Shepard Fairey, the street artist who created the now-iconic Obama HOPE poster appeared on Marc Maron’s podcast the other day. When asked how he went about it, the artist responded thusly:
Basically, I looked at Obama’s obstacles. That he was, you know, unproven — that he was seen as a rookie. So I looked at sculpture and photographs of politicians that had seemed to elevate them — make them seem legitimate. There’s the Kennedy looking up with vision. There’s Lincoln on the five dollar bill. There’s all sorts of statues. I thought, how can I make an illustration of Obama that turns him into a two-dimensional sculpture that looks like he has gravitas — vision? And I also have to make it stylized and visualized and iconic — but it can’t look quasi-Soviet propaganda, like a lot of my other stuff, it has to feel patriotic. So I used red, white, and blue. And I searched on Google images for an image that I thought would be the right thing to illustrate from, out of thousands of images out there … So I did the illustration and amplified a few things, and minimized a few things that I thought were unflattering … [Bold mine.]
I think we’d all agree that it worked. As has been said, the best propaganda is that which appears not to be propaganda.
Listen to the whole podcast here.