News / Calgary

$20,000 art project in Calgary allegedly plagiarized photos

"Maybe Calgary is a city full of dopplegangers?" Photographs of UK comedians allegedly used without consent

Comedian Bisha K Ali's headshot

Courtesy Jayde Adams

Comedian Bisha K Ali's headshot

The City of Calgary has pulled down a public art installation after a British comedian called out the artist for possibly using pictures of her and her peers without their consent.

Snapshots was a series of six-by-seven feet Polaroids posted under the 4 Street SW underpass. Each Polaroid featured a blurred-out picture and phrase.

UK comedian Bisha K Ali in comparison to the underpass art.

Twitter

UK comedian Bisha K Ali in comparison to the underpass art.

Artist Derek Michael Besant told Metro in a 2015 interview that the photos and quotes were from people who used the underpass. Besant said he stood out there asking questions and talking to people passing by.

It was meant to be a temporary exhibit during the design and construction around the underpass.

A comparison between the Fringe guide and the underpass art.

Twitter

A comparison between the Fringe guide and the underpass art.

Comedian Bisha Ali took to Twitter once a Canadian friend sent her a photo of the installation, to say one of them looked like a blurred out version of her headshot.

“He has used that picture of me and passed it off as a photograph he has taken for his installation of people who use the underpass,” she told Metro. “He has also used photographs of other UK based comedians without their consent/knowledge.

“I also doubted myself — maybe Calgary is a city full of dopplegangers?”

Metro reached out to Besant on Monday night and again on Tuesday, but hadn't yet received a reply.

Kurt Hanson, Community Services general manager for the City of Calgary, told Metro they had been in contact with Besant and, by his request, have taken down the images. An investigation is underway.

Isabelle Adam, producer with Comedy Club 4 Kids, another UK organization, said she matched 12 of the 20 photographs to the brochure for the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Another comparison between the Fringe guide and the underpass art.

Twitter

Another comparison between the Fringe guide and the underpass art.

"It’s obviously disconcerting, to see faces of performers – many of whom are friends – used in this way. The writing across the face of Damian Clark says “I KNOW YOU”, and I do! We share a birthday!" Adam said.

“This is extremely disingenuous, and disrespectful too, to both the comics and the photographers but also to the people of Calgary, who have been passing these walls for two years thinking they were represented, and celebrated."

According to the City of Calgary website, the public art budget for this piece was $20,000.

“$20,000 seems like a lot of money for a piece that uses other peoples’ images, un-credited,” Adam added.

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