Reuters Blogs


What makes a great picture?

January 15th, 2009

Iconic Obama poster based on Reuters photo

Posted by: Adam Pasick
Tags: Reuters Photographers, , , , , ,

Shepard Fairey’s posters of Barack Obama became the iconic image of a historic campaign. After a bit of digging by a photographer and a blogger, it turns out that Fairey’s source material was a photo by Reuters’ veteran photographer Jim Young.

Blogger Michael Cramer created the composite photo above after sifting through countless images to find a match. The poster has Obama facing the opposite direction; Cramer flipped it to correspond with the original source photo.

Young, who took many thousands of photos of Obama on the campaign trail, was pleasantly surprised when told of his contribution to the iconic image. The original picture was taken in 2007 during a Senate confirmation hearing.

“I saw that poster all over the place, all year. For a lot of people it symbolized the campaign. It meant so much to so many people,” Young told Philadelphia Inquirer photographer and blogger Tom Gralish, who has led the search for the photo.

“I’m honored, but I’m glad it didn’t come out until after the campaign,” Jim added. “I think even if I had known it was mine, I would have kept quiet. It would be just my little secret.”

Ironically, Young unknowingly took several pictures of the poster on the campaign trail, including one through a window when it was flipped to match the orientation of his original photo.

Fairey, an artist who first came to fame for an altered picture of wrestler Andre the Giant, has said in interviews that he found the Obama source photo using Google Image Search and then “did his thing to it.” His “Hope” poster is now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

“You’d think a whole bunch of photographers would step forward,” said Gralish in his blog post. He compared it to the Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph of a V-J Day kiss in Times Square, which has spurred dozens of people to come forward over the years, claiming to be the kissers in the picture.

More on the Fairey/Young image:

Washington Post graphic about how Fairey created the poster

Time magazine video on Fairey and the Obama poster

Make your own “Obamicon” poster

12 comments so far

I think the photo/image of Obama symbolises hope for the US, I’m a Wedding Photographer from Essex and appreciate the importance of capturing moments. This poster is very similar to the pose Martin Luther King did for his campaigns I sure it has been compared to him before it’s a classic piece.

- Posted by Alan B

Isn’t this a copyrightt violation?

- Posted by Ayla Z

[...] A história aqui. [...]

- Posted by PICTURAPixel - Bloco de Notas » Jim Young. Shepard Fairey. Barack Obama. Tudo a ver!

Borderline fair use? Derivative enough? It’ll be interesting to see what happens. It is the iconic image for Obama at the mo’.

- Posted by Northern Virginia Photographer

[...] Originally Posted by George W Bush I want to know who took the picture he used. Reuters photographer Jim Young…reu ters-photo/ [...]

- Posted by Shepard Fairey on Colbert Report - Page 3 -

How does Jim feel about the image being reversed. You did mention the poster was based on the image.
Jim W
Calgary Sun

- Posted by Jim Wells

win-win? or unfair use?

- Posted by Singapore Photographer

As copying images from the internet is very easy today, it’s difficult to deal with the copyright issues and rather impossible to prevent one from copying or downloading the images once they are out on the net. I think Fairey didn’t even think that the image he doctored could be an icon like this. And I agree with the confession Fairey made, honestly, from where the image he copied and credited Young, even though Young hadn’t even known that it was his picture. The most important thing for me personally is now we have an iconic photo of Obama that has been popular and officially documented into the National Portrait Gallery. If Fairey got any money for it, he has to share it with Young…otherwise just be happy to donate the picture to the gallery.

- Posted by Maheru79

[...] Reuters Photo Blog - Iconic Obama poster based on Reuters photo [...]

- Posted by Fairey X Young « We Mine Deeper

I think it’s a feather in Young’s cap to have taken the original photo. Is Fairey’s poster our generation’s equivalent of the famous photo after WWII of the young soldier and a young woman kissing in the streets?

- Posted by Ron

I like the poster very much, but read this linked article to learn how Fairey is making a career out of directly plagarizing other’s work and not crediting them. This is absolutely copyright infringement if the original works are still under copyright. He can’t claim ingnorance anymore, saying he just took the Obama image off of a Google search. ex.htm

- Posted by John G.

[...] photographer Jim Young writes about experimenting with a modified Holga in a town soon to be considerably less [...]

- Posted by Holga takes on Crawford

Post Your Comment

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Click to hear an audio file of the anti-spam word

House Rules:
  • We moderate all comments and will publish everything that advances the post directly or with relevant tangential
  • We try not to publish comments that we think are offensive or appear to pass you off as another person, and we will be conservative if comments may be considered libelous.information.