Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photos

©Thomas Barbèy. “Rhinal Congestion”

Muench Photography and Mountain Light Photography have filed a copyright infringement claim against a Las Vegas-based photomontage artist for unauthorized use of two of their photographs.

The artist, Thomas Barbèy, creates surrealistic photomontages. According to his Tumblr page, he uses  images that he shoots on his travels all over the world. He claims inspiration from René Magritte, M.C. Escher, and Roger Dean, and says, “I’m constantly asked about how I do [the montages], I would like to think that the pictures can be appreciated without any real knowledge of their technical virtuosity. The visionary inspiration and imagination is not a technical skill learned in school but rather to my personal belief a gift from God.”

And theft of other people’s photographs, allegedly.

©Muench Photography. “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park”

“He claimed he took all of these images himself, and he clearly doesn’t,” says Marc Muench, one of the plaintiffs, who is suing Barbèy in a federal court in Los Angeles.

“The claims in this lawsuit have no merit whatsoever,” says Barbèy’s attorney, Charles Harder.

According to the lawsuit, Barbèy created an image that he titled “Rhinal Congestion” (it shows multiple rhinos in a snowscape) using an image by Muench called “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park.” Muench’s image appeared in 1993 in a book called National Parks of America (Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company). He also registered the image with the US Copyright Office that same year.

The lawsuit also alleges that Barbèy used a photograph called “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park,” shot by the late Galen Rowell of Mountain Light Photography, to create a photo montage titled “Pitcher Books.” Rowell’s “Quadruple Falls” image was first published in 1997. Mountain Light registered the image with the US Copyright Office in 2009.

Barbèy sells his prints through his own gallery in Hawaii, as well as through an online retailer called Artifacts Gallery. “Pitcher Books” and “Rhinal Congestion” are priced at $1500 each on the Artifacts Gallery Web site.

Charles Harder says that his client’s use of the Muench and Mountain Light images is protected by “the legal doctrine of transformative use, as well as the doctrines of fair use and de minimis use.” The lawsuit tries to pre-empt a fair use defense by saying that Barbèy’s images do not “criticize, comment on, or otherwise refer the viewer to” the Muench  and Mountain Light photographs.

©Thomas Barbèy. “Pitcher Books”

Harder also says that the statute of limitations applies in this case. He is suggesting, in other words, that Muench and Mountain Light didn’t bring their claim to court soon enough, so it will be dismissed.

Harder says there were “very minimal sale of the works at issue, so even if there was liability (which there is not), damages would be nominal.”

That might be the case for the Mountain Light image, which was registered after the alleged infringement, making Mountain Light eligible for actual damages only. But the Muench image was registered prior to the alleged infringement. So if a court holds Barbèy liable for infringement, Muench would be eligible for statutory damages.

Mountain Light’s operations manager was not immediately available for comment.

©Mountain Light Photography. “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park, Montana”

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41 Responses to “Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photos”

  1. Paul Garfinkel Says:

    I have had my photos used without permission as well. I find the practice to be despicable and criminal. It’s theft, it’s cowardly, and it’s lying to your public when you claim someone else’s work s your own. We all take a risk when putting our work out there on the web… but that does not excuse bad behavior, particularly when you make it clear that the work is not to be used without the owner’s permission.

  2. Simon Brown Says:

    I’m baffled by this. Just who does Barbèy think he’s fooling? Whether it’s what appears to be his obvious theft of other people’s work, the dreck he abused it for or his questionable grasp of fact?

    This is the edited, less blunt version of my first reaction. I’d met Galen out in the mountains a couple of times. To say he was(and still is) highly and affectionately regarded in the climbing community is an understatement.

  3. flexible fotography Says:

    “… even if there was liability (which there is not), damages would be nominal.”
    Barbey’s attorney is obviously speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Just as obviously, the two images in question were used as the basis of Barbey’s art.
    Such use is not necessarily, by itself, bad. But, by denying the obvious, Barbey and his lawyer make it a crime. Terrible.

  4. Leah Says:

    Disgusting. His work is really cool, HOWEVER….theft is theft!

  5. Split Second Capture Says:

    This is theft!
    And PDN… change those share buttons! They are old and do not include G+!!!

  6. Walt Says:

    If two images coming from other photographers were used to make one it implies the skill to the one creating the composite. In some places this is seen a new image. However, unless the newest image is done through the permission and acknowledgement of the the two original photographers this is still stealing regardless of how local copy rights see it. Stealing is stealing even if you get away with it.

  7. Gary Says:

    It’s bad enough that he’s using other peoples work, but to claim that HE shoots everything on his travels is a blatant lie. Epic fail, regardless of how well his composites may seem to be.

  8. Thomas Barbey Says:

    What Muench and Mountain Light Photography fail to mention is that they have been suing me (Thomas Barbey) for over a year trying to get well over $100,000 from me. Since the case has never gone to court and they will lose their case they have been desperately trying to slander me with montages done well over a decade ago when I first started experimenting with negatives made from scans of different photographs. I used them to hone my craft before I turned pro. They were never meant to be sold and the gallery and blogs put them on the web. Through my attorneys we offered compensation for these images that I haven’t sold in years because they were done before I was even a professional. I never denied the fact of using the images for my practice sessions. In the first montage, the important element is not the rocks with snow but the Rhinos I shot in Kenya to call the piece; “Rhinal Congestion”. In the second montage, the important concept is of the books that I shot. I could have used any image of waterfalls. It is the concept of the water coming out of the books that is important to me and the piece is called: “Pitcher Books”. Even though we found out that Muench sells his images for less than $500 on the web through websites for any professional use, he refused payment for 10 times that amount. They are telling people that I don’t take my pictures when I shoot over thousands of images every year and spend thousands of dollars traveling to take my photographs. Saying that I am a rip-off artist is slander and incorrect. I am way more successful than the photographers suing me and that is the real problem. The two pieces in question are well over a decade old and were never meant to be on the market. People just put them up as they do constantly on the web! The crazy thing is, I see people copying me every day and to be sued for copyright infringement is quite absurd. Muench and Mountain Light thought they hit the jackpot and were going to become rich by suing me. This plan of theirs didn’t work and now their plan is to slander me by saying I am a fraud and I don’t take my pictures. The article on PDN is one sided with inaccurate facts and left out many important details regarding the case. I wasn’t allowed to talk about a pending case and they obviously didn’t care. I am very successful because of my concepts and original ideas and when this happens, people sue you and try to make a buck.

  9. Thomas Barbey Says:

    These two photographers were thinking of blackmailing me with two old pieces that are completely un-important to me. People appreciate my work for the concepts and not even my photography… In the last ten years I have been shooting all my pictures even though I could have used stock photography. Made negatives from photographs as I do from my own photographs. I often re-photograph my photograph. This is part of my process. Maggie Taylor is in Photography galleries and scans all her images. She tells everybody that she does. I only tell people that I take my own pictures because I really do! This is not even really important. If I used stock photography, people would still like the final piece because that’s what they see. They are not buying it because it’s photography but because they like what they see. I am blessed that people are receptive to my work and I later became a professional. When I started, I had no idea of the success I would have… Now that I am successful, people are suing me and copying me… This is how it goes… For a $100,000 each? It’s crazy and ridiculous! Actually it’s pretty “sleezy”…

  10. Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photos | The Click Says:

    [...] Link: PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photo… The artist, Thomas Barbèy, creates surrealistic photomontages. According to his Tumblr page, he uses  images that he shoots on his travels all over the world. He claims inspiration from René Magritte, M.C. Escher, and Roger Dean, and says, “I’m constantly asked about how I do [the montages], I would like to think that the pictures can be appreciated without any real knowledge of their technical virtuosity. The visionary inspiration and imagination is not a technical skill learned in school but rather to my personal belief a gift from God.” [...]

  11. Thomas Barbey Says:

    If you have any questions regarding what I do, you can ask me directly through Facebook instead of people who write things like: “self proclaimed photo montage virtuoso”. I have NEVER proclaimed myself to be a “virtuoso”! That’s simply ridiculous… Why would I ever do that? I’m just another guy doing Art… There are plenty of examples of people who are technically terrible and are extremely popular. Marc Chagall’s paintings look like they were done by an 8 year old and people just love his work… Why would I even care to be a “virtuoso” when it’s not about that? Many people happen to love my work and this upsets many other people… especially other photographers! PDN is a magazine for photographers. Their target audience is pretty clear. I don’t do photography for other photographers. I do it for the people who enjoy looking at art, not criticizing it with a slight envious tone to their criticism. When you are successful and sell a lot as I do, people will try really hard to bring you down or get an economic gain by doing so. They all gang up and get a rush at trying to bring you down… because they’ve never managed to be successful themselves. It’s pretty sad… The article clearly states that I used the “help of God” and ” evidently other photographers work”. Hahaha… This is supposed to be funny and sarcastic. As if I needed Marc Muench’s single picture of rocks with snow on them to make a name for myself! For well over a decade of tedious art shows and thousands of hours working on my photographs, posters and calendars selling worldwide and some photographs selling for over $20,000… Does this have anything to do with Marc Muench? He seems to think so… FYI, my attorneys know that Mr Muench has 5 other pending lawsuits with publishing companies… He’s just a certain type of person that I would never want to be. PDN writes an article with this type of person and this type of sarcastic tone. They could be “brothers” or people of the same kind… They look at the ugliest possible side in life instead of seeing the bright side.

  12. Thomas Barbey Says:

    By the way, for your information. Just an example how things can be incorrect. I don’t have a “Tumbler” page! I don’t even know if someone is pretending to be me on Tumbler.

  13. Thomas Barbey Says:

    Shame on you PDN for the tone of your article, for being one sided, reporting inaccurate news, supporting a photographer trying to make over $100,000 off another photographer because of his celebrity status. You should be supporting photographers and not trying to bring them down. Your readers deserve better than this.

  14. Mark Says:

    Thomas, I don´t know who you or Marc Muench are, and it´s not important. Whats important is that you have taken someone elses work to help make a name for youself. I have not seen you mention any form of gratitude, instead you make excuses. Make a deal with them and say your sorry.

  15. harriet Says:

    chagall’s work by an 8 year old? you are kidding right?

  16. Thomas Barbey Says:

    @Harriet If you are familiar with Marc Chagall’s work, you will notice that his proportions are clearly flawed. He will draw a horse with a huge head, for instance. He doesn’t paint anything the way it is. This is naturally on purpose but very reminiscent of an innocent 8 year old.

  17. Thomas Barbey Says:

    @Mark… What you are saying is clearly not true. I made a name for myself the old fashioned way… Through long hard work without the need for someone else’s work. The other guy “Muench” is trying to cash in on that hard work. “Apologizing” was done over a year ago and a financial offer was made of $5000 for symbolical reasons because I never made that kind of money with these two old images. It was refused because they wanted $100,000, each! After it was refused, I didn’t feel like apologizing to these people. I hope you understand that when someone sues you, it’s not all that amusing. I have almost a hundred other pieces done with all my photographs that made me who I am today… These are the facts.

  18. Alexi "Alvin" Dagher Says:

    Very interesting responses!

    Let’s all learn something from this page…

  19. PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » Artist Settles Mountain Light’s Copyright Claim; Muench Drops Charges Says:

    [...] Barbèy created an image that he titled “Rhinal Congestion” (it shows multiple rhinos in a snowscape), allegedly using parts of an image owned by Muench called “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park.” Barbèy was also accused of using a photograph called “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park,” shot by the late Galen Rowell of Mountain Light Photography, to create a photo montage titled “Pitcher Books.” (Photos here). [...]

  20. Cees Says:

    Thanks for the clarification Thomas. I hope sensibility prevails. Ever heard of Jerry Uelsmann? Looks like PDN needs to do some more explaining. Keep up the fine work and best to you.

  21. Richard Says:

    “I am way more successful than the photographers suing me and that is the real problem.”

    You are way more successful than Galen Rowell and the Muenches? Just Google their names and compare it with your own results. The results speak for itself.

  22. James Says:

    “I am way more successful than the photographers suing me and that is the real problem”

    I was with you until you threw that out there. I have a suspician Galen Rowell is making more dead than you are alive – and he did a lot more with his life. You can read some of his books since books seem to interest you.

  23. Carl May Says:

    Before she retired several years ago, my wife took part in a number of larger and better art fairs in California that Barbey also attended. The time span involved covered a long period in which “appropriation” of one artist’s work for incorporation into the work of another was hotly debated, especially by newcomers on the digital side who took the naive position that everything should be free except what they did for money. This story makes it clear the matter is not resolved. It is not my personal taste in fine art photography, but I always admired the obvious skill and imagination with which Barbey created and manipulated images.

    What I can’t resolve in this story is how the images with the stolen elements made it into the commercial marketplace if they were only early practice images used for developing techniques, as Barbey implies. And, as a corollary, why they continued, and continue, to be offered for sale. These considerations produce at least a slightly hollow ring to Barbey’s strident and emotional defense of his skills, motivation, and reputation in the messages above.

    Many artists, especially digital artists, are grossly naive with regard to intellectual property rights. This situation has not been made better with such shoddy, misleading, and, for many artists, confusing legal contrivances as Creative Commons. One hopes that Barbey will purge his entire collection for sale of any pieces with appropriated imagery and that he and the plaintiffs will be able to come to a settlement after he has completed self-generated corrective steps.

  24. Paolo Says:

    The question is not about who is more successful or who sell pictures for bigger prices! The question is when someone uses the picture of another person/author to make his own composition/image he should first ask permission/contact the author to be allowed to use it (through a deal/contract) . And if author doesn’t want his picture to be used by another artist, he is in his own rigth . There isn’t even question about that… ( Unless the copyright law is a bit different in U.S.A,and just works for people who has money to pay good lawyers,or big( agressive ) corporations… I would say respect the c please, even if the logo is not there…

  25. Another digital artist Says:

    Thomas Barbey, you are so dishonest that it makes you pathetic and this is sad.

    Claiming you are more famous than the photographer whom you used photos without permission is insane. That sounds like: the photographer couldnt make money/fame with his own photos but ME i did so i deserve fame/money more than him from his own work i used”. That is scary.

    Saying that his original photos are not the interest in your photomontages is wrong. Just take off the original pictures you dont own from these photomontages and nothing is left, except rhinos or books… That is something completely different.

    Having an idea is good but not enough to have a good picture/photomontage.

  26. Thomas Barbey Says:

    @Another Digital artist,
    Of course I wasn’t more famous at the time because I wasn’t even a professional when I started. I was just fooling around. I had no idea that I would one day be in permanent collections in Museums around the world. I didn’t even know that I would be selling the way I do. You don’t have to call me “pathetic” and “dishonest”. I don’t know these two photographers and don’t know their work. I apologize for that. They may be famous to you but not to me. However, if you knew my work, you would understand that “the rhinos” and the “books” are what I sell because I am not a landscape photographer, but a conceptual one. I would be dishonest if I refused compensation to them for the use of their images. I didn’t. They asked, I offered $5000! They wanted $100,000 per image! That’s dishonest! They threatened to go public if I didn’t give them that sum. Is that honest? As soon as they found out they couldn’t get that kind of money, Mountain Light accepted to take $2600 and still go public and try to ruin me? What is their objective? What can I do? Am I supposed to throw away a decade of hard work and shooting pics for something I did over a decade ago?

  27. Thomas Barbey Says:

    @Carl May ,

    When I was contacted by Muench and Mountain Light, I admitted the use instantly and went through my records and counted the extremely dismal sales. I have to admit that my main focus was on all the pieces that were selling well and not on these two pieces that didn’t sell anything. I should have retired them earlier. If or when I did sell one, I firmly believe that it was either because they liked my whole concept, because they liked “Rhinos” which I shot in Kenya, or because in the case of the other piece, they were a school teacher or liked reading books. In my mind, the very few didn’t buy these pieces because of the stones in Muench’s photograph or the “photographic virtuosity” of Galen’s beautiful waterfalls. I apologize for not even knowing his name and having never heard of him, before today. I was only referred to him with the name : “Mountain Light”. Now I understand some of you who are fans of his work may be shocked, but I am not a fan of landscape photography because I love surrealistic painters. That’s my cup of tea. To each their own. I apologize if I offended the fans of Muench and Galen, if they are famous photographers, but I seriously had never heard of them. For me they aren’t or weren’t famous and I haven’t seen any of their work.
    I seriously believe that if I had used any other image of waterfalls on the spur of the creative moment, the quality and the “sale-ability” of the piece would have been the same. It would have been different waterfalls and in the case of “Rhinal Congestion”, it would have been different stones or a field of grass. There is a fine line between “collage” artist and “Photo-montage” artist. I’ve seen people do collages with other people’s images and never had a problem. I was told by my attorney, that Muench has 5 other lawsuits. He is suing quite a few people! I didn’t feel I was “stealing” from them because the final result was completely different and they were “duds”! They were unpopular pieces that I did at the very beginning. I’ve seen pop artists, and people like Maggie Taylor who sells in photography galleries and so many others using images and composing them. I tried really hard to shoot all my own pictures… For what reason? To avoid being sued? I had no idea this would happen to me in this way.
    Today, after a lawsuit, it’s easy to say that I should never have let these images be presented to the public eye, but I never thought at the time that these two photographers would come after me for $100,000 dollars! PDN put another article up but they still seem to forget the fact that these attorneys tried to get me to pay $100,000 per image for this. Nobody mentions this and I think it’s very important because I did offer them $5000 which is a hefty price for the use of water and stones that can be shot in many places… I have been to Hawaii, Thailand and all over the world to shoot my pictures. I also have to mention that they threatened to go public if I didn’t pay the full amount. This threat didn’t work and they are dropping the case evidently because they can’t get the big sum. Mountain Light accepted the $2600 and I have to pay. This is the only thing PDN writes about… not the fact that THEY THREATENED FIRST TO GO PUBLIC to get me to pay a maximum sum, then when that didn’t work, let’s go the press and let’s call all the galleries where he sells his work. Am I supposed to be grateful to these people? What kind of people are they? I am the “Bad guy” in all of this according to everybody but is their behavior even worse? “Now we’re gonna get him, by the cojones and make him pay!” I have employees selling my work in the galleries and I don’t want them to lose their jobs… I would like to let people know that I have stopped selling these pieces many years ago and if they are still on the web somewhere it is beyond my control. I tried to take them off the web but I can’t. They are on different blogs. I know that people still appreciate what I do… I hope I will still give joy to people who purchase my pieces even though some other photographers will hate me. I can’t help that!

  28. Corey Says:

    @Thomas Barbey Your artist statement mentions your technical virtuosity by the way. Maybe you were too busy being successful to proofread your own statement.

  29. Corey Says:

    Artist statement found online here:
    http://www.gallery71.com/dynamic/artist.asp?ArtistID=22

  30. Thomas Barbey Says:

    @Corey, Does the fact of being successful bother you? The reality is, if I weren’t successful, I wouldn’t be sued. I wouldn’t be giving people work and salaries. My artistic statement was written by Portal Publications in 2005, on their calendar. It’s a copy and paste world, nowadays. I apologize to you Corey for my artistic statement. Is this really important? The truth is, I don’t consider myself a “virtuoso” and the tone of the PDN article is “nasty” and one sided. If you find pleasure in joining the writers of this article in starting to find things wrong with what I had to say, go ahead… but it’s sad.

  31. Nicole Says:

    About the legality of Barbey’s work, I can’t say. But as a someone who works/ed as both a photographer and photo editor, I can say that it’s bad practice to alienate one’s self from a professional community. Not only the lack of regard for the work of other artists but the disrespectful comments here will surely result in loss of sales.

  32. Another digital artist Says:

    Thomas, all you say is lawyer manipulation vocabulary and trickery. You can get away in front of a court with these words but the facts are the only truth. And no you’re not famous. Avedon is famous, Lachapelle is famous. A museum that owns your work is a joke.

  33. Another digital artist Says:

    You get a lot of feedback on that because a lot of honest photographers today have their work used/stolen without permission and credit. The fact is that it is very hard for us to read your statement shameless statements here when a lot of us can’t meet ends and live a normal life, and it is even harder for us to see others making good business from our work. You just happen to be the wrong guy doing the wrong thing at the wrong place and time. That makes you a temporary symbol of this nasty practice.

  34. Another digital artist Says:

    Not to mention that your photomontage skills are very bad, no professional retouching company would hire you.

  35. J.T Loh Says:

    I believe the point here isn’t about how good or successful Mr. Thomas Barbey is. It is about the use, without permission, of images that do not belong to him.

    One can’t walk into a shop, steal some lettuce, steal some salad dressing and make a salad and then walk out of the shop without paying for them. It is just basically wrong, no matter how tasty the salad is.

  36. Thomas Barbey Says:

    @J T Loh, -The slight difference here is that when you steal some lettuce or some salad dressing, the owner of the shop is missing some lettuce. He is at a loss of $2 or whatever the lettuce cost. In this case, the two photographers didn’t suffer any damages or loss. They didn’t lose any money. The only person who lost anything is me, the settlement, the attorney’s fees and the gain of quite a few extra haters and on top of that, the comparison with a “lettuce stealer”! LOL – I think Marc Muench was probably more amused than angry at the fact, so that he could request a ridiculous settlement when he hadn’t lost anything from the “act” in the first place. It’s pointless to have other people continuing to be angry at me when I have paid the price dearly, for my mistake. I do art because it brings some people to a happy place and that is the most important. Shepard Fairey had a much worse lawsuit from that AP photographer for the Obama posters with “his image “that sold millions. He is still a celebrated artist today and will keep on being one to make a select few people happier because that’s what an artist does.

  37. Sacco Says:

    Wow this is turning into the “cooks source” of photography. I wonder if people dig deeper on the images used if they will find more infringement.

  38. Marc Muench Says:

    I am not interested in $ from Thomas Barbey, only that others see the real character of someone who does not respect others, even in the same field!
    I have made a great living in photography and have only sued when the infringements were obvious and intended.

    I am a very reasonable person, and would have accepted a few beers!

    The more important issue of this story is that I have noticed, and been told by others that there is a trend in copyright infringement cases to be dismissed, even when obvious and blatant.
    This is a bad sign in general!
    This is why I create original work, so it stands on its own and is easily identifiable, even just a segment of it! If other photographers, designers, corporations, use it, steel it, crop it, publish it, give me grief about it, I still have something unique.

  39. Scott Says:

    Thomas Barbey said ” I am way more successful than the photographers suing me and that is the real problem”. Not only did he make a major mistake and try to explain it away, but he is clearly delusional also. Bite the bullet, make amends, and get on with your career.

  40. Justin Black Says:

    Mr. Barbey claims that “When I was contacted by Muench and Mountain Light, I admitted the use instantly and went through my records and counted the extremely dismal sales.”

    Here’s the letter he wrote to one of the galleries that represents his work (and CC’d to me) after I pointed out what I suspected to be willful unauthorized uses of other people’s images:

    “Hi Shelley,

    Mr. Justin Black is creating a mountain out of a molehill for several reasons. The term “fraud”, “stolen” and “copyright infringement” would have to be determined by a judge. These terms can be interpreted as slander, which on the other hand is, punishable by law.

    First we are not talking about a Coca-Cola campaign here, but Fine Art. People sue billion dollar companies, not Fine Artists…

    Second… what is the difference between a collage artist and a photo-montage artist. The photo-montage artist takes his own photographs and the collage artist takes other people’s images to create something completely new.

    One of very many examples of this is Maggie Taylor at http://www.maggietaylor.com who uses other people’s images from books and magazines to assemble and create new images that she calls her own. She has books and calendars and sells in multiple galleries.

    A collage artist cannot be sued for doing Fine Art and if Mr. Black wants to do it, good luck…

    If I, Thomas Barbey chose to call myself a photomontage artist instead of a collage artist, it’s my prerogative and it’s not illegal to do so. I do travel several times a year and shoot all my pictures.

    Waterfalls, Yosemite, the Grand canyon are all public domain and the pictures are all alike because they are taken from the exact same locations and viewpoints.

    Collage artists sell images with Spiderman and Superman, (Roy Lichtenstein) which can be a reason for purchasing a piece. Andy Warhol did Marylin Monroe and can’t be sued. In those cases, Spiderman or Marylin are the main reason of the appeal. Marvell comics can’t sue artists for piggy bag riding on their “character’s” success so what is this concern Mr Black has?

    The picture called “Pitcher Books” is clearly very different than Mr. [Rowell's] image and the “appeal” is in the fact that water is coming out of the books and NOT the waterfall itself, so what is the issue here? Where is the fraud?

    It would be like noticing the ear rings that Marylin Monroe is wearing or Spiderman’s shoes…

    I know people love “conspiracy theories” but there is no merit to this…

    Kind Regards,

    Thomas Barbey”

    This is an odd letter, because Mr. Barbey suggests that it’s his picture while simultaneously defending the appropriation of other people’s pictures in art collages. To me, the issue boils down to the fact that he doesn’t disclose that he takes other peoples pictures, while giving the impression in his marketing that he makes the component photographs used in his prints.

    Note the deception in his marketing that he underscores by pointing out, “I do travel several times a year and shoot all my pictures.” While it encourages people to believe that he travels to shoot all the original images contained in his work, he might as well be making the following unrelated but more accurate statements:
    “I travel.”
    “I shoot reproductions of other people’s photos.”

    It’s particularly fascinating how Mr. Barbey attempts to paint himself as the victim in this situation, as if the artists whose original work he appropriated had no right to protect their own intellectual property, their own artistic visions, or their own business interests.

  41. diane pizza Says:

    A gentleman made this comment: “What I can’t resolve in this story is how the images with the stolen elements made it into the commercial marketplace if they were only early practice images used for developing techniques, as Barbey implies. And, as a corollary, why they continued, and continue, to be offered for sale. These considerations produce at least a slightly hollow ring to Barbey’s strident and emotional defense of his skills, motivation, and reputation in the messages above.”
    That’s the same problem I see! These were out there for sale, doesn’t matter when they were made, they contained someone ease’s photographic material and if used for developing techniques, then they should have been scrapped or just not available for anyone to get a hold of, let alone on websites and for sale. When I play around with images for practice or ideas, I am playing around with all my own photographs, both backgrounds and assets. Why would I need to use someone’s photographs for “developing techniques”? It just makes no sense. Mostly I’d like to hear from Barbey that he gets it, he is sorry that he has used other people’s work, and he is sorry for the upset he has caused another fellow photographer and wants to move forward; rather than what I hear as lots of excuses to condone his behavior. I am a fan of Barbey, he was one photographer who inspired me and my work, along with other surrealism artists, both painters and photographers. I love his work, feel he is very creative and just want to know that his work is his work.