Update: The covergirl's name is Sarah Mason. More photos and stories about Mason, here.
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.
LA Observed reports that “Sarah Mason, the protester in the photo, spent many nights at the Occupy LA camp outside City Hall. She was arrested during the LAPD's eviction action. At the earlier Bank of America protest, her bandana was soaked in vinegar “just in case the police sprayed them with gas or pepper spray.”
Soqui tells the Weekly that “when I was taking the pictures, she was real nervous, and I was just trying to calm her down.”
And now, upon learning she was the face of the TIME issue, Soqui says Mason is “truly humbled by it. She says, 'It's not about me.'” (A similar attitude as the vast majority of occupiers we've spoked to, who never want to designate themselves as “leaders” or “organizers.”)
We've contacted Mason for an acceptance speech, if she's willing to give it.
But we do know, so far, that she's a Highland resident who works at an art gallery in Santa Monica. Here's an interview she gave to NPR just two days before the Bank of America photo was taken:
Cleaning up leaves from the storm the night before is Sarah Mason. The tall, 25-year-old could be a GAP model.
SARAH MASON: I am here because I feel a moral obligation to speak out against injustice.
NPR: Mason has been camping out here a few weeks, but leaves each day for her full-time job at an art gallery in Santa Monica. She admits to getting weary, and lately has been thinking…
MASON: What are we doing here? You know, what is – what is the point of this? You know, can't we be doing this at home? Can't we be doing this somewhere else?
She apparently stuck around a little longer. From a Los Angeles Times piece two weeks later, on the night of the Occupy L.A. raid:
Protesters Sarah Mason and Scott Shuster did decide to leave, because both said they couldn't risk arrest.
Mason, who was arrested during a protest at Bank of America this month, said, “There's no curfew on the 1st Amendment.”
So it seems our girl was actually arrested on the very day Soqui took that fateful portrait. And a star is born.