When I was in high school a compulsory matter was disegno a mano libera, free-hand sketching with a pencil, the chiaroscuro stuff.
You obviously have to be born for the stuff or ten lives will not be enough to become decent. I think I would need twenty lives. Teachers were compassionate enough.
Anyway your task as a poor young man trying to draw was to copy some Piranesi tables about architectural details. The task and exercise here was to copy as well and as exactly as possible. Copying is a powerful way to learn technique. Personal style comes after.
I don't think there really is anything deeply wrong in what the photographer is doing, I only observe that:
- If he does it as an exercise in technique, this should better be openly declared;
- If he does it as a way to acquire some recognition, then he will just make a fool of himself because the other photographers published first and "exact imitators" only manage to make a fool of themselves.
- The most natural outcome in any case is that this photographer will learn from the copying exercise and he'll almost inevitably arrive to some personal way of seeing. Imitation will have been just a way to learn the technique one day.