Freeman, Gries and Lambert


Kyle Lambert, portrait of Morgan Freeman

Here’s one of those cases which challenge definitions. Is it painting, is it illustration, is it digital media or is it photography?

An artist has created a portrait of actor Morgan Freeman – an extremely lifelike and detailed portrait – using his fingers. Kyle Lambert is a UK illustrator who makes realistic art on an iPad using one of those finger-painting apps; this app cost him all of $6. The image is both a technical marvel and an endurance feat: 200 hours of work and 285,000 finger moves.

Obviously Morgan Freeman did not sit for the artist (although it would be interesting to speculate on what an A-list Hollywood actor would charge for 200 hours of sitting!) No, Lambert copied a photograph by Scott Gries, a US commercial photographer who photographs celebrities. I don’t know what Gries thinks about this, is he insulted? Does it break copyright law? But maybe he should be flattered that someone would spend 200 hours looking at one his photos. I once timed visitors looking at an exhibition of Magnum photographs and the average per photo was four seconds!


Scott Gries, portrait of Morgan Freeman

So, if a finger-painting is an exact replica of a photograph, is it in fact a photograph? Where do definitions begin and end?

You can click here to see the stages in constructing the illustration/painting/photograph/media art/copy. Then decide for yourself.


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