Inspiration: Street Art, Murals, and Graffiti - PSDTUTS
Graffiti and Copyright

Where were the artists?

I went to the opening of an exhibition of graffiti photos yesterday. I was pleased to see dozens of bright colourful images of graffiti art, pieces from Toronto and around the world. I was pleased to see a room full of older people, learning about this art form and with deep enough pockets to afford one of the photos -at $2,800. I was less pleased after talking to the photographer, May Karp.

The opinion I had obtained from some Canadian lawyers is that once an artist creates something, it is automatically copyrighted. Even if it's a graffiti mural on a wall, even if it was done without permission, even if the artist can't afford a lawyer to defend his/her rights. Even if you can't find the artist. When we asked May about this, she seemed quite dismissive - her lawyers assured her the artists have no copyrights, and that the art usually is whitewashed over by the next day anyways. We also asked if she would consider sharing some of the money with the artists. No, she thinks they should be grateful she is promoting this form of art.

I don't agree, I think the artists should be identified and compensated. For example, I recognized signed pieces by local artists Elicser, EGR, and maybe Artchild.

The exhibit is on until September 27 at Moore Gallery here in Toronto - 80 Spadina, suite 404. Drop by and check it out - especially if you're a local artst - you may find your work up there. Feel free to talk to the curator, Amanda Moore, or drop the gallery a line at [email protected] .

Here's an article on the exhibition...

My, Whata lovely Burner!.

Her upcoming photo exhibition, StreetSpeaks, opens Sept. 6 at Toronto's Moore Gallery and will feature the results of two years' worth of pursuing and documenting spraypainted masterpieces in Spain (including the Canary Islands), France, Portugal, Miami, New York and at home in Hogtown.

Sept 13 - Update - There's a brief article in the Toronto SUN about this. When the photographer was confronted by some artists and "their" gallery owner, asking about recognition and compensation, the gallery decided to just pull the show. Too bad. Maybe she'll try again sometime but this time involve the artists more. 

The SUN piece is based on her official statement about the closure , so is of course all about her. Here's a link to the article and my added comments.


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Looks like the show is shutting down after the artists of whose work she has photographed requested compensation.

I am fine with this.


Great news - I added a link to the article


Thanks for raising this important issue. It's pathetic that some photographers still think that copyright only protects their own work. I find her claim that a lawyer told her it was okay completely unbelievable.

When you want to do writers a favor, you print their names next to the photos. If you love graffiti enough to make a gallery show of your photos, you need to understand and love the writers too. Otherwise it's at best cultural appropriation and at worst outright theft.


She seemed quite dismissive of the copyright issue, and of involving the artists, when my sister and I talked to her. As she stoo in the midst of the moneyed visitors, all dressed to the nines. Same attitide from the gallery curator.
I try my best to find out the artists names (or an alias) to give them credit. I have sold a few photos, but split the profit with the artist. Seems the ethical thing to do.
Check out the discussion on the Flickr pic for this - including the photographers "poor me" press release.
Feel free to contact the gallery on this. National Post is doing a piece on this too - they contacted me and some of the artists. Which is more than the SUN did.

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