The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Imitation is The Sincerest Form Of...?

The famous quote by Charles Caleb Colton; "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is my target today. I can see how flattered one could be at someone else loving their work so much that they wished it was theirs -- to the extent that they copy. How many times I have seen a photo and thought, I wish I had taken that; but that is as far as I go -- I don't then set out to take it.

I have a very hard time with those who copy another's work. It was not that long ago I looked through a few blogs on wedding photography. Wedding photography is not something I do -- so it all looked fresh to me. It looked fresh until I made to the third or fourth one -- the "inventive" photos were all the same. OK, I can see it almost -- you know with a bride, they see their friend's photos and they all want that shoes/dress photo like Amy, or Kim, or whomever had. And it is necessary to sometimes do the expected when someone else is paying the bill.

I am not really nagging on photographers who shoot people for pay for copying -- I do know you have to give people what they want and perceive they are paying for. I get that totally. What I don't get is someone doing photography for their own enjoyment or for their art -- but they are completely stealing someone else's vision. To try to reshoot something you have seen is no different that a painter looking at someone else's painting and copying it stroke by stroke. I know it happens -- that does not make it right.

Once I said something to a group of old photographers about wanting to work on my blurry water shots. I was obsessing on getting the water just right -- the blur -- keeping rocks, shore, etc. tack sharp. One of them asked me "why? Everyone does those -- do something different."
Copying for the sake of learning is a little different. If it is just to learn a technique -- fine -- but you still would not want to show or sell the copied piece. What if you copied the Mona Lisa to learn something about a portrait -- you would not run to a gallery with it and pass it off as your own. Looking at photos -- I see so much that is done, been done, over done, etc. Sometimes I hesitate to look at too many photos because I don't want anything to stick in my subconscious that may pop up later and I would unintentionally produce something that is close to a copy of someone else's work.

Where did this blog come from -- well I overheard someone at an opening recently. It was an opening for a photography exhibit. The photographer, whom I could not help from hearing said, "I see a lot of interesting photos here, I need to add some of this to my portfolio." Someone hold me back! If it had been a reception with wine being served -- I may have had to say something -- not knowing my crowd -- I kept quiet -- but here it goes...

Why, why, why would you put something in your portfolio that is connected to another photographer? Why would you ethically do this? Why would you chance the gallery director knowing the other work and recognizing you for a copycat? Why would you chance the gallery director finding out after they may hang your work that you copied it?

So I guess I am flattered for a few seconds if someone copies me -- but then I get all legal on them. If you need a little inspiration -- I read a wonderful blog yesterday by Scott Bourne -- 10 Ways to Improve Your Photography Without Buying Gear.


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