Growing up as budding photographers one of the biggest source of guidance are the works created by already established photographers. It does not have to be one of the classical masters such as Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson, or even the pioneers of photography such as Peter Henry Emerson; even contemporary photographers, working at the present time can also serve as undeniable influences during one’s formative years. To be honest, one’s source of inspiration has a lasting impact on one’s work. Having said that, however, great photographers have always found a way to make their work stand out from the clutter.
Mimicking a style
A definitive style is like a way of explaining things as they unfurl around an artist. It is the artist’s way of looking at what transpires around him and then conveying it all through his creations. An artist’s rendition of his vision is unique to him. Every piece of his creation bears his undeniable stamp. It is like a masterpiece by the greatest creator of all, born from the fire of his passion. A creative style, can be mimicked, so that the art created, resembles the passion of the original master. In photography it is advisable (and certainly advantageous) to study works created by those who we admire. But that is only to guide us, to understand why certain things work and others don’t. It is in no way meant to work like a shackle and constraint our personal creative freedom. Once you gain an understanding of what works you are free to break the stereotypes and explore new grounds.
Mimicking a composition: The Pros and cons
Speaking of inspiration and trying to learn from others and the consequent impression that leaves on one’s work, there is something else that is a growing concern or have always been a topic of raging debate, is the undisputed disease of copying work of other photographers. Digitization of photography has brought forth a new type of bane upon this profession, which has always been treated like a foster child. For all its worth, photography has always been considered a lesser form of art, something that does not deserve the same high place along with other traditional art forms such as painting, literature or music. And to be fair, for the larger part, photographers are to be blamed for such disgrace. To satisfy one’s own sadistic reasons and to feed the growing appetite of commercial photography, compositions have been ‘duplicated’. Photographers are encouraged to pinch ideas and concepts from others because they nearly don’t have the same amount of time to produce images that reflect originality and out of the box thinking.
In other forms of art, such as literature or stonework or painting etc., this is quite difficult to be copied and get away with. Seriously, no matter how good a painter you are and regardless of how good your copy of the Mona Lisa is, do you suppose you could get away with passing a copy as the original? Or for that matter, would you hope to get away with pinching a few paras from Mark Twain while describing the struggle of the slaves in pre-civil war America? In the case of digital photography, however, photographers have often delved in this kind of work and got away with. Photographers are known to go great distances trying to create the exact same composition of another photographer’s work. Something they have seen and liked and instead of getting inspired and giving it their version they took a different avenue to channelize their creativity. They copied their way to glory. Is it illegal? Is it in violation of copyright laws? Definitely yes.