I know we are all guilty of being inspired and all photographers keep an inspiration album with their favourite images, to do exactly what the name suggests: inspire.
At what point though, do we take that inspiration and make it our own? Is it possible to look at other's work and not blatantly copy it? Do we better develop our style when we don't view someone else's photos and style?
Is imitation really flattering? I suppose so early in the game I should be flattered that someone is emulating my style and at first I didn't really notice until a few pointed it out. But when your poses, your words, your editing style and right down to the font in your logo and client thank you cards are the same, it starts to irk a nerve. Sometimes it's as if this person has my photo up on the screen while editing their own work because if you did a side by side comparison, you can't help but cringe from discomfort.
A very young and talented photographer once said that her boss was doing everything to recreate an award winning shot she created, from scouting the location, to the pose, to the outfits. It's one thing to be inspired. It's totally another scenario to downright steal the entire shot.
Do we as artists continue to change our brand to shake off the copycats, striving always to be one step ahead? Or do we hope that our fans will recognize an original from a fake? Or does it even matter?
I was shooting with another photographer this past year. I wouldn't say either of us were first or second shooters. We were both hired for different purposes as main shooters. When he would set up a shot, I so badly wanted to come up behind and take a photo but I honestly felt like I was stealing his moment that he thought of, set up and posed. So I trudged along and waited for them to finish while I planned my next shot; a little out of respect but mostly about pride.
I used to look to everyone else's work and go mad with envy. I wanted to be like them, shoot like them, edit like them, own their fancy gear. I just found it frustrated me and I couldn't get their ideas out of my head. I would shoot with them in mind, stifling and squashing any of my own creative ideas.
It's not a crime to copy, but it is a crime to steal. Where is the dividing line in the artistic world?
What are your thoughts?
Photo credit: People Magazine.