Metro Series: A War Cry

From information I’m gathering on rights pertaining to using images of people without their consent, it’s looking like I probably won’t be able to show my work in a gallery setting, which is what I suspected from the start. I just refuse to become an administrator and have to take care of legal issues and try to obtain those permissions—almost a lost cause from the start considering where I’m photographing, i.e., the metro, where people are in a rush and weren’t expecting or necessarily desiring to be photographed unbeknownst to them so they’d appear most ‘natural’ while they were on their way somewhere—because of how ridiculously stringent these laws have become. I’m an artist. Period. People steal images from the internet and do whatever they want with them all the time. Things are out of control. I should be able to draw whoever the heck I want to, as long as I mean them no disrespect and am not trying to make millions of dollars off them. Celebrated photographers from the past, whose work now hangs in museums around the world would never still be recognized as brilliant masters of photography if those laws had been in place then, and if things continue, the great great great grandchildren of those subjects in those photos on the museum walls might petition for those images to be taken down and taken out of circulation, since those subjects weren’t asked for permission back then either. It’s all just totally ridiculous. I happen to be inspired by the dubious poetry of getting “intimate” with total strangers on the metro by spending hundreds of hours drawing them in a photorealistic manner. So sue me.

That’s my little war cry for today.



  1. rlbourges

    with a slight amend to my private message, I repeat : screw the rules, and draw. xxx

  2. Your talent is impressive. But, yes, we artists must respect the rights of everyone…including potential models. You wanted to capture these people in their natural element, and you did. But, if you were to try and turn these into sales, I think you might be endangering or offending some people. You wouldn’t want someone using your likeness in art you didn’t approve, either.

    But, pencil? Really? Wow.

    Here’s a tip for the business end, eliminate the facial features or use a different face, and you’re okay. Otherwise, get the subject’s OK to use their likeness. I think it’s only fair the model has some right to a payment or print unless they are fully cooperating in the spirit of the art.

  3. rlbourges

    most important of all: keep on doing what you love most. The questions show up outside the doing; they get answered in due time – or don’t. Either way, you’ll have done what you love doing and that is priceless.


    • “keep on doing what you love most.” Yes. And as I was saying to a young woman yesterday who was giving me an alternate point of view on why some people may not appreciate having their photo taken and then being drawn and shown in a gallery, a reason which has nothing to do with vanity and is very valid: “I’ve found out from personal experience something I knew only intellectually before, which is that inspiration comes from the unlikeliest places, and that it can also come from the most inconvenient of places sometimes, and there is no controlling that, unfortunately.”

  4. Funny, I understood that when people are in a public place, they can be photographed or drawn–just like the buildings or the street or the subway car, etc. What rights would be violated exactly? Did you talk with an art legal specialist about your question? That’s my advice.

    • Hi Carol, thanks for your comment. You make an interesting point, one that I would tend to agree with. A German friend of mine sent me an article published by Spiegel Online this week:, of photographs of commuters on the Moscow metro, and it’s almost a certainty he did not get permissions from his subjects, just by looking at the photos. I found this reassuring somehow, for the purposes of my own project. I also spoke to one of the persons at the local community centre where I’d like to show my work yesterday, who suggested I get in touch with RAAV, which is the Quebec association of visual artists, who can hopefully provide me with some answers on this issue. So we’ll see what comes of that. All I know is I’m deeply inspired by this project, and no matter what, I’m continuing to work on it. There’s no helping where inspiration comes from, and when it’s there, you just have to latch on to it!

      • I so agree, especially by your statement of your passion and obeying it. You do have to latch on to it as you say! It can go away so easily. I realized later that some galleries or other art venues are free to have policies–that may or may not fit the copyright rules of the government. But glad you are going to get serious professional advice on this. I say, create what moves you. Then seek venues where your work is wanted. Best wishes on this.

  5. rlbourges

    latch on and don’t let go – hear hear

  6. Carol (and Lucie) calling the Québec visual artist’s association, I wasn’t very surprised when I was told here in Quebec the laws forbid artists from using the image of any individual without his or her express consent, period. I’m not quite sure what this means going forward. The lady I spoke to was very helpful. She said the project was definitely worth pursuing and all I need do was organize myself a little and get a form together and a business card, and keep taking my photos, but ask the individuals to sign the form and show them the work I’ve done and explain what I was doing. Of course I can expect lots of rejection, but she also said I might be surprised at how many people might on the contrary be willing. Problem is, I don’t want to have to talk to these strangers, much less have to sell myself. Maybe I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and go show my work in another country where the laws are different or something (like Germany, for example!). Or just wait till I’ve built up my courage to ask permission, like a big girl. We’ll see.

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