Plagiarism – Letter to Simon Baker, Director MEP

Dear Mr. Baker,

I have for the past few hours looked for a contact email address for the La maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.  I have given up.  I was in your museum this past Friday and I walked the Coco Capitán show.  Might be a little early for a young photographer to have her first museum show, but I am sure she is very grateful.  There are some original ideas, particularly in the texts, however, I lost interest when I saw the this:

Coco Capitán: Funeral Car

Please forgive my horrible photograph, it is obviously from my phone and in trying to eliminate glare and reflections, it is taken from the side, as you can see.

What troubles me is that you, Mr. Simon Baker, the recently appointed Director of MEP by way of the Tate would choose, or allow the photograph to hang with no credit to Robert Frank, one of the greatest living photographers. Not any reference that I could see. 

For the readers here, I have found a reasonable representation of Robert Frank’s image online, which I have pasted here.  Mr. Baker, I am sure you need no introduction to this image.

Robert Frank: Covered Car, Long Beach 1956

I have over the years enjoyed the shows/exhibitions at MEP.  And while some is not to my taste, other work has been exceptional, and that is what a good museum should do.  Inform, challenge and enlighten.

However, it saddens me that in a time of easy plagiarism checks, with software solutions abound, you would let Coco Capitán’s ‘Funeral Car’ hang on your walls.  I find this extremely troubling.  There is no credit given to Robert Frank, as there should have been at an absolute minimum. For a person of your pedigree, there is no excuse. 

The notion that art may be ‘repurposed’ is often used as an excuse, however, the way in which a similar size black and white photograph with an identical composition, even tonal range is presented crosses the line. Diptych or not, the framing lets the photograph stand alone. This is plagiarism, pure and simple.

While I may find the work of Cortis and Sonderegger fun, as they recreate iconic photographs in their Swiss studio, at least they show enough of their handy-work to make sure there is no way a viewer would see an image as the original work.  Further, in their descriptions, they give full credit and actually explain the context of the original work.

Other photographers will copy the style, or content of a photograph, however, I would like to think that they do so while honouring the original photographer by way of declaring their photograph an homage.

As for Coco Capitán, there are no redeeming factors that I can see. Sure, she might not have known, she may not have studied the history of the medium, but for you, the Director of the Museum, there is no excuse. You failed to do the right thing.

Kind regards,

Harbel

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