Australian photographer, Helen Whittle, has expressed deep pain after discovering her image of her daughter has been used in a pro-Russia mural on a war-ravaged building in Mariupol, Ukraine.
The mural, created by Italian street artist Ciro Cerullo, known as Jorit, features a young girl with the colours of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in her eyes, accompanied by a falling bomb with the word “Nato” behind her.
Jorit, renowned for his striking murals, defended his work, asserting in an interview with Giornale Radio that he painted a “living little girl from Donbas who spent her first years in Mariupol surrounded by war.”
However, the controversy began when social media users noticed an uncanny resemblance between the mural’s subject and a photograph taken by Helen Whittle, which appeared on the cover of the Australian photography magazine Capture in 2018.
Whittle expressed her dismay on social media, “I have been made aware that this photo of mine, taken in 2018, has been used to create a mural in Mariupol, Ukraine. I was not contacted by the artist and do not give permission for this image to be used. My thoughts and opinions are in no way aligned with those of the artist involved.”
Jorit later claimed to have stumbled upon the photo while searching for “pigtails” on Google. He acknowledged redrawing certain elements to suit the mural’s artistic vision but seemingly dismissed concerns about the unauthorized use of Whittle’s image, stating, “And so what?”
The situation has left Helen Whittle consulting her lawyers, seeking recourse for the unapproved use of her daughter’s portrait in the artwork. She expressed her sadness and anger over an artist resorting to copying someone else’s work without seeking permission. Whittle also lamented how her cherished image had been exploited in such a manner.
The controversy surrounding Jorit’s mural extends beyond the appropriation of Whittle’s photograph. Critics accuse the artist of spreading Moscow’s propaganda about the war in Ukraine, with some highlighting the tragic reality of Russian forces dropping bombs that claimed the lives of hundreds of children in Mariupol.
[Via The Guardian]