Posters and Election Propaganda About this blog

Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 9:42AM   |  3 comments
Studio Number One, Shepard Fairey and One of His Obama Posters, 2008

Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" street-art posters and stickers, which promoted the huge wrestler in the late 1980s, designed a poster for the Obama campaign that was both patriotic (it's red-white-and-blue, albeit more subtle than the usual election posters) and iconic.

The imagery, according to Fairey, is meant to convey "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future." The word "Obey" (in the Andre poster) has been replaced by "Change" in the Obama design (He also produced two others with "Hope" and "Progress). I would agree that Fairey's imagery helps promote the Obama brand: he appears to be fresh, cool, and progressive. The artist has the Democratic candidate gazing upwards, a technique used in many propaganda posters, including one for President Gerald Ford in 1976, for example. Fairey has stated that his Obama designs were influenced, stylistically, by Soviet posters, in fact. Of course, almost all advertising and political marketing are propagandistic.

Fairey's "Change" poster was available on Obama's Web site, and has sold out. It was featured on the front page of The New York Times, and has also been seen on bumper stickers and billboards. His Andre posters and stickers (and others he created) were often used in guerrilla-marketing campaigns, meaning they were put up illegally in a variety of places. And before his poster was distributed officially by the Obama campaign, it reportedly authorized Fairey to do so in a guerrilla campaign. Since his creation was posted online, it also spread virally.






I've been a huge fan of Fairey's for a while now and absolutely love the Obama poster, but I've been wondering who it's aimed at. All of his work is, as you point out, very soviet-influenced. If his target was Obama supporters, then I think this is a great confidence-building piece that supports the air of history-making and importance that surrounds Obama. If it's aimed at more borderline supporters, though, I wonder if the obvious soviet-themes will turn them off or paint Obama as too left-ward leaning.

Fairey's design is a good one. In fact, I just saw it on the back of a truck an hour ago, and it really gets one's attention better than most bumper stickers! His posters mainly "rally the base," and the one that was available on Obama's Web site ("Change") raised money from supporters. Most people probably don't know that Fairey's work is influenced by Soviet art anyway. I don't think the designs hurt Obama, but others (which I will discuss soon) might have, for example one morphs him with Lincoln. These are not authorized by the campaign, however.

Artist Shepard Fairey filed a lawsuit against The Associated Press, asking a federal judge to declare that he is protected from copyright infringement claims in his use of a news photograph as the basis for a now ubiquitous campaign poster image of President Obama.He used an image of Barack Obama, registered to the Associated Press, which was plastered all over the place for his art. It was the media saturation of his graffiti art, using the famous portrait of the President and the word hope what his campaign was supposed to represent that may have done him in. He has countered that his usage of the image is protected by Fair Use, in which images that are well known can be manipulated as art, and a form of free speech. It seems an image of the most high profile man in the world is off limits to the constitutional right to expression, the one <a href="">Shepard Fairey</a> tried to use.

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