Patrick Cariou's soulful black and white photographs exhibit his rare propensity to capture the individuality of his subjects. Cariou's collection of surfers the world over, from the North Shore to Peru, from Tahiti to Brittany, from Long Island to Easter Island has become a classic representation of the sport. Cariou captures the world’s most famous surfing spots and masters like no other photographer has done before or since.With bold black-and-white portraits and landscapes, Cariou illustrates the strict, separatist, jungle-dwelling, fruit-of-the-land lifestyle—popularized by reggae legends Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Burning Spear. In Yes Rasta—the phrase spoken by true Rastafari when greeting each other—Cariou’s direct, classical photographs reveal men whose style and attitude are as distinctive as their dreadlocks. Men who have left the modern world of Babylon in pursuit of their own independence. Men whose lives are intertwined with the tropical landscape, and whose rituals, symbols, philosophies, religion, medicine, agriculture, family structure, and remarkable strength make the definitive statement of self-reliance.
In March 2011, federal judge Deborah A. Batts ruled that Richard Prince had violated the law by using another photographer’s work as the basis of his own. In the art world, this technique is called “appropriation” and is the one of the most popular forms of image critique existing today. In the legal world, it would seem this same technique is called a “crime.”
In December, 2011, a New York Times article explored the case in some detailing, exploring the implications and limits of “fair use,” the copyright exemption that allows one artist to reference another as long as that reference is “transformative.” The ruling would set a legal precedent for dealing with appropriation, which means works at stake ranged from Prince to undisputed masterpieces like Christian Marclay‘s The Clock.
In the case of Prince—an artist who made his name appropriating images of cigarette ad cowboys—the Gagosian-backed artist had reworked images from Patrick Cariou‘s 2000 book, Yes, Rasta. One might assume this kind of attention from an established Art Star would be flattering for the photographer, until one does the math: used copies of Yes, Rasta are floating around Amazon for $40 or so; Prince’s updates were fetching up to $2.5 million.