Would You Copycat an Image???

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by davetravis, Jun 28, 2007.

  1. davetravis

    davetravis Member

    Messages:
    659
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Castle Rock,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I've been real busy doing the shows and trying to replace inventory, breathing lots of DR fumes!:smile:
    Recently, in one of my shows, I saw prints for sale at one of my contemporaries booth of images that were very close, if not almost exactly similar to another photographer with whom I am familiar.
    The images were of ice fractures that have a blue background, with a myriad of patterns and forms.
    I first saw these taken by the original photog about 5 years ago.
    The "copycat" said the original guy told him when and where to go to get the shots.
    Now before you roll your eyes and think something like:
    "Anyone can shoot Yosemite Falls", and not be a copycat,
    I believe those original ice fracture shots were unique in concept, and I've never seen anything like them before.
    Photogs out here do in the field "workshops," where for a fee one can stand elbow-to-elbow at a spot and get the shot. I'm not talking about that.
    What I'm asking is what about original concepts that were unique, until someone copied them.
    Is this un-ethical?
    Would you do it?
    DT
     
  2. eddym

    eddym Member

    Messages:
    1,927
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't know if it's unethical, but it's certainly lacking in creativity.
    Would I do it? Well, I can't say that I ever have, but I will admit to having been influenced by other photographers' work. But "being influenced by" does not mean "copying."
     
  3. midlife crisis

    midlife crisis Member

    Messages:
    35
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2007
    Location:
    Vale of the
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Personally I would not have too much of a problem with copying the work of others. Most photographers start by attempting to copy the work of others before they develop an eye and style of their own. I think the problem comes when you put it into the public domain and attempt to pass it off as your own creation. Sometimes you may get away with it but if the work is so recognizable as someone else's then surely there is little point. One example of this I have seen in the last few years was someone had taken some photos which were very similar to those by Bruce Barnbaum apart from that they were taken in colour on a dslr. Despite this being in a good quality photo magazine no mention was made of the previous work and the poor imitation was applauded as great work.

    The hard truth is that there are very few great innovators and most of us have to make do with making images that have been made before. The important thing is to aim to make your own interpretation of something rather than make a direct copy.

    But then some people just get a kick out of making a good photo and are not bothered if it has been done before. Not sure if it is a useful analogy but I like to play guitar but have little talent for playing and none for writing my own stuff. So I play other people's music and aim to copy the original as best I can. But then I never aim to perform in public or claim that I wrote "Jumping Jack Flash"! :tongue:

    Regards
    N
     
  4. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

    Messages:
    861
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If it was for commercial usage, such as advertising or promotional materials for a company, then you run the risk of getting sued, or challenged. While an idea cannot be copyrighted, there have been many cases of legal challenges for similar image concepts.

    In the case of landscape images of well known locations, then I think it might be expected to see some similar images. I know from walking around large art fairs that it seems many photographers go to the same slot canyons, and photograph much of the same stuff . . . or so it appears.

    I guess if someone was selling cheap prints to tourists, then a formula approach might be a way to get a few sales. It does little to express an individual creative vision; almost seems like paint by number.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat
    A G Studio
     
  5. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

    Messages:
    4,090
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Location:
    NYC or Copak
    Shooter:
    35mm
    If this is true, and we can only accept it as such at this point since there is no one to refute it, then the original guy must have considered the "subject" rather ordinary and his rendering of it "unique".

    If that is the premise, then I see no problem with someone else using the subject to render her/his interpretation - even if the result is very similar.

    One thing you might want to consider is that even though when you first "discovered" the original work and had never seen anything like it before was it really original? What I mean is that perhaps the person who you thought was the "original" photographer had himself actually learned of the subject and rendering from a prior photographer?

    Now we get into the realm of - without "manipulating" a photo (wet or dry) can any shot be "unique" anymore? :confused:
     
  6. roteague

    roteague Member

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    Location:
    Kaneohe, Haw
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I can't even re-shoot some of my own stuff, much less anyone else's.
     
  7. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,560
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Location:
    Pacific Nort
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If commerical selling is your goal then whatever sells is the ad moto isn't it. It is all totally uninspiring to say the least. So much has been done that even way back people were stumbling over themselves in regard to their photo's looking like other people's work. It's going to happen; i believe that integrity is the key. Are you out for money at any length or are you doing your own work regardless of what anyone thinks?

    Curt
     
  8. 25asa

    25asa Member

    Messages:
    232
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    South Centra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It has all been done before.
    So, yes, it is destiny to copy somebody else.


    :tongue:
     
  9. Kino

    Kino Member

    Messages:
    1,730
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I wouldn't have any problem with myself trying to 'exactly' duplicate another photographer's work as a learning experience, but I don't think I'd try to sell that work (other than it being horrible and sucky).

    If the original innovator told the copycat how to do it, well... he/she must not have been too worried about it and was probably secure in his/her abilities and place in the World.

    At least, that's the way I see it...
     
  10. wfe

    wfe Member

    Messages:
    1,284
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2003
    Location:
    Coatesville,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I do use other's work as a starting point in developing my own vision and concepts. I have found it to be a wonderful way of digging into my own abilities, stimulating ideas and triggering inspiration. If I end up with something close to the original I will simply list it as homage to the originator and acknowledge that it is not totally my own concept or idea. I see nothing wrong with doing this and have in fact had top notch photographers in workshops recommend this as a way to develop one's own talents and skills. I do work very hard at making my own pictures as well. In many cases my pictures end up very different from the original I started with which can be a wonderful journey.

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
  11. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,148
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Bill, may I copy one of yours?

    I commented recently on one of yours, Candice nude #1 I believe. I am fortunate that my birthday is coming up Friday, my wife *may* have gotten me a Rolleicord, AND she's agreed to let me do a nude outdoor shoot of her. I'd love to use that same composition if I get the Rollei. My wife's no model but she'd look nice in that same sort of pose.
     
  12. wayne naughton

    wayne naughton Member

    Messages:
    225
    Joined:
    May 31, 2007
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    well, i've been photographing my weimaraners for years.... still waiting for a cheque from MOMA tho..... <G>

    wayne
     
  13. kombizz

    kombizz Member

    Messages:
    64
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    Location:
    USA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    it would be nice to have your own idea and creativity.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

    Messages:
    1,399
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2004
    Location:
    13 Critchley
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Why not?

    As fas as I can see, there's nothing even remotely unethical about thinking "Hey, that's a great photo ... I wonder if I can do something like that?" and then trying it.

    It would be a 180' different to claim credit for the idea though ....

    cheers
     
  16. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

    Messages:
    7,114
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    Location:
    In a darkroo
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My answer would be a definitive NO! I have gone to a location of which I viewed a photograph by another photographer, even accompannied one once. I see their POV. Then I see scales, POV's, lighting and contrast possibilities and then go to town. Yeah, you can definitely see the similarities but it is MY CREATION. On the occasion that the photographer was with me, he commanted something along the vein of 'I had never seen that in what I saw.'
     
  17. Videbaek

    Videbaek Member

    Messages:
    852
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2005
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Making copies of famous master works is a very recommended way of learning to make pictures (after acquiring sufficient technical skill to at least try it) -- maybe not so much with photography, though certainly with painting. But once one has the technical skills I think one should concentrate on what hasn't been done, while paying attention to the good aspects of what has been done. There are only two areas in photography: what has been done, and what hasn't been done. Photography hasn't even been around for two hundred years (painting has been around since the birth of man), so almost nothing has been done yet with it. The oft-heard expression "it's all been done already" expresses nothing but a lack of imagination.
     
  18. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,423
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I seek out and readily accept inspiration from others: photographers, sculptors, painters, authors, and architects have all influenced my work. I have occassionally done homages such as this one http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=21193&cat=500&ppuser=5914, but have no interest in actually copying someone else's work. How boring would that be?

    I believe that closing one's eyes to what has gone before is restrictive and self-destructive. So I'll often use another piece as a stepping off point for my own creativity, but the finished work is mine. For example, Dante wrote about Ugolino and his sons who were imprisoned and condemmed to starve to death in 13th century Pisa. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux then created this sculpture based on Dante's writing. And I'm planning to work on some photographs inspired by the sculpture. Who's copying who? No-one, but there's a trail of inspiration for sure.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2007
  19. Harrigan

    Harrigan Member

    Messages:
    342
    Joined:
    May 25, 2006
    Location:
    Shenadoah Va
    Shooter:
    Large Format

    It has NOT all been done before. ALot has been done and it takes creativity to come up with new views and ideas but new concepts can be pulled off. The view that all has been done is what I was taught in school and I am very against the idea because it's simply not the case.

    Perhaps all has been done in the straight landscape image but even that I don't think is true.
     
  20. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,124
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    About ten years ago when I first got back into photography I took my younger son to Jackson Hole and then on to Yellowstone. We looked for and found the iconic Teton sites...(those farm buildings against the Tetons for instance)....and even found a roadside pullout that was AA's vantage point for his Teton view of which I'm sure because it's actually named for him! In fact, when we showed up at dawn there were about a dozen other folks with cameras and tripods standing beside us. :rolleyes:

    The result was 1) I have never had a more 'empty' experience with a camera since that trip. 2) The exposures I took were pretty awful. The lesson for me was that I needed a far deeper understanding of what I would have to do to make a successful photograph, and that copying another's image wasn't going to offer much satisfaction for me as a hobbiest. I haven't knowingly copied anyone elses work since, but I've also learned that it takes a lot of courage to break new ground without the security of redoing the familiar (rusted old vehicles and such).
     
  21. davetravis

    davetravis Member

    Messages:
    659
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Castle Rock,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Update from the field...

    Well, I just finished 6 nights running around Crested Butte and Lake City Co. I got to "live" this question!
    I camped in a beautiful area called "American Basin."
    I made my camp about 1 PM, hiked around until I found my composition, then settled back to wait for the light.
    Their were about 30 or so nice clusters of Columbine flowers running along the hillside with the peaks in the background. Lots of daytrippers were using them as foreground. I set up my rig around 4 and shot nice changes until about 5:30. Around 5, this guy sets up, and starts shooting all around me. He insulted my film rig by asking "still doing it the old fashioned way?"
    Well, I laughed that off sure enough, when he ran out of his "memory card."
    So I finished, packed up, and was walking back to camp, when I looked around and he was setting up in my exact footprints! Wide-angle shot, with the same cluster of flowers.
    I guess we both had the same eye, or he was wanting to get what I saw. I'm not sure. For all I know, this type of thing happens all the time, just never so blatantly to me.
    My only consolation will be that he had a "logic error." :smile:
    DT
     
  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Dear Dave,

    But how much does it matter?

    If anyone wants to try to duplicate my best shots -- and I've made a few I'm reasonably proud of in the last 41 years -- I'll even try to help 'em. Why not? Even I can't reliably duplicate my best stuff, so why should I worry when someone else tries? At least if, as in 99.99% of cases (or more), there is no likelihood of commercial conflict between them and me.

    And quite often, my wife and I will shoot from what looks like exactly the same place, one after the other, seconds apart, and get completely different photographs. At other times, with exactly the same procedure, we get subtly different photographs where one or the other is clearly a better stab at the same thing. Only very rarely do we get the 'same photograph' where we can't tell (without other evidence, such as other frames on the same roll) which of us shot it.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  23. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

    Messages:
    558
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2005
    Location:
    Göteborg, Sw
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would never deliberately copy a photograph unless I had a specific intention to use the "duplication" to create something new.

    Off the top of my head, I can imagine copying a Mapplethorpe shot, but adding or subtracting elements to give the shot a new meaning, in relation to his shot or his body of work. But I need to have a real strong idea before trying something like that.

    In general though, I realise that most of my shots have been done before in one way or another. But my aim is not to be unique, it is to enjoy my hobby and passion. Sometime I might develop a style that is "mine", or at least recognisable as mine.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2007
  24. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I actually enjoy "copycating" images. I just don't do it in a deliberate or unimaginative manner (I hope!).

    Cf for instance these three pictures in my gallery:
    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=19514&cat=500&ppuser=6132
    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=24255&cat=500&ppuser=6132
    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=24257&cat=500&ppuser=6132

    In the description, I link to the pictures they resemble.
    This happened sometimes accidentally (the first one) or willfully.

    This one: http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=21318&cat=500&ppuser=6132
    I also made with the look of Mondrian's paintings in mind. Compare with:
    http://www.artchive.com/artchive/M/mondrian/lt_brown.jpg.html

    I like also the way Jeff Wall often copies a famous painting in his photographs.
    Cf for instance his picture The Destroyed Room with Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus, and his other one Picture for Women with Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergères:

    http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/jeffwall/rooms/room1.shtm
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2007
  25. davetravis

    davetravis Member

    Messages:
    659
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Castle Rock,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Roger,
    Yea, when I go to the most popular spots, there can be a crowd of folks standing elbow to elbow.
    But that's when I don't even unload my gear.
    What really bugged me was how he waited until I left, then used the exact same foreground as myself.
    He claimed to be a full-time pro, so I'll assume he'll sell some of it.
    Why should I care?
    Maybe it was just because he was a filmophobe!:D
    DT
     
  26. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,423
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I've had similar experiences. Rather than get upset about it I'd rather feel happy that I've helped someone else to broaden their vision. And after all, immitation is the sincerest form of flattery.