February 8th, 2007
Can photographers be plagiarists?
Very interesting slide show from Slate.com. Some architectural photographs (such as the Nanpu Bridge in Shanghai, or the Flatiron building viewed from Madison Square Park) are going to be similar in tone and reference. Photographers also photograph similar subjects, whether consciously or not. The book The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer looks at the history of photography from this vantage point: Examining, for instance, photographs of blind street musicians through time, from the 19th century forward.
At what point does a work of art stop being a reference and become plagiarism? If someone were to take pictures of cranes or graffiti using similar techniques to mine, I'd be all for it (these subjects lend themselves to these techniques so readily I'm surprised no one else is doing it). Whether I'm referencing or plagiarizing graffiti is a more difficult question, and is one of the reasons I've been taking more pictures of cranes recently. (Also, cranes don't send me snotty emails asking if I'm going to cut them in on the profits.)
ETA: Here is a link to a YouTube video (4:31) via chr0me_kitten that I think touches on the same subject.
A further edit: From apostle_of_eris comes this link, The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem
Also thanks for the Slate thingy.
I read an interesting article in a painting magazine some time back about how painters of house portraits (some people like to paint architectural subjects) have to check out the architectural rights on the image. It's one thing if the owners ask you to paint them a picture of their house, but without a contract and their permission to use it you might just be asking for the lawyers to call! Property rights on cultural stuff has all gone pretty wonky the last few decades. Really old stuff is in the public domain. Unless someone publishes it, then they have copyright. Uh. Yeah.
The other thing is that the U.S. has separate copyright laws from the rest of the world. We tend to forget that. Except for when it's a case of piracy across international borders...
Couple years ago I actually saw a photograph of a Diego Rivera mural displayed at an art show labeled as the original work of the photographer. Not part of an album or series, just the one shot. And it was not a very good photograph IMNSHO. Yeah, nice mural, I said, isn't that Diego Rivera?
The woman in the Slate slide show who takes photos of Walker Evans photos was new to me. But there is a photographer who takes pictures of Marlboro ads from the 70s or so and reproduces them much larger. He's very popular these days.
I'm all for mashups, appropriations, etc. I wonder how I'll feel though if the shoe is on the other foot someday. Hah!
I thot that was a mock up of a Walker Evans pose format & lighting? must have misunderstood. If it's copystand work, that's hard to take seriously. I mustn't be so serious...
It's hard to imagine reproducing Marlboro ads bigger than a billboard tho. It's been done! We had a neighbor when I was a kid who used to take billboard ads and cut out elements of them and mount them on fiberboard like giant jigsaw pieces. You could see the big ol halftone dots. And hanging in yr living room, how cool was that. Not rectangles!
It looks to me, from the copy in the Slate slideshow, that the woman was taking photos of Walker Evans photos.
I wasn't clear about the Marlboro ads -- the photos were of magazine ads.