony C said...

The artist who made the first Obama portrait was on Colbert to add to his painting. It was pretty awesome. The Darwin one is the best, though.

adiaphoros said...

I didn't know that the obama photo was taken from an AP picture, and that there was a lawsuit from it. Now i know!

trey LW said...

i really thought the story about the copyright of obama's picture was very interesting! keep up the good blogs :]

Shutterbug said...

LOL. I like the Transformer one! :)

schultzz said...

love this pictures, can you post a tutorial on how to meke them?

David said...

Wow, I never knew there was so much story behind the Obama posters. Thanks for the information!

Zombie said...

Any presidential candidate that can change into a truck has my vote! :D

Westus said...

I enjoyed looking at all of the mimicked posters... they're pretty funny... thanks for the post man, can't wait to see more!

/\ustin said...

Gandhi said it best...be the change you want to see in the world. You can't expect one mortal man to restore faith in the good of a Government both nationally and in their international responsibilities.

Obama appeared to run out of steam not long in after all the hype wore off.

Honesty is the best policy - I saw that presidential campaigns have started , I think the whole world will be watching this one.

=dgrphx= said...

Shepard Fairey is a fucking joke

sedated said...

i would like to know your take on the libyan events. i know it's off-topic here, but really. i kinda have the feeling im the only one for gaddafi here.

skinned sheep said...

there are gaddafi advocates?!

akrater said...

These copyright arguments has gone a bit out of hand I think..

Trolske said...

Copyright has it's pros and cons. It's handy for artists and small companies to prevent people to steal their work, but on the other side it's made for big companies to annoy the s**t out of you, if you post a picture somewhere on the web.

Necroticism said...

I didn't know it was an official poster :o

Dragmire said...

Great post. Interesting insight.

datmeenjeniet said...

wehe Optimus Prime made me laugh :P

J said...

that poster vaguely reminds me of communist propaganda and i dont like that.

MDstuff1337 said...

Darwin one's amazing!

Following. :)

Brock said...

I've seen those pictures everywhere, I really didn't know Obama was the original. Great read.

-DO- said...

optimus prime ftw!^^

Michelangelo said...

Good article man, keep up the good work! :)

Glovey said...

Great post! Keep up the good blogging!

Alphabeta said...

Love these posters.

Chris said...

Good read, nice post. Thanks!

Lhosreiff said...

Such a well done poster, I will admit it got me fuming on more than one occasion.

john178 said...

hahahaha, love the star wars and transformers variations

Egan said...

Thats ridiculous

Laughing Vault said...

obama sucks, but poster is nice

TheHarvester said...

hahaha the "change into a truck" transformers one :D i'd vote for this guy!

Venus said...

this has now become a classic image...

clique said...

lol that's cool.

Barbz said...

always likes the optimus prime one lol

G said...

I loved the Prime one as well

Half Coct said...

I think that once you paint over an image and "make it your own" it's no longer similar enough to the original that it's a copyright violation.

~H. Coct

N4M3L3SS said...

very iconic already

Marlene said...

I personally love the Transformers poster!

Tweeks Coffee said...

great post. following!

Generally Disgruntled said...

It's definitely become a cultural trend

Mr Bouchard said...

Great collection you got there. I'm not american so it's not really my business but every politician who is going to get elected will have his share of good and bad stuff. It's always been like this, all around the world..

Meghan Moran said...

Crazy how famous that graffiti artist became.

AMO said...

That blue,red and white i did it a long time ago in 2006 in my MAC computer.

Biff Tanner said...

Great stuff man I love them.

EmoGoth said...

There's nothing that lolcats won't co-opt.

Electric Addict said...

fair use is fair use.

Azoo said...

The Dawrin thing made me lol hard.

John said...

Lol I loved all the different people put in that picture format. Transformers, Darwin, etc... xD +1 follower, hope you can return the favor!

treadus said...

Shepard Fairey is a pritty interesting artest,little known fact, the face used in many art peices he makes is that of Andre The Giant

T. Roger Thomas said...

Transformers poster is fantastic!

JapRoulette said...

Haha nice poster!

BM said...

really good

HiFi said...

I thought this poster was really good because of it's simplicity. It definitely stands out.

vashrave said...

optimus primo

Wilco said...

good one

TheGeneral said...

Lawsuits, they seem to solve everything.

J.B. said...

you analysed this pretty good. very interesting. and your writing is great too.

VanillaFace said...

I agree with HiFi. So simple but powerful at the same time.
Really enjoying your blog by the way. Followed!:)

-M- said...

I like the Darwin one best as well. I also like the Optimus Prime one :3

Parallel-Reality Hero said...

I was thinking about printing some block posters off these... Whaddaya say?

Kanika Bishnoi said...

J.B is absolutely right.
You are a great writer Jay :)

Jacob said...

Shepard Fairey is an awesome artist, he got so many great pieces.

R.C said...

Very interesting article. I guess it really could be considered an important piece of art given all the copies of it lying around. Nice.

Jok3r said...

Very Nice ;)

Lemmiwinks said...

hahah these are awesome

Timeless Entertainment said...

Great post! I love this blog!!!! Don't forget about me man :)
www.neverboringnews.blogspot.com

Andrew said...

I think that he should have cited the original author but because it was a derivative work perhaps he shouldn't be entitled to half the profits--otherwise he would have just used another photo to avoid the whole issue.

I wonder how much money was wasted in courts? Why can these people not duke it out with a sword or perhaps a good 'ole fashioned bat fight? No, but seriously, these issues all require courts and judges now--why can this not be solved without taking it that far? If you cite photos you're always safer though, as I'm learning more. Great job, great post, thanks for sharing.

Mo said...

The Darwin is the best!

bill said...

posters are hilarious.. thank you sir

Questions said...

The Darwin is classic. Hadn't seen most of these. Thanks for sharing.

izzfoshizzz said...

ive made my own of these! it looked cooled

The Old Master said...

Bloody deep stuff mate!

Killy said...

aweseom!

PaulStreemo said...

you have talent, man, I like it

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...