A photographer locked in a legal battle against the Andy Warhol estate has lost her legal battle. After only recently finding out Warhol had “repurposed” her photo of Prince back in 1984, the photographer tried to take action but was denied after Warhol’s works were deemed to be in “stark contrast” to the original photograph.
Photographer Lynn Goldsmith, who took the image of Prince in 1981 that Warhol reimagined for his artworks, filed the lawsuit. Vanity Fair ran Warhol’s artwork of Goldsmith’s work in a 1984 issue, but Goldsmith only learned of the incident in 2016 after a digital version of the article appeared online. Vanity Fair originally paid Warhol $400 (£318) for the commission.
However, judge John G. Koeltl ruled that Warhol surpassed Goldsmith’s copyright by transforming an image of a “vulnerable, uncomfortable person” into “an iconic, larger-than-life figure”.
The judge said:
Each Prince Series work is immediately recognisable as a ‘Warhol’ rather than as a photograph of Prince – in the same way that Warhol’s famous representations of Marilyn Monroe and Mao are recognisable as ‘Warhols’, not as realistic photographs of those persons.
Warhol went on to create a series of 16 artworks, now known as the Prince Series, featuring 12 silkscreen paintings, two screen prints on paper, and two drawings.
After the ruling, photographer Goldsmith told artnert News:
I know that some people think I started this, and I’m trying to make money. That’s ridiculous – the Warhol Foundation sued me first for my own copyrighted photograph.
It’s true – back in April 2017, the Andy Warhol foundation preemptively sued the photographer, with a bid to “protect the works and legacy of Andy Warhol”. They made claims that Goldsmith was attempting to “shake down” the organization, leading them to take action. She hit back two days later with a countersuit.
Goldsmith says she is encouraging photographers to ““stand up along with me to say that your work cannot just be taken from you without your permission”.