About half of what I shoot (well, about 20% now that I'm shifting gears to completely b&w analog and re-figuring out my entire process) involves monitary profit. Aside from some of the WPA-era photographers, I've been hard pressed to find a portraitist who exemplifies the direction I want to go with my portraits more than you, Cheryl. At the end of this chapter in my growth as a photographer, I don't want my portraits to end up looking exactly like yours, but I certain subscribe to the same school... the same approach to portraiture. I think the great majority of the message conveyed in a portrait should be who a person is, how they feel, how they feel toward themselves and anyone or anything else in the picture.
Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs
I think a certain elegance of composition and a well-executed print can go a long way toward releasing that message to the viewer. I also think that good art will have a message that is common to most viewers, and another more subtle message that is unique to each viewer.
This discussion on plagiarism and copying has me thinking and somewhat worried, though. I'll give you an example. A while back, my wife Dianna, 2-year old son Alec and I were vacationing in Houston. Alec and the Ben, child of a friend of ours, started jumping around on our motel bed. Fabulous opportunity, but I had the wrong film in my camera to shoot it, and before I could swap out the film, the moment was gone. Let's say I did get some great shots, though. This was long before I saw the clip of your session with the two girlls from the newscast. Chances are, that some of the images from that session and the ones of the girls might bear some simularity, even though I hadn't seen your session yet.
Isn't there some inherant risk with photographers who share common artistic values, or who (at the risk of sounding pretentious) are in the same school, having certain commonalities to images of the same type?
How many times have we heard rock musicians list off who were their greatest influences (Beatles, Grateful Dead, etc.) and sure enough, we can see the stylistic influence of those artists in their work. Isn't one of the roles of an artistic community to influence each other, just like peer review in science?
While I've approached many images with a memory of or inspiration by other images I've seen, I've never consciously tried to out-and-out copy anyone else's work, even as an exercise. It's not so much that I'm ethically compelled, but that I just don't have the memory to remember which of all my negatives would be legitimate if I started inserting illegitimate ones in the mix. Occasionally, some of what Dianna shoots and some of what I shoot will get mixed, and I tend to go out of my way to avoid claiming anything that I know I wasn't completely responsible for.
I guess what has me worried in this thread is that now it seems pretty gray to me how much portraiture I can do in natural light, with non-PPA posing (or not posing at all), capturing what I see as a portrait of who someone is rather than just what they look like before someone else in the same school might be offended that I'm ripping them off.
How do you guys approach your sessions? What do you do to ensure appropriate artistic distance between your work and what's gone before (or after, for that matter). This might seem like a weird and paranoid question, but the analog is common in writing. I've heard of writers who insist on not reading anything in their own genre to ensure that months or years later, it doesn't come out in some fashion on their own pages. I've had several writing teachers and editors tell me that there is merit to writing in a vacuum, at least in terms of seeing other people's work.
Ideally, I'd like to expose myself to as much varied portraiture as I can get my eyes on. I can say with certainty that, as an artist, I've been changed by seeing Cheryl's work, just like I have with that of some of the WPA-era portraitists. I think that change is a positive synthesis and is the only way the artist can grow and fill the space they see for themselves. It would be a shame if any resulting artistic overlap were given illegitimacy.
This post is getting pretty long, so I'll omit the long tome I'm tempted to go into about the cathedral and the bazaar, but I'll attempt to sum up in a couple of sentences. I interrupted my career as a photographer by a 12-year distraction in computers (data communications, network mgt, UNIX sysadmin, etc). One of the giants of open source software, Eric Raymond, wrote an essay and a book describing how software can be the product of a cathedral (like Microsoft or IBM) or a Bazaar (such as the Open Source community). Seems to me that applies to photography as well. I think there's good cathedral photography: images that are completely unlike anything that has come before; and good bazaar images: images whose creators are standing on the shoulders of those who have come before. It could be argued that the first generation photographers were in a bazaar with the painters and other artists who came before.
Are cathedral images the only legitimate ones?
Oooooh, OK. I definitely need to clarify here.
I am always really happy when I hear other people say that my work has in some way inspired them, or moved them to capture similar moments. That's a GOOD thing. I am not in the least bothered by that. In fact, I spend a great deal of time promoting that type of photography and helping people achieve it.
It's just frustrating to me when I see patterns of repeated attempts to duplicate shots I've done. Certainly there are bound to be times when an image of mine will coincidentally resemble an image of someone else's -- it's unavoidable. It'll happen. But I've had times, particularly over the past two years, where every image I share is immediately reproduced as closely a possible by several people, who may or may not mention my image. That's what has gotten a little annoying to me over time.
I try not to be overly sensitive, because I'm very aware that there is a finite number of ways to photograph something/someone. Coincidences happen. And I don't mind emulation as a form of learning. It's the patterns, and in some cases the monetary profit from the emulation, that I sometimes allow to get to me.
Now, the out-and-out text stealing is another thing entirely!
Hope that clears things up a bit.
I'v visited your web site. Fine - damn FINE! work there.
Originally Posted by kwmullet
I would NOT worry about a reaction from someone else. You are doing your OWN work .. be it derived from whatever source... and that is all that matters.
I approach my work ... first, by "a clearing of the mind process" - I like to work from, more or less, a conscious blank sheet. Note "conscious" - the sub- or pre- conscious will be there.
I feel that there must be a - I'd call it an aesthetic link - between the photographer and the subject, when both are working on the same frequency. This is much more easily achieved by being open to the being of the model.
This sounds awfully artsy-fartsy - it is simply "shutting up and LISTENING! - When one listens, and reacts naturally - possibly a better description would be "fluidly" -, the chances of producing meaningful work are greatly enhanced.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
To some of you who might be new or relatively new to this whole "portrait" thing, let me give you a little history over the last, say 30 years. Portraiture was and probably still is connotatively defined as a "sitting" where you places the subject in front of a background ( real or painted) and light the subject with light ( real or artificial) and work your magic to attempt to get a revealing likeness of them, their personality, on film.
It was essentially, a copy of Rembrandt lighting and posing, with new materials. The reason this was, and is done, in this manner is to pose and light this person, to get them into a flattering position, with flattering lighting and then to get a flattering expression. Worked then, works now.
With the glut of magazines in the 70s and onwards a lot of commercial product photographers started shooting "lifestyle portraits". These were usually families or kids or lovers engaging in fun activities, and then capturing this on film. The public and as well, established studios liked this style and many people started doing it. In fact wedding photographers were some of the first, who started doing a more "candid" style of wedding coverage and it caught on.
In the last dozen years, a lot of women have essentially taken over this style for childrens photography. I saw Joyce Wilson in 1987 in a seminar at Winona School of Professional Photography have children playing, and yes even jumping up and down on a bed while she captured their glee. Nancy Brown a commercial photographer changed her product and clothing business to stock photography, of families , children and lovers to set up and do this same type of work.
The bottom line is there is nothing new about this "lifestyle" style of photography and it has all been done before. So no, you are not copying when you are doing it.
This may be a lot of people's first exposure to it, here with Cheryl's great work. Cheryl is new to this profession and has not "invented" anything. She is, and is going to be a great photographer and will reach the top of her game. In fact her knack for self promotion ( believe me, that is a good thing) is amazing at this early stage in her career, and her "eye" is exceptional.
But please, if you think you are copying anybody's work, just keep it up and you'll eventually find your own nitch and your own calling. There is almost nothing that is new. It's all been done before, in slightly different ways.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
A related problem I see is the sheer proliferation of uninspired, tepid and turgid work that is now easily accessible via the web. It does seem that almost everyone is shooting the same kinds of pictures. I'm in the market for a digital slr (to add to my analog equipment not as a substitute), and I am just blown away by the number of bad images people with super-expensive gear are able to make. A link promises pictures of newly acquired (expensive) gear; you click on the link and what are you confronted with? Pics of kids, birds, deer, buildings, etc. Framed in the most uninspired way.
Originality seems to me to be in part at least a function of one's willingness to see differently, for example, by changing one's body posture (get closer, get down on your knees, lie down, and so on).
Perhaps approaching photography "cerebrally" might also help. For example, rather than saying: "I'm going to shoot kids and birds," one could decide to capture different types of movements.
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