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Ted Soqui's Occupy L.A. Image Inspires Shepard Fairey TIME Cover

Soqui photographed 25-year-old Sarah Mason of Occupy L.A., on Nov. 17 just before she went inside a downtown Bank of America to be arrested.

Ted Soqui doesn’t live in Echo Park. He lives in mid-Wilshire.

But when I spoke to the frequent LA Weekly photographer late Wednesday afternoon he was in Echo Park at having a drink.

He was celebrating the now public news that artist Shepard Fairey of Echo Park's used one of his photos to create the cover for TIME’s 2011 Person of the Year issue, honoring "The Protester.”

Soqui’s photo is of Sarah Mason, a 25-year-old Highland woman who, according to LA Observed, spent many nights at Occupy L.A.

Soqui captured Mason on Nov. 17 outside the Bank of America on Grand downtown where, according to the LA Weekly, she was arrested along with others who went inside to protest.

"I think it it's great that Los Angeles is represented on the cover of a world magazine as an embodiment of the protest movement," said Soqui.

Soqui said Nov. 17 was a long one for him. He had already shot two other protests and almost didn’t go by the bank for the shot.

But he rallied, after finding a media parking spot on Grand just outside the bank, which is where he captured the image of Mason.

He didn’t follow her inside. “I didn’t want to get arrested,” but he spent some time on the property talking to her.

"The whole process of getting that image was pretty wonderful," he said.

“She was really nervous and didn’t want her picture taken. She was reluctant, but when she realized I worked for the Weekly she eased up a bit.”

Not everyone likes that Shepard Fairey was selected to do the "Protester" cover. Critics complain he's simply too close to the powers-that-be to represent the movement.

Others call him a "co-opter of photographers' work," given that he often works off existing photographs like Soqui's.

Fairey's controversial Obama "Hope" poster prompted a lawsuit by the Associated Press in 2008.

But Soqui pointed out that TIME and Corbis, the New York photo agency representing him, took great care to compensate him for the work—and to identify the woman in the photo, even though the timeline for designing the cover was just days.

Soqui had little to go on, he said. He knew only that Mason had told him that she worked at an L.A. photo gallery.

So he made a series of cold calls to Westside galleries.  He said at the fourth one he called, the Rose Gallery, someone said they might know Mason, who was affiliated with yet another gallery.

Soqui was also shooting Nov. 30 when the Occupy L.A. camp was removed, though he said at some point he, too, was asked by police to leave or face arrest.

You can see more of Soqui's Occupy L.A. images here.

And see the White Dog with bandana-wearing Occupy L.A. lady protesters just minutes after the LAPD issued its formal eviction order in the media gallery above.

Could one of them be Sarah Mason, too?

An earlier version of this article stated that Mason lived in Highland Park. She lives in Highland, California and commutes to her job in Santa Monica, according to Ted Soqui who spoke with her as recently as Wednesday.

Brandt Hardin December 15, 2011 at 09:38 PM
TIME is providing some much needed acknowledgement to the importance of protest. The Occupy and Arab Spring Movements are NECESSARY for our citizens to expose the corruption which Big Business has infected our Government with. Every single person occupying the streets and protesting Corporations is a hero and a patriot. I was compelled to lend a hand and create some new posters for the movement which you can download for free on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/11/propaganda-for-occupy-movement.html
Vincent Precht December 16, 2011 at 06:32 PM
Hi, here's a vid of Sarah I took at BoA protest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PDlLQxLf24
Anthea Raymond (Editor) December 16, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Awesome -- Thank you for sharing. Can you tell us more about the circumstances?

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