Whānau and business taking legal action for use of minor’s portrait

By Talisa Kupenga

The parents of an 11-year old girl whose portrait has been used for online product purchase at fineartamerica.com are "disgusted" that an artist could make money from an image of a minor that he has no consent to use.  

Zjana Marsh-Richards was snapped by Brent Snow while sitting for Soldiers Rd Portraits last year, a move that has also devastated the pair who provide the Māori portrait service.

This is Zjana’s portrait that was on sale at fineartamerica.com for more than a year.

Zjana’s mother Vanya Marsh says, "We did the portrait for mum and dad, their little Māori princess, not somebody else’s to be on a mug or a shower curtain. Gosh, now that I'm saying it it's really quite awful."

Soldiers Rd Portrait’s Taaniko and Vienna Nordstrom told Te Kāea, "Our kaupapa (work) we believe in so strongly and we're trying to un-do this exact thing."

Fineartamerica has come under fire because some artists were selling products printed with Māori cultural themes and Māori ancestral portraits by Lindauer. Soldiers Rd Portraits has a similar aesthetic.

"It was hard for me to put Zjana in the same context. They're basically exploiting her," says Marsh.

Taaniko says, "I felt like me and Vienna had let them down not only from a business point of view but like as Māori and that really hurt.”

Zjana's family and Soldiers Rd Portraits will be taking legal action. They hope that people will learn to seek consent for images of strangers or those of cultural significance before using them for profit.

Marsh says, “I'm hoping this negative experience will educate people.”

The women of Soldiers Rd say, "we're going to take it to respect and honour the mana (integrity) of Zjana, and also to respect and honour our tupuna (ancestor) whose images have been exploited and to stop this from happening.”

The image has since been removed for purchase by the artist. Te Kāea contacted fineartamerica and Brent Snow for comment but is yet to receive a response.