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Hope is the motto that helped snag Obama the presidency and now this message seems more poignant than ever.

This is arguably the most famous presidential campaign poster ever. I am sure you know that though, unless of course you have been living under a rock for the last decade in which case, in light of current events, might I suggest you stay there. Fairey started this print series as an independent activist working to aid the upcoming 2008 election, but with its widespread success, the Obama campaign issued an official approval of the work.

Fairey explained that this image symbolizes “grassroots activism and a return to the people of believing in democracy, not just the people with the most power trying to manipulate democracy for their own ends.” With such a vision, I am sure it comes as no surprise that Fairey endorsed Bernie Sanders during his run for presidency, creating a whole series of t-shirts for the Berners.  

Everyone and their mom knows this image, and about half of them have made parodies out of it. There has been every version made, from Guy Fawkes, to Paul McCain, Sarah Palin, and it has even been used as an advertisement for the TV show "Veep". Of course, people have also turned the image around in order to rip on Obama himself. One popular version in particular depicts Obama as the Joker from Batman with the word “socialism” across the bottom.

I am sure its the people who made images like that who most enjoyed Fairey's snafu with this poster shortly after the election. Turns out, he based the poster on a picture taken in 2006 by the Associated Press. The Press soon asked for compensation, and being the good American Fairey is, he sued the bastards! Feeling hopeful that he would win (pardon my horrendous pun), he sued for a declaratory judgment on the grounds that his poster was fair use, blah blah blah, your typical legal mumbo jumbo stuff. The two ended up settling out of court, with the details of the settlement remaining confidential. All of us gossipy art nerds were pretty disappointed about that one. Luckily, the drama didn’t end there! Turns out, when he sued the Associated Press, he claimed he used a different picture, then proceed to destroy all evidence of the AP photos in his studio and fabricated new ones. Perhaps karma was starting to come back with a vengeance or maybe his moral compass turned back north, but in 2012, Fairey admitted his wrongdoings and pleaded guilty in a federal court. He was sentenced to two years probation, 300 hours of community service, and a fine of $25,000. Ouch.

Through all this, did Fairey stick to his message and remain hopeful? Not really. Turns out that Fairey is pretty disappointed with the Obama presidency, feeling that he fell very short of his promises. We can only hope (sorry, last one I promise) that he’s not down in the dumps for too long, for the world of street art and political activism would just not be the same without him.  


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Barack Obama "Hope" poster

The Barack Obama "Hope" poster is an image of Barack Obama designed by artist Shepard Fairey, which was widely described as iconic and came to represent his 2008 presidential campaign. It consists of a stylized stencil portrait of Obama in solid red, beige and (light and dark) blue, with the word "progress", "hope" or "change" below (and other words in some versions).

The design was created in one day and printed first as a street poster. It was then more widely distributed—both as a digital image and other paraphernalia—during the 2008 election season, initially independent of, but with the approval from, the official Obama campaign. The image became one of the most widely recognized symbols of Obama's campaign message, spawning many variations and imitations, including some commissioned by the Obama campaign. This led The Guardian's Laura Barton to proclaim that the image "acquired the kind of instant recognition of Jim Fitzpatrick's Che Guevara poster, and is surely set to grace T-shirts, coffee mugs and the walls of student bedrooms in the years to come."

In January 2009, after Obama had won the election, Fairey's mixed-media stenciled portrait version of the image was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution for its National Portrait Gallery. Later in January 2009, the photograph on which Fairey based the poster was revealed: a June 2006 shot by former Associated Press freelance photographer Mannie Garcia. In response to claims by the Associated Press for compensation, Fairey sued for a declaratory judgment that his poster was a fair use of the original photograph. The parties settled out of court in January 2011, with details of the settlement remaining confidential.

On February 29, 2012, Fairey pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to destroying and fabricating documents during his legal battle with the Associated Press. Fairey had sued the news service in 2008 after it claimed that the famous poster was based on one of its photos. Fairey claimed that he used a different photograph for the poster. But he admitted that, in fact, he was wrong and tried to hide the error by destroying documents and manufacturing others, which is the source of the one count of criminal contempt to which he pleaded guilty. In September, Fairey was sentenced to two years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and a fine of $25,000.

In 2009 Fairey's Obama portrait was featured in the book Art For Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change which Fairey also edited.

In an interview with Esquire in 2015 Fairey said that Obama had not lived up, "not even close," to his expectations. He continued, "Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he's compromised on that I never would have expected. I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he'd support]."

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Barack Obama "Hope" poster.