Creative Ethics: Did Vice Really Copy Our Record Cover Concept?

“…we were frustrated that such a huge publication as Vice could recreate such a concept and pass it off as their own…”

I’m Rodrigo Lopes. For over 32 years I have been a working photographer based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I mainly focus on portraiture, however, I’ve also worked on a range of projects alongside art directors and other creatives. Back in the 90s, I started what would become a long term working relationship with graphic designer and art director, Felipe Taborda. Together, we established a successful partnership and created the covers of many LPs, CDs, culture posters and books. It was our deep understanding of each other’s capabilities that enabled us to produce some extremely compelling work. Work we were proud of – and sadly work we would later see being used by others.

This is a guest blog post from Rodrigo Lopes.

Creating a Rock ‘N’ Roll Record Cover

In 1994 Felipe was commissioned to do the graphics for Barão Vermelho’s new album called Carne Crua (Raw Meat). For those that don’t know, they are a very famous rock band in this country, the “Brazilian Rolling Stones”, some may say. Felipe gave me a call and told me I would be in charge of the photography for the record cover. Bringing our creative minds together, we came up with a concept that excited us both. The idea was to place a goldfish inside a blender (don’t worry the blender was switched off!) For us, this best represented the power and force of rock ‘n’ roll. The image, we felt, spoke most true of the genre so many people loved. Back in the early 90s, I would shoot images that would go straight to print. I did not have the luxury of post-production in those days. Whilst I enjoyed the challenge, getting it right in the camera was paramount to the album cover’s success. Both of us worked really hard on this.

“Do we, independent creatives, allow big publications to do as they please when it comes to using concepts and art?”

I’m proud to say the record cover received plenty of good publicity. The recognition we got went beyond Brazil too. From posters to record covers, the photo was published in several prestigious design magazines. It also featured in important exhibitions such as the Poster Biennale of Finland, Poland, Mexico, and Colorado! This record cover became widely known. And even to this day many people in the art field still remember it.

That was a long time ago and it has remained one of my favorite creations. I’ve done many different commissions since then, and naturally, I do not give it as much thought I once did. Well, until I saw it resurface almost 25 years later…

Seeing Our Concept in a Vice Advertisement

“We spoke about how sad it is to see the creative world running out of original ideas.”

I recently got an email from Felipe. He said that he had come across one of Vice Magazine’s’ latest advertisements. To our amazement, there was a picture of a goldfish, in a blender. Sure it wasn’t the image I took but it was certainly the exact same concept from all those years ago. We were sure they had to have seen our record cover with each detail being almost identical to ours. We spoke about how sad it is to see the creative world running out of original ideas. But at the same time, we were frustrated that such a huge publication as Vice could recreate such a concept and pass it off as their own – without even thinking twice about it. This felt incredibly unfair and we wanted to do something about it.

“True creative art is our power and upholding the ethics of the creative world is far more important.”

Independent Creatives Vs Big Media

The sad reality is, Felipe and I are just small fish compared to the likes of Vice (no pun intended). It’s quite difficult and there are a number of steps for us to feel like we are done any justice on this. But what is the answer? Do we, independent creatives, allow big publications to do as they please when it comes to using concepts and art? Is that not a crushing blow to the ethics of the creative world if we do? The truth is in the digital age, especially with big media, the fight is almost impossible to win. That’s why Felipe and I are sharing our story, in the hope that in some way we can be part of driving change.

Fame and money are not what motivates us. True creative art is our power and upholding the ethics of the creative world is far more important. And hopefully, the publications that do this can re-balance their morals and start thinking about the little guy.

Lead photo created by Felipe Taborda and Rodrigo Lopes. Used with permission.