It's ironic enough that TIME Magazine chose L.A. street artist Shepard Fairey to design today's "Person of the Year" cover, which depicts an anonymous protester peering from between her beanie and bandana. Fairey is the same Echo Park legend behind Obama's patriotic "HOPE" poster, as well as a controversial "Occupy HOPE" followup last month. (Controversial because some protesters feel he's too tied into the system to understand the Occupy Wall Street movement -- much like those Coppenhagen rebels who tagged his attempt at a peace mural with "Obama illuminati" and "Yankee hipster" a few months before.)
Then there's the fact that the image is directly
lifted from inspired by an Occupy L.A. snapshot by none other than LA Weekly photographer Ted Soqui.
"It is the image I took, and TIME had Shepard turn it into a piece of artwork -- and now it's on the cover of the magazine," says Soqui.
Last time Fairey based a major pop-culture piece on another artist's work (the Obama "HOPE" portrait, styled after an Associated Press photograph and likewise featured on the cover of TIME), he was sued by the AP for copyright infringement.
He first involved himself in Occupy Wall Street with a party invite that seriously resembled Angela Davis.
The new "Person of the Year" photo, and contrasty Fairey remake, shows an Occupy L.A. protester demonstrating in front of Bank of America last November 17 -- part of a National Day of Action.
Soqui, frequent LA Weekly freelancer who shot much of our own Occupy L.A. coverage, including a Weekly cover that was eerily similar to TIME's, also syndicates his work through a New York photo agency. He says that TIME often "peruses their library of images." So he never worked directly with Fairey. Instead, "it all happened through the syndicator."
Soqui says he was a little surprised to see how closely Fairey's design resembled his original snapshot. "They should have probably just used the image," he says. "But I think what they're trying to do is not make it about the person, but the feeling."
Anyway, there's no lawsuit in the works. Soqui says he's only "stoked, pleased and honored" to have contributed to the historic issue.
"I had to take a lot of [copies of the photo] down, because TIME wanted to control the image," he says. "They crossed their T's and dotted their I's." However, one copy remains, on Soqui's personal photo blog:Compare and contrast: We've got to find this chick. She's pretty much the modern-day version of National Geographic's girl with the green eyes. If you're out there, uh, congratulations: You are officially TIME's "Person of the Year." Also, get in touch. We'd love to hear more about the closest thing the Occupy Wall Street movement has to a princess.
Updated on page 2 with details about Sarah Mason, star of the TIME cover.