Heidelberg Project targets photographers selling images of art installation

Model/Mask Art: Ashur Collective. Photography: Ashlie Lauren Artistry
Model/Mask Art: Ashur Collective. Photography: Ashlie Lauren Artistry

The Heidelberg Project, a popular tourist spot, is going after photographers for selling images depicting the public art installation on Detroit’s east side.

Artist Kelly Guillory was shocked this week when Redbubble.com removed images she was selling that showed her with an oversized piece of cake on her head at the Heidelberg Project.
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This Heidelberg house burned down but was on city property.
This Heidelberg house burned down but was on city property. Photo by Steve Neavling

The website alerted Guillory that the nonprofit that runs the project complained that the images contained copyrighted material and therefore are prohibited from being sold. Redubble.com recently removed other photographers’ work that depicted the Heidelberg Project, which is run by artist Tyree Guyton and his wife, Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield.
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Whitfield didn’t respond to requests for comment.

RELATED: What the Heidelberg Project doesn’t want you to know

It’s a complicated issue. Copyright laws generally protect works of art from being reproduced for commercial purposes, but the Heidelberg Project doesn’t own most of the land where the art has been assembled. Of the 50 parcels in the two-block area, just four belong to the nonprofit.

After consulting with an attorney this morning, Guillory said she doesn’t believe the Heidelberg Project has a case and even mocked the nonprofit by posting on Facebook one of the images emblazoned with the message: “Can’t touch this.”

“I have called the Heidelberg and they have yet to call me back,” Guillory, a graphic novelist, said.
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RELATED: How the Heidelberg Project got started. 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.