Singaporean photographer claims artist ‘ripped off’ her work, ‘mansplained’ copyright to her

Photographer Jingna Zhang posted on social media that a painter had “ripped off” her photograph and went on to win a cash prize in addition to showcasing their painting at a prestigious international exhibition.

In a Twitter thread on Tuesday, Zhang wrote, “Some guy really ripped off my photo, won a €1,500 prize, exhibited in a biennale supported by the Luxembourg government, then tried to mansplain copyright infringement to me. Where can I find a Luxembourgish speaker to help? Unbelievable.”

She uploaded a side-by-side picture of the painting and her original photograph, which depicts a pale Asian model with red lips. Her hair is in an updo with loose strands around the side of her face. 

On the left, the alleged copycat shows an almost identical figure with little alteration besides being flipped, a change in the color of her clothes and an added earring.

On Instagram, Zhang explained more in detail that the man had showcased his work at the Commune de Strassen, a culture center in Strassen, Luxembourg. 

“When confronted by others about copyright infringement, he sends me an email statement, tells me that as a figurative painter it’s obvious that he needs reference materials. That he was inspired by someone else who appropriated my photos first (!!), and even though he was inspired by some of my artistic choices, he had ‘created an image in an artisanal way’, with different colors, flipped the photo, and added some earrings and a sword. ???”

Zhang described how the person went on to list artists that have used other paintings or photographs as references, insisting that his case was not a copyright infringement.

The author concluded her post by tagging people associated with the Commune de Strassen, including the royal family of Luxembourg, who were presented the painting at the event.

Several fellow artists and talents have echoed her outrage.

Photographer Kirsty Mitchell commented, “I’m sorry but that is bullsh*t,” adding, “It is so exact it looks like he’s used yours as the actual outline base for the painting, even down to the double hair strands at the front. This is absolutely outrageous. I would pursue this.”

Mitchell added another comment suggesting that Zhang should tag the alleged copier’s art school: “I doubt they will find this good press either.”

On Twitter, one user responded that they discovered the same person had copied their work as well.

“So f*cked up! Thanks to your IG post someone alerted me that he’d done the same with my own work. I hope there are repercussions.”

In a side-by-side picture, the alleged copycat had posted a painting that looks identical to the user’s photograph, except they had replaced a flower the woman pictured was holding with a cigarette and pocket watch. They also added a tattoo to the woman’s arm. 

In a recent reply, Zhang notified the thread that the Strassen Commune’s organizer had deleted the Instagram post announcing the winners but has yet to contact her.

“I’m not sure if that means they basically plan to do nothing,” she said.

Zhang most recently shot actor Michelle Yeoh for Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022 profile. She was previously featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list.

Feature image via Zemotion / Zemotion

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