Richard Prince

Instagram, insta-art, insta-cash! New York based artist, Richard Prince, has raided Instagram accounts, grabbed the images, and made a lot of money. His ‘New Portraits’ exhibition is appropriation of the highest order. 

The photograph below illustrates part of Prince’s installation, which consists of a series of enlarged versions of Instagram posts. Prince has also posted comments underneath each picture. Some of the artist’s appropriations have earned him as much as $100,000, and yet the photographers have not received a penny. 

‘New Portraits’ raises new questions about copyright protection of those images posted online. If you took an exhibit off the wall in a gallery, you would arrested. So why should it be any different online? How can someone else benefit from another’s work? On the other hand, Prince argues that he has created a new version of the image, by enlarging it, adding comments, and recontextualising it. 

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The Internet is so vast and ever increasing, it is almost impossible to keep track of all data. Once an image is in the public domain, it is susceptible to being altered and reused. Whilst I disagree with the way Prince has benefitted off the back of someone else, I can accept that by posting photographs online, the photographer intends for his/her work to be seen by a wider audience. Redistributing the image achieves this. Therefore this would appear to be more acceptable if the photographer has been credited with the work. Prince does do this, by including the username attributed to each Instagram post.  

Personally, I don’t see the value in pretending that someone else’s work is my own. I would prefer to create my own work, from my own original ideas.