Winning ArtFields painting disqualified as reproduction of iconic photo

Original: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Original: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Warsaw Ghetto 1943, Artist: John Cooper. Source:
Warsaw Ghetto 1943, Artist: John Cooper. Source:

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – The art piece that would have won the Popular Choice prize in the ArtFields art festival competition has been disqualified after it was determined to be a re-colorized reproduction of an iconic World War II photograph.

Artist John Cooper has been alerted that his oil on canvas painting, titled "Warsaw Ghetto 1943," is ineligible for the Popular Choice award, "because it did not meet the guidelines and rules of the competition," ArtFields representatives stated in a news release. The Popular Choice prize represents the most votes cast by the public.

"The eligibility rules, which were clearly set out from the start, required that the submitted entry be wholly owned by the artist and does not infringe upon the rights of others," stated Gerald Shannon, legal counsel for Lake City Partnership Council, the competition's sponsor.  "After conducting our due diligence investigation, and consulting with art experts, we determined that the 'Warsaw Ghetto 1943' entry was merely a re-colorized reproduction of the iconic photograph depicting German soldiers leading away captured Jews for deportation."

The original photo, which has come to be titled "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising," was taken from a Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. The original German caption reads: "Forcibly pulled out of dug-outs." It is considered one of the most famous pictures of World War II.

"Although some displeasure has been expressed for our not disqualifying this piece earlier, in fairness to all and to maintain the competition's integrity, we first wanted to be absolutely sure we were on solid footing that the piece failed to comply with the rules," Shannon stated.  "After careful review, we have disqualified the Warsaw Ghetto piece and we will soon announce the winner of the Popular Choice award."

The other winners of ArtFields, which was held from April 19 to 28 in Lake City, include James Arendt of Conway, who won the $50,000 Top Prize for "Jamie," his work of cut denim. Leanna Knapp of Juliette, Georgia, won the $25,000 Jury Prize for "Shell," a dress sculpture made of clay and fabric.

"We appreciate the hard work of talented, creative, original artists and while we do not want this competition to be a heavily-vetted, sanitized showcase, we must ensure that everyone follows the same rules," stated Shannon.  "In getting ready for next year's event, we are already thinking about ways to improve greatly the competition."

Ms. Shannon also noted, "What is important to us is that we accomplished what we set out to do with ArtFields.  We are excited about the stunning artistic and cultural opportunities we have been able to offer, the significant economic impact to Lake City, and the strengthened spirit of community among our residents.  Also, we were delighted to afford an opportunity for increased exposure for some of our Southeastern artists.  Artists, museum directors, and art gallery curators from all over have expressed a desire to bring future exhibits to be showcased in Lake City."

For more information on ArtFields, and to see the artwork displayed, visit:

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