Would You Copycat an Image???
I've been real busy doing the shows and trying to replace inventory, breathing lots of DR fumes!
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?
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."
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"!
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.
A G Studio
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".
Originally Posted by davetravis
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?
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I can't even re-shoot some of my own stuff, much less anyone else's.
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?
Everytime I find a film or paper that I like, they discontinue it. - Paul Strand - Aperture monograph on Strand
It has all been done before.
So, yes, it is destiny to copy somebody else.
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...
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.