“No Man was ever great through imitation”
Not a quote I really agree with to be fair.
Four Billion people around the world own cameras of one sort or another whether it be mobile, compact or professional DSLR. Over 1 Trillion photographs are taken each year.
Now we know most of those don’t see the light of day and sit on memory cards forever destined to not be seen by anyone other than the owner on the back of a LCD screen. That is an issue on it’s own.
But what about the images people do see?
We are literally bombarded with images all day every day in social media. With the rise in popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, amongst other image platforms, it is easier than ever to go out and find images of pretty much any subject you want with a quick search.
Pinterest is a hugely resourceful tool for planning photoshoots, sharing ideas, gaining inspiration. But where is the line between inspiration and copying. And who really cares anymore?
I’ll be the first to admit, I learnt my trade of photography through seeing other peoples images in magazines and online and then copying them to imitate the look that they achieved. There’s no shame in that, and I’m not afraid to admit it. After all, how else can you learn in a practical form.
I’ll also admit that I take great inspiration from images and photoshoots which will directly influence a body of work for myself. For instance, one of my more recent shoots was based on the Vanity Fair Shoot featuring Benedict Cumberbatch.
I had seen the behind the scenes video of this shoot before I’d seen the finished images and I loved everything about it. The styling, the background, the use of a dog as a prop to tell the story. I took this idea and ran with it. Not in the literal sense, but created a Pinterest board to show my creative team what I had in mind and what I thought we could create on the back of these ideas and the inspiration from this shoot. (https://uk.pinterest.com/xtraordphoto/harriotte-shoot/)
The point is that the inspiration I took from seeing a behind the scenes video and then the finished images was enough to get my mind working. Yes, I wanted to create an image very similar to the one featuring in Vanity Fair, but, I only wanted to if I could create my own spin on it. That is the important part to remember. You can take inspiration from anywhere, other photographers, classical art, street graffiti. The fact of the matter is that there are very few truly original ideas or concepts anymore due to the sheer size of the industry. It’s not only prevalent in photography, but, we are seeing this in the music industry also with very similarly sounding songs, whether intentional or pure coincidence. Now as I said before the most important part is putting your own spin on it, or making it your own. There is no way, especially out on location, that I could have created exactly the same image. It’s just not possible. I wanted something similar as a base image to work the full body of work from. This would be just one image in an editorial set which was being shot for a US Fashion Magazine. And although I went into this shoot knowing that that was the image I wanted to come away with, it actually wasn’t the standout image from that shoot.
As all of the elements on the day came into play, outfits, hair, makeup and came together we found ourselves with the perfect combination (down to planning with a tremendous team) that delivered one of my favourite images that I’ver shot. This, this is why inspiration is good. It creates, it excites, it allows the evolution of concepts and ideas, it sets you on a path to create something and gives you the opportunity to create something totally different at the same time.
So did I imitate on this shoot. Well yes I did , a little, but I also evolved the concept to create my own images and with the support of the whole team we delivered something we hadn’t planned to at the start of the day, but certainly loved by the end of it.