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Arts and Entertainment

WeHo Artist Angry ISIS Used His Work For Propaganda

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A photo shot by a West Hollywood artist was stolen and repurposed as recruitment propaganda for the terrorist organization ISIS. Artist Brian McCarty created a series of staged photographs of toys in real life situations to highlight the issue of children in war-torn areas, and he recently discovered that ISIS adapted one of his photos to recruit new members, reports CBS LA. McCarty's original photo features a Cinderella figurine with toy missiles descending upon her, an image that was inspired by the drawing of a young girl in Gaza in 2012. The photo is part of a book and art therapy project called "WAR-TOYS," which features photos inspired by firsthand accounts of war and using toys found in the region.

But, earlier this year, with the help of Pixsy, an online service that helps track stolen photos, the West Hollywood-based photographer found the repurposed photo had been taken without permission, altered and used to promote ISIS, the UN-designated terrorist organization. The doctored photo uses the same background image and falling missiles, but replaces Cinderella with an ISIS flag surrounded by a bubble with the added caption, “Crusaders under bombardment."

From the original photo—which was intended to promote peace—the Photoshopped image suddenly took on new meaning, McCarty explains to CBS LA, “It was a message about, you know, ‘No matter what, the Caliphate would survive. That even if war destroys everything, they’ll still be here.” The altered photo was shared across social media and used to promote the terrorist organization for nearly a year.

Once McCarty discovered the stolen and altered image, he alerted Pixsy, who helped get the images taken down from Twitter and other social media outlets. Though, unfortunately, McCarty can't very easily sue ISIS for the infringement. McCarty tells PetaPixel:

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Granted, working on WAR-TOYS has led to more than a few surreal experiences, but this was a new level. It felt like a kick in the gut to see my intentions for the project so horribly twisted. An image about an innocent child’s very real fear of war had been turned into something promoting that very thing, or at least an ideology with war and the killing of innocents as central tenants.

McCarty goes on to say, “As wrong as it feels to see the work used in this way, I can’t help but smile a little at whomever made the alternations. By replacing a toy, he or she has inadvertently equated the beliefs of ISIS to a plaything.”