Certainly the photographer or his agent needs to weigh in on this vis-a-vis licensing issues.
However, Richard's work was done in close collaboration with the Washington, DC museum exhibiting the photographer's work and is obviously closely related to the images, designed specifically to be heard in relation to the images. Sugimoto was aware of this. Therefore it is a more cohesive and collaborative work of art. So IMO, the use of the image on Richard's CD deserves the "privilege".
Nothing U2 can record will have that. If they weren't so busy managing property they might find the time to realize that music has changed a great deal since Boy came out and that if they want "gallery cool" to be associated with their music they need to work harder at it.
Now, where's my copy of "He's So Fine"? No, wait, I meant "My Sweet Lord"!
As you said, the first union of images and music may have been intended for each other, and therefore sit together more (in the eye of the creators at least). But I get the feeling that if U2 suddenly came along and were allowed to use this image, then either Sugimoto forgot, or didn't think that the relationship between image and music needs to be a one-time-only affair, and may have been happy to let others put sound to his image also.
It's probably far less serious than that though... He was probably happy to have any musical artist express an idea to his art, and heck, if U2 want try their hand, then crack open the champagne and let's play pin the mustacchio on the Mona Lisa.
I do feel for the artist who thought it was 'their' picture, and then finds out that it's been given to others. Bit like infidelity really.
As for the bit about U2 managing property, well, that's kind of what I was talking about- the minute someone becomes successful, it's assumed that the music has taken a backseat, and that their musical development becomes akin to property development. ie. buying/stealing ideas/styles from the underground. I think everyone does that- I know I've taken bits here and there from the underground. The fact that I live there doesn't make me less of a thief.
The healthy balance is in that what you *don't* borrow, you make up. Brian Eno once said something to the effect of: every album you release has about 5% originality and 95% generic-ness, and that's ok. So U2 go to some other other sources for inspiration, great! Now I've heard of Sugimoto! Remember, U2 were all over Eno in 1985... so they're allowed to have some 'gallery cool'
By the way Mark, I don't mean to piss you off.
I do enjoy arguing with you, and I'm not trying to pick a fight.
I also happen to think that your photography rocks! The loscil 'plume' cover has been a fave of mine for a long time.