If the Copy Is an Artwork, Then What’s the Original?

Correction Appended

Since the late 1970s, when Richard Prince became known as a pioneer of appropriation art — photographing other photographs, usually from magazine ads, then enlarging and exhibiting them in galleries — the question has always hovered just outside the frames: What do the photographers who took the original pictures think of these pictures of their pictures, apotheosized into art but without their names anywhere in sight?

Recently a successful commercial photographer from Chicago named Jim Krantz was in New York and paid a quick visit to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where Mr. Prince is having a well-regarded 30-year retrospective that continues through Jan. 9. But even before Mr. Krantz entered the museum’s spiral, he was stopped short by an image on a poster outside advertising the show, a rough-hewn close-up of a cowboy’s hat and outstretched arm.

Mr. Krantz knew it quite well. He had shot it in the late 1990s on a ranch in the small town of Albany, Tex., for a Marlboro advertisement. “Like anyone who knows his work,” Mr. Krantz said of his picture in a telephone interview, “it’s like seeing yourself in a mirror.” He did not investigate much further to see if any other photos hanging in the museum might be his own, but said of his visit that day, “When I left, I didn’t know if I should be proud, or if I looked like an idiot.”

When Mr. Prince started reshooting ads, first prosaic ones of fountain pens and furniture sets and then more traditionally striking ones like those for Marlboro, he said he was trying to get at something he could not get at by creating his own images. He once compared the effect to the funny way that “certain records sound better when someone on the radio station plays them, than when we’re home alone and play the same records ourselves.”

But he was not circumspect about what it meant or how it would be viewed. In a 1992 discussion at the Whitney Museum of American Art he said of rustling the Marlboro aesthetic: “No one was looking. This was a famous campaign. If you’re going to steal something, you know, you go to the bank.”

People might not have been looking at the time, when his art was not highly sought. But as his reputation and prices for his work rose steeply — one of the Marlboro pictures set an auction record for a photograph in 2005, selling for $1.2 million — they began to look, and Mr. Prince has spoken of receiving threats, some legal and some more physical in nature, from his unsuspecting lenders. He is said to have made a small payment in an out-of-court settlement with one photographer, Garry Gross, who took the original shot for one of Mr. Prince’s most notorious early borrowings, an image of a young unclothed Brooke Shields. (Mr. Prince declined to comment for this article, saying in an e-mail message only, “I never associated advertisements with having an author.”)

Mr. Krantz, who has shot ads for the United States Marine Corps and a long list of Fortune 500 companies including McDonald’s, Boeing and Federal Express, said he had no intention of seeking money from or suing Mr. Prince, whose borrowings seem to be protected by fair use exceptions to copyright law.

But with the exhibition now up at the Guggenheim — and the posters using his image on sale for $9.95 — he said he simply wanted viewers to know that “there are actually people behind these images, and I’m one of them.”

“I’m not a mean person, and I’m not a vindictive person,” he said. “I just want some recognition, and I want some understanding.”

Mr. Krantz, who retains the copyrights to most of his work, said he had been aware for several years that his work had been lifted by Mr. Prince, along with that of several other photographers who have shot Marlboro ads. But he said he did not think much about it, and said he had never talked with other Marlboro photographers about the issue.

“If imitation is a form of flattery, then I will accept the compliment,” he said.

But on one occasion a woman active in the art world visited his studio in Chicago, and, seeing a print of one of his pictures, Mr. Krantz recalled, “she said, ‘Oh, Richard Prince has a photograph just like that!’” And in 2003 Mr. Prince’s version of an image that Mr. Krantz shot for Marlboro — showing a mounted cowboy approaching a calf stranded in the snow — sold for $332,300 at Christie’s. Although the shot was blown up to heroic proportions, “there’s not a pixel, there’s not a grain that’s different,” he said. And so Mr. Krantz, whose Marlboro ads now appear mostly in Europe and Asia, began to grow angry.

He said that while he is primarily an advertising photographer, when he was growing up in Omaha, he did attend workshops with Ansel Adams. He studied graphic design and got into commercial photography, starting out in Omaha taking shots of toasters and pens and heating pads because that was where the work was. But he has long exhibited his own art photographs, recent examples of which show stark images of an empty prison as if seen through defaced or broken glass.

Mr. Krantz said he considered his ad work distinctive, not simply the kind of anonymous commercial imagery that he feels Mr. Prince considers it to be. “People hire me to do big American brands to help elevate their images to these kinds of iconic images,” he said.

He has considered trying to correspond with Mr. Prince to complain more directly but said he felt it would probably do no good.

“At this point it’s been done, and it’s out there,” he said. “My whole issue with this, truly, is attribution and recognition. It’s an unusual thing to see an artist who doesn’t create his own work, and I don’t understand the frenzy around it.”

He added: “If I italicized ‘Moby-Dick,’ then would it be my book? I don’t know. But I don’t think so.”

"Marlboro Man"

"In a plane flying back to winter
In shoes full of tropic sand
A lady in a foreign flag
On the arm of her Marlboro Man
The hawk howls in New York City
Six foot drifts on Myrtle's lawn
As they push the recline buttons down
With dreamland coming on"
(From the song "Dreamland")

"Marlboro. You get a lot to like, filter, flavor, flip-top box."
"Where there's a man...there's a Marlboro-with a filter that delivers a smoke of surprising mildness."
"Better 'makins'. Marlboro...More flavor...More filter...More cigarette."
"If you think flavor went out when filters came in-Try Marlboro."
"Make yourself comfortable-Have a Marlboro"
"Marlboro. Why don't you settle back and have a full flavored smoke"
"Settle Back. You get a lot to like here in Marlboro Country."
"Come to where the flavor is. Come to Marlboro Country"
"Come to where the flavor is."
"Come to Marlboro Country."

An early Marlboro Man ad from 1955 features the slogan:
"The filter doesn't get between you and the flavor!"

A Western landscape, a rugged cowboy and the color red have come to embody years of advertising tag lines for Philip Morris' Marlboro Cigarettes. These three elements, combined or separate, are recognizable as the American call to Marlboro Country even without the brand name, sales pitch or slogan. We, as consumers, all know where the flavor is and what can be found in Marlboro Country. Marlboro advertisements today reap the benefits of the tradition that proceeds them; they capture a complex message which tries to distinguish a product from competitors that are largely the same, in a simple image and a couple of words. As the paragraphs of descriptive copy diminished from the advertisements, so diminished the direct connection between the brand name Marlboro and the actual product that the advertisement is selling, cigarettes. The brilliantly designed campaign, the strong image of the mythical American hero, the cowboy, and a successful series of responses to market challenges by the Marlboro team has created an immediately and universally recognized icon representing an idealized and appealing American lifestyle out of possibly the only "product on the market (aside from weapons) that kill and injure when they are used as they are intended to be used."

In the early years of the campaign, the Marlboro Man
wasn't just a cowboy. This 1956 ad features a sportsman.
Other ads featured men working on cars or flying small planes.

The phenomenon is extraordinary. Marlboro, a virtually unknown brand in 1955, has steadily increased sales for the past forty years. By December 1975, in just twenty years, Marlboro was named the "top selling brand in the United States and the all-time best-seller in the world"(PM History 20). In 1989, Marlboro was "America's best seller by far, with one fourth of all cigarette sales", Philip Morris held 43% of the domestic market, and made $4.6 billion from tobacco sales-nearly two thirds of the company's total profits(US News and World Report 3/5/90 57). Marlboro remains today "the world's most profitable brand of non-durable consumer good, surpassing even Coca-Cola."(Economist 4/21/90 84). In a company that owns popular brands such as General Foods, Kraft, Oscar Mayer and Miller Brewing, Marlboro Cigarettes provide an astounding majority of Philip Morris, Inc. earnings.

The red and white geometric packaging of Marlboro is unmistakable and the foremost display on retail counters across the country and abroad. Billboards that punctuate American highways and magazines, from Life to Playboy, display Marlboro's panoramic photography and color spreads of the quintessential cowboy working the Western range. The crux of Marlboro's firm advertising grasp on the public and media is the visceral American response to the Marlboro cowboy and the draw to his uniquely American paradise of the West, Marlboro Country. Aesthetically, the fresh, healthy, natural attitude portrayed in these cigarette advertisements appeal to everyone, smokers, nonsmokers, men, women, old and young.

Marlboro Country and the man who lives there, barely call to mind cigarettes much less the mental image of cigarettes as "products [that when] used as intended turn many customers into addicts and kill them."(The Economist 4/10/93). The U.S. Surgeon General has declared smoking as addictive as heroin and has blamed cigarettes for millions of deaths each year. In 1971, commercials for cigarettes were banned from television and radio. One year later, laws required manufacturers to include health warnings on all advertisements, direct mail, and point of sale material. Anti-smoking education is increasingly popular and heavily funded. Non- smokers are reminded that addicts enjoy annoyances from throat irritation, shortness of breath, loss of sensitivity to taste and smell, to fatal diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease. Tough anti-smoking legislation has restricted smoking from inside public buildings and on all domestic flights. Smokers face growing social disapproval, hostile stares and angry remarks. Yet despite the restricted market and public wariness, Marlboro advertisements are consistently and wildly successful. Philip Morris was voted the second most admired company in America by a pool of 8,000 American executives in Fortune Magazine.(The Economist 4/21/90) Ironically, the number one most admired company in the same poll was a health care company.

The sharp marketing skills of Philip Morris have allowed the "most vilified and restricted legal product in the Western world"(The Economist 4/21/90) to be masqueraded as and glorified by the most universally recognized, consistently profitable, and aesthetically appealing image in the advertising world. The Marlboro image has soared in popularity and tapped into an irrational emotional appeal. It has cleverly left behind the product which is unhealthy, un-beneficial, and virtually unidentifiable in appearance and quality from its competitors. Like the tough individual they portray, Philip Morris has used the skills of a cowboy to boldly meet challenges in the market, to remain steadfast through the years by refining advertisements from informational pieces to works of art, and based upon image alone, has silently seduced a large following in a hostile environment. Thus despite the odds, the rugged cowboy with or without the western landscape and red flip-top box immediately calls to mind the brand Marlboro and has become an icon to more than one generation and zeitgeist, building Marlboro into the top selling brand since the late fifties.

A 1973 ad shows the Marlboro Man in a familiar environment, the ranch.

Vintage 1950 Marlboro Baby AD

Vintage 1950 Marlboro Baby AD
Advertisement measures approx: 5.5 x 11.5 inches
Very Good Condition, no tears or stains.
All ads are removed carefully from magazines and are authentic.
Please keep in mind that this listing is for the advertisement not the actual product.
Some ads may appear cropped but they are not, they are simply too large for my scanner bed.
If a vehicle ad, the year of the ad may or may not necessarily be the year of the car or truck pictured.
Some ads may or may not have staple holes.
Some ads may or may not have foxing due to the storage methods of the magazines these ads were removed from.
Advertisements and/or prints are placed on magazine back board and placed in an acid free magazine sleeve.
Mailed in a photo document cardboard mailer for first class international.
USA priority mailed in a box.

1967 Marlboro Country

The Marlboro Timelines

In 1902 a British cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris, established a corporation in New York to sell its tobacco brands, including Cambridge, Derby, and Marlboro - which was named after the street its London factory was situated on, Marlborough. In 1924, Philip Morris introduced Marlboro as a women's cigarette based on the slogan: "Mild as May". A female audience was targeted through a series of ads in 1926 depicting a feminine hand reaching for a cigarette. These advertisements featured stylish women posed in plush settings, and by the 1950s, babies were telling mom and dad what a great smoke a Marlboro was.

During World War II, however, the brand faltered and had to be taken off the market. Immediately following WWII, three new competing brands: Camel, Lucky Strike and Chesterfields surfaced with a firm hold on the consumer market. This further diminished the value of Marlboro Cigarettes.

In 1942, the July issue of Reader's Digest published an article titled "Cigarette Advertising Fact and Fiction," that claimed that all cigarettes, regardless of brand, were essentially the same, and equally deadly. In 1957, Reader's Digest published an article that linked smoking with lung cancer. This is when Philip Morris saw its chance to reintroduce Marlboro and market it as the "safer" filtered brand. Consumers began feeling mislead by the established brands and dropped their old allegiances. Unable to break completely away from smoking, due to what was later recognized as nicotine addiction, many smokers were willing to try new cigarette brands. Unfortunately for Marlboro, formerly regarded as "Mild as May," the new filters were considered an extension of previous feminine image. Consequently, Phillip Morris had to completely revise and switch its advertising strategies in order to target an old group of customers with a new concern: addicted male smokers who were afraid of acquiring lung cancer.

Marlboro was reintroduced to the nation in 1955 with the "Tattooed Man" campaign. The image of the "new Marlboro smoker as a lean, relaxed outdoorsman - a cattle rancher, a Navy officer, a flyer - whose tattooed wrist suggested a romantic past, a man who had once worked with his hands, who knew the score, who merited respect," (Esquire 6/60) proved that nothing was feminine about the filtered cigarettes. The first advertisements spoke in a manner suggesting that the same old-fashioned flavors were being presented in a safer consumable form.

"Man-sized taste of honest tobacco comes full through. Smooth-drawing filter feels right in your mouth. Works fine but doesn't get in the way. Modern Flip-top box keeps every cigarette firm and fresh until you smoke it."
- Phillip Morris Marlboro Advertisement

In a friendly, unpretentious and honest voice, the Marlboro men gained the trust of millions. The "Tattooed Man" campaign was described by Cullman, as "virility without vulgarity, quality without snobbery" (Esquire 6/60). After their introduction in 1955, Marlboro became the top selling filtered cigarette in New York. Eight months after the campaign opened, sales had increased 5,000 per cent.

In the first years of these advertisements the public responses to the different "Marlboro Man" personalities were monitored. The cowboy emerged to be the most popular character. A narrowing process followed over the next forty years where the cowboy was recognized in a slew of campaigns. The cowboy taught consumers about filters, promoted the flip-top box, enticed women to try "the cigarette made for men that women like," and explained that long white ashes are a sign of good tobacco. The geometric design of the red, white and black-lettered flip-top Marlboro package boosted the appeal of a strong independent individual. The public embraced the red box as a symbol of membership to the club that recognized the Marlboro Man as their spokes-person. The box was a membership card available to everyone, an investment for themselves and their reputation, in the positive image of the Marlboro Man. Eventually he became silent, advertisements stopped having long tag lines, and his reputation and familiarity beckoned consumers without words to come with him to the place they knew well, Marlboro Country.

By 1992, Financial World ranked Marlboro the world's No. 1 most valuable brand, with a market worth of $32 billion. That same year, dying of lung cancer, "Marlboro Man" Wayne McLaren appeared at PM's annual shareholders meeting in Richmond, VA, and asked the company to voluntarily limit its advertising. Chairman Michael Miles responded, "We're certainly sorry to hear about your medical problem. Without knowing your medical history, I don't think I can comment any further."

Currently, Philip Morris' tobacco brands are in 180 markets, have a 38% market share in the US, are the top-selling cigarettes in the world, and the tenth-most valuable product brands overall.