Richard Prince Instagram Victims Speak Out
The controversy continues to grow.
While the SuicideGirls are enjoying renewed Internet fame for their response to Richard Prince’s latest series of “New Portraits” (see Payback for Richard Prince as Models Re-appropriate Stolen Instagram Images and Sell Them for $90, Who Are the Suicide Girls? Inside the Nude Pin-Up Community That Trolled Richard Prince), not all of the women Prince appropriated for his Gagosian show are angry. And, in some cases, the pictures that Prince used weren’t even their original photos.
Business Insider spoke to Karley Sciortino and Anna Collins, two of Prince’s subjects whose opinions differ vastly on the matter. Sciortino and Collins are the newest round of Instagram users to speak out, following cosmetics entrepreneur Doe Deere, who launched a wave of interest in Prince’s project when she stated via Instagram: “No, I did not give my permission and yes, the controversial artist Richard Prince put it up anyway” (see Richard Prince Steals More Instagram Photographs and Sells Them for $100,000).
“I don’t really understand the uproar over it,” said Sciortino, a blogger and online sex columnist for Vogue, who recently spoke on a panel at Frieze Projects. “Richard Prince is a hugely successful artist who’s made his career doing exactly what he’s doing now. Personally I feel like it’s an honor to be incorporated in a piece of his [Prince’s] artwork.”
Collins doesn’t feel quite as flattered, however. “I just think about how I’m a working student in school, I’m extremely broke, and here is a middle-aged white man making a huge profit off of my image. Kind of makes me sick. I could use that money for my tuition,” she said.
However, Collins, who is a 19-year-old ballet student from Toronto, also admits that she didn’t even take the photo Prince used. It was her sister, photographer and designer Petra Collins, who snapped the shot of Collins and her boyfriend gazing at the glowing screen of a sticker-covered laptop.
Similarly, Sciortino’s portrait, a cleavage-bearing shot that shows off a new necklace, was originally posted to celebrity photographer Terry Richardson’s Instagram account, @richardsonworld, before she reposted it to her own account. Meaning, as reporter Madison Malone Kircher points out, “the photo had already been appropriated once before Prince even got to it.”
All of this adds to the flurry of questions regarding art and ownership in the digital age—questions Prince posed in his contribution to Frieze Week, via Gagosian’s self-released newspaper, which was offered to fair-goers earlier this month.
The gallery’s publication, however, hasn’t reached the Instagram community at large. “People in the Instagram community own their photos, period,” a spokesperson from Instagram told the Washington Post. “On the platform, if someone feels that their copyright has been violated, they can report it to us and we will take appropriate action. Off the platform, content owners can enforce their legal rights.”
This is true in theory, but in practice, it’s commonplace on Instagram and other social media platforms to repost images from a variety of sources. Of course, what isn’t commonplace is to use them to make six figures from the transaction. Prince’s actions are uncharted territory, and for many of the women involved, it feels unfair that a famous male artist is profiting off their pictures.
“I think this is so typical and a prime example of the art industry, but also the history of the art world in general. For years men (especially white men) have been appropriating and taking credit [for] women’s work, bodies, and cultures,” Collins told Business Insider.
“I’ve been asked, ‘Why don’t you just sue him?’,” she continued. “But it’s not that simple. I’m a 19-year-old girl and here is a rich, successful man.”
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