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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Photographer Balks at Missing Artist Credit

MANHATTAN (CN) - Famed light sculptor Ivan Navarro stole credit for photos of his work - which currently sells for up to $400,000 a pop, his former friend claims in federal court.

Rodrigo Pereda, a Brooklyn-based photographer, says he started snapping images of Navarro's work in the 1990s when the two struck up a friendship while living in Chili.

Pereda, whose photos of sculptures and other works of art have allegedly appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Modern Painters and V Magazine, had the same deal with Navarro that he did with nearly all his clients, according to the complaint. This deal grants Pereda artistic control and credit "as the exclusive copyright holder and creator of the photographs produced," Pereda says, adding that the artists can use the images in their portfolios or on their websites.

Use by galleries, art fairs, dealers or publications allegedly requires a separate license and a separate fee. "Mr. Pereda and Mr. Navarro had a clear understanding about the terms governing the production of these photographs," according to the complaint.

Pereda says he first discovered in 2009 that Navarro "had authorized third parties to publish Mr. Pereda's copyrighted photographs as fine art prints, in books and magazines, and on the Internet and in newspapers, all without Mr. Pared's consent." By this time, the sculptor's star had allegedly risen significantly since the two first made their deal.

In one instance, for a book titled Ivan Navarro: The Threshold, Navarro forged Pereda's signature authorizing the use of his images, according to the suit. In others, he simply removed Pereda's name, often giving himself credit for the photo, Pereda says.

This was the case on a full page spread of a Pereda photo featured in the January 2012 issue of ART News, which bore the credit: "courtesy of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery," according to the complaint.

Paul Kasmin Gallery, Navarro's New York art dealer, also faces claims of having used Pereda's images without credit. It is named as a defendant along with Navarro.

Adding insult to injury, Pereda says Navarro refuses to return his negatives, which had been left in the sculptor's care because of the two men's "long-standing close working relationship."

Navarro had accepted the negatives along with some photography equipment in 2008 while Pereda was searching for permanent studio space, the complaint says. Pereda says he and Navarro had an understanding that the items would not be "provided to anyone other than Mr. Pereda" and that "Mr. Pereda could retrieve the negatives and equipment whenever he so desired."

Navarro's actions have both deprived Pereda of his licensing fee and damaged his career, since Navarro's whose work is "now highly sought after by collectors, including well-known art collector Charles Saatchi," and has been featured in galleries and museums around the world as well as numerous magazines and books, according to the complaint.

"Unfortunately, as Mr. Navarro's career has risen, he has failed to abide by his duties and respect Mr. Pereda's rights, and has taken advantage of Mr. Pereda's friendship," the complaint states.

Pereda says he confronted Navarro, leading the sculptor in 2010 to "affirm[] in writing - through his counsel - that he would make no further use of the photographs." Navarro and the gallery, however, have not abided by this promise, according to the complaint.

Pereda seeks statutory damages of $150,000 for each of three claims of copyright infringement, or the actual damages he has suffered in addition to profits made by Navarro and Paul Kasmin Gallery. He is also claiming replevin, breach of bailment, breach of fiduciary duty and conversion. The photographer is represented by Lynn Bayard at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

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