Questions of ownership have long haunted photography. Who can lay claim to an image—a photographer, their subject, or the owner of the work? These issues have once again surfaced in a lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday in Boston against Harvard University, which one woman claims has “shamelessly” profited from the reproduction of 19th-century photographs of slaves—her ancestors, according to the suit—in its holdings. The Associated Press first reported the news.
Tamara Lanier, who lives in Norwich, Connecticut, said in her lawsuit that the university has wrongfully used images of daguerreotypes featuring two slaves by demanding a “hefty” licensing fee for their use, and by presenting them at a 2017 conference. The photographs, which were commissioned by the Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz, are among the earliest known pictures taken of slaves in America.
“Harvard is shamelessly capitalizing on the intentional damage done to black Americans’ genealogy by a century’s worth of policies that forcibly separated families, erased slaves’ family names, withheld birth and death records, and criminalized literacy,” the suit alleges.
Similar photographs commissioned by Agassiz and owned by Harvard were previously the subject of potential legal action when the university threatened to bring a suit against artist Carrie Mae Weems, who had appropriated the images of slaves in her work and overlaid them with text. Rather than filing suit, the university subsequently demanded payment any time Weems sold a work featuring the images and added her photographs to its holdings.
In a statement, Harvard told ARTnews, “The University has not yet been served, and with that is in no position to comment on this lawsuit filing.”
more recommended stories
Feminist Art Pioneer Judy Chicago Will Get First-Ever Retrospective in 2020 -ARTnews
Judy Chicago, Through the Flower, 1973,.
Marisa Merz, Key Arte Povera Figure and Relentlessly Inventive Sculptor, Is Dead at 93 -ARTnews
Marisa Merz, Testa (Head), 1984–95. COURTESY.
Looking Back at the Inimitable Art of Marisa Merz -ARTnews
Marisa Merz, Untitled, 1979. COURTESY GLADSTONE.
Forensic Architecture Withdraws from Whitney Biennial in Protest of Controversial Board Member -ARTnews
Forensic Architecture and Praxis Films, Triple.
A Ranking of 20 Hito Steyerl Videos -ARTnews
Hito Steyerl, How Not to Be.
Neil Armstrong Memorabilia Auction Rakes in Over $2.4 M. Before 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing -ARTnews
The Apollo 11 tapes. COURTESY SOTHEBY’S.
Artist Jamie Sneider Opens Project Space in Rural Italy -ARTnews
Progetto. COURTESY JAMIE SNEIDER Last year,.
Pepe Mar, Jillian Mayer, and Asser Saint-Val Question Systems of Belief at David Castillo Gallery in Miami Beach -ARTnews
Pictures at an Exhibition Installation.
Morning Links from July 19, 2019 -ARTnews
National flag of Benin. WORLD FLAGS/IMAGEBROKER/SHUTTERSTOCK.
Four Artists Remove Work from Whitney Biennial, Protesting Board Member’s Ties to ‘Teargas and Other Weapons of Repression’ -ARTnews
Protesters at a Decolonize This Place.