In this episode, I answer someone’s question about publishing photos sharing similarities with someone else’s work.
I do believe all artists have been inspired by what was created before them. As a matter of a fact, copying is a crucial phase in an artist’s journey where he/she learns about the craft and masters technics. Once achieved, an artist becomes truly free, and that is where the magic happens, the creation can begin.
I also believe that in over two millennium of photography and over a century of photography as we know it today, everything has been more or less achieved. This does not mean the creation is dead, but it is never truly original. I think a good example is music. Haven’t you noticed that as one gets older and one’s exposure to melodies grows, one often identifies known melodies inside a new music that has just been released? I am not referring to beat samples often found in HipPop music. I am talking about a musical phrase which reminds you of the other song. While the recent artist might have genuinely thought he had created the tune entirely, his/her subconscious felt comfortable with a succession of notes which reveals some good emotions heard previously.
I can admit some of my work has been directly and consciously inspired by my peers such as Brassai. In 1936, Brassai captured the amazing piece “Les Escaliers de Montmartre”:
In July 2014, I went to Paris France. Before the trip, I had thought about what I could shoot in Paris (my favourite city in the world), and I wanted to capture something which would reveal the same emotions I feel when I look at Brassai’s work. This led me to capture this:
While this was shot on the same location, it was not the same time of the year, nor the same time in the day, nor the same angle nor the same exact spot on the stairs. I’ve never hidden the fact that shot has been inspired by Brassai.
Once I had captured that one, I did the other shot more or less on the same location:
While I am sure very few would think of Brassai when looking at this intimate photograph, the link between Brassai’s work and that shot could not be more existant. There would probably not be this shot if it was for Brassai’s initial creation. That being said, I am not going to subtitle my work with something like “inspired by Brassai”.
I am not sure there is a conclusion of this article other than maybe, everything is the result of an inspiration and if not from someone else then from Life itself. Paraphrasing Pablo Picasso, I would say: The secret to becoming an artist is to learn from others by copying their work and steal from Life once you have mastered your craft.
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