Inspiration or Theft?

Annie Leibovitz, in her on-line Master Class, discusses pulling books by other photographers such as Robert Frank and immersing herself in their work for inspiration. Her well-worn books are her go to for new ideas emerging from the masters of their craft. She pulls from their use of light; expressions of the subjects; the connection between subject and viewer. What she does not do is recreate a replica of the photographs from which her inspiration comes.

Tyler Shields also draws his inspiration from other photographers. In fact, it is difficult to tell Shields' photographs from the originals. Shields blatantly copies the photograph and produces work that has subjected him to law suits.

As a photographer, it is a fine line between being inspired and stealing a concept as your own. You can see this monkey see - monkey do phenomenon in any given photography Facebook group. One photographer discovers mist rising in a graveyard and a  month later, a dozen other photographers have created their version of this moment.

In the past few years many trends have also raced through the on-line communities. Unlike theft of concept, trends usually involve techniques and photo tools: crystal balls, prisms, light painting, astral photography, trail lights, HDR, selective coloring and panning are just a few that top my list. The big difference is that in a trend, the photographer learns a technique or skill and applies it to his own vision.  In a few cases, the photographer actually steals the concept and recreates a nearly identical work.

It will help as you study other photographers and artists to ask yourself this question: How can I take this concept or technique and use it in my own work?

One way to assure you are utilizing the inspiration and not stealing work is to reshoot one your own photographs using the new concept or technique.

 

 


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