Jingna Zhang vs Jeff Dieschburg: How’s how to destroy your art career

Janice K. Johnson

Painting (left) by Jeff Dieschburg vs original photo (right) by Jingna Zhang

It was reported in June 2022 that Singaporean photographer Jingna Zhang had accused Luxembourg artist Jeff Dieschburg of copying her work. The photo was taken for the cover of Nov 2017 Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam.

Jeff Dieschburg’s oil painting was exhibited at the Commune de Strassen in Luxembourg with a price tag of 6,500 Euros.

Jingna Zhang took this case to Luxembourg court and lost. The reason given by the court was the pose was not unique.

You can findmore details here:

Is it copyright infringement?

If you overlay the photo and painting, you’ll see similarities in the pose, facial features, hair style, clothes and fabric folds and even the flower petals. EVEN THE FLOWER PETALS! Do you know how difficult it is to find repeating patterns in nature?

The design is the same, just that the painting is flipped.

Anyway, it’s said that Jeff Dieschburg used the photo as a reference but he denies copyright infringement.

In my opinion, this case is plagiarism instead of copyright infringement.

Copyright infringement is the act of duplicating content. The painting may look similar but it’s not a 100% copy, e.g. differences in colour, hair, background.

Plagiarism is “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”

It may not be copyright infringement but it surely is plagiarism. The design and the style are so similar. There’s no originality at all. When I first looked at the two images, I didn’t even know that one of then was a painting.

Jingna Zhang intends to appeal but I’m doubtful she will win this a copyright infringement case.

Jeff Dieschburg on the other hand has erased himself off the internet. All online searches for his name will point to this controversy he has created for himself. He may have won in court but he has destroyed his career as an artist. He probably has to switch career now which is a shame because he seems like a very skilled artist. Or maybe he can just change his name.

This reminded me of the legal case in 2011 with Associated Press and artist Shepard Fairey. The artist had used a photo from AP to create the famous Obama “Hope” poster. Even though Shepard Fairey had created a heavily stylised artwork, it still had legal issues because of the source he used.

You can see more of Jingna Zhang’s work via these links:

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