Shepard Fairey and OWS: the Protester as the person of the year – Part 3

Times Magazine declared the Protester as the person/people of the year. That article and the issue cover, by our dear Shepard Fairey, created heaps of hype in the blogoshpere. From criticisms to stalking the protester whose face graces the magazine,  it has certainly been an eventful ride. But, the image and the Times article actually offers a decent portrait of the OWS movement.

The Protester
Shepard Fairey

Upon first seeing the image, I was interested in its lack of specificity. The original image, shot by Ted Soqui of LA Weekly, captures Sarah Mason, a LA protester who has been arrested for her efforts. The collage images, however, represent various protests from around the world, including Egypt and Russia. Fairey and Time Magazine, which provided the collage images for Fairey to use, are saying that OWS isn’t just about the US.  It is a global movement.

Moreover, the article explains that the various global protests are a network. Connected, however loosely. Greece was inspired by los Indignados of Spain. The Wall Street starters learned from other protests. It all started in the Arab World. For OWS, the original email from Adbusters called for a Tahir Square for the US. (Abouzeid) In an interview with the Huffington Post, Fairey says of the collage background:

With the Time cover I wanted to capture the spirit of defiance that any protester must possess in the face of arrest or worse. To convey that the cover was about worldwide protests I created a collage of protests from around the globe that is used tonally in the background. I’m a supporter of Occupy, but I thought it was important to recognize that protest was a global phenomenon this year. I think the collage helps to put across that cumulative effect.

But there are problems with the image as well. Again (I seem to talk about this in all my posts), Richin’s idea of Hyperphotography becomes a problem. The seemingly unending curiosity of human beings has turned the anonymous protester featured on the cover into Sarah Mason, about whom you may learn way too much information via LA Weekly’s blog. Part of me doesn’t want to link the page out of respect for the woman’s privacy, but part of me realizes that is a citation faux-pax.

Sarah Mason Portrait
Ted Soqui

Is this LA protester the face of all protesters worldwide? Maybe, maybe not. No, her credit card debt fueled protesting isn’t the reason that Los Indignados became frustrated, but she is an average woman seeking her frustrations. Fairey says in a Times tumblr post “A lot of [the protesters] are just regular folks who feel dissatisfied.” That certainly describes Mason.

So, what does “The Protester” say about OWS?
The image itself and the article that it illustrates indicate that it is a global protest of regular people, a network, a movement.
The story of Sarah Mason shows that it is a protest composed mostly of regular people who are dissatisfied. In other words, Fairey finally seems to have gotten his OWS propaganda-art close to right.



4 responses to “Shepard Fairey and OWS: the Protester as the person of the year – Part 3

  1. I think Fairey is alluding to the idea that protest is normal. It’s not extremists who are always involved in protesting. Everyone can exercise their right to speak out against what they believe is wrong.

  2. Pingback: So, what is Occupy Wall Street anyways? | Occupy Wall Street Analysis

  3. Pingback: So, what is Occupy Wall Street anyways? | Occupy Wall Street Analysis

  4. Pingback: Alright… so just what is Occupy Wall Street? | Occupy Wall Street Analysis

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