Graeme Williams was astonished to see his iconic 1990 photograph at an art fair, drained of colour, under Hank Willis Thomas. Thomas, however, questions if Williams has rights to the image

The photograph by Graeme Williams taken in Thokoza township, Johannesburg, in 1991. Police watch an ANC rally while children taunt them. Photograph: Graeme Williams

A renowned American artist has been accused of plagiarising and profiteering from an iconic image by a South African photographer that came to symbolise the collapse of apartheid.

Graeme Williams said he was astonished to walk into the Johannesburg art fair last week and see his photograph of a group of black schoolchildren taunting despondent, armed white policemen sitting on an armoured car shortly after Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990. The image was reproduced with relatively little change, except that it was drained of colour and lightened in parts, under the name of Hank Willis Thomas.

Williams was even more astounded to discover the asking price of $36,000 – 25 times the amount he has ever earned from the photograph. Read more