I emailed Jennifer Rocholl after a few readers raised questions about the similarity between an image of hers and an entire body of work by Jan Von Holleben (here). I actually saw the photo in question in her portfolio several months ago and didn’t give it a second thought because honestly it’s not unusual to see similar work and ideas in photographers portfolios. A former first assistant’s work is actually expected to be very close to their bosses. Not a problem in my mind and even more so when it’s the only image like it in the portfolio.
It really only becomes a problem when you win an award or some kind of recognition and that image is published to represent you as a photographer. That’s exactly what happened with Jennifer and from what she tells me PDN was unaware of Jan’s work as well, when they made the selection.
Tell me about the picture in question.
I shot that picture last May as a portrait of 2 clothing designers called Brown Sound, for Flaunt Magazine. It was a collaborative idea between the 3 of us, and developed that afternoon as we were coming up with ideas.
I was unaware of Jan’s work until last week when he emailed me and I saw his “dreams of flying” series on his site.
So, Jan emailed you after seeing it, what was his reaction?
He asked why I chose that particular image to represent my photography. Actually, PDN selected it out of my portfolio submission. I said I was sorry if he felt I copied his work, but that was not the case as I had not been familiar with him as a photographer or his series. And actually, if I was at all influenced by any images, they would be this fashion story Zach Scott did in 2002 for Los Angeles Magazine:
and this shot of charles and ray eames:
If you develop an idea that’s similar to another photographer’s do you think you should abandon it once you discover the similarities?
If I stopped what I was doing every time I thought I was emulating a form of someone else’s work, I wouldn’t get anything done. Would any photographer, at this point in photo history? Can you imagine if after Avedon, no one ever dared to shoot a subject in front of a white background? Or after Halsman shot his collection of celebrities jumping in the air, jumping was off limits to any other photographer? What if Tom Waits stopped doing his thing when people told him he sounded too much like Captain Beefheart? When I take a picture of the forced perspective illusion of someone standing in the palm of another person’s hand, does this now mean that I’ve monopolized this trick and I’m known as the “forced perspective photographer that shoots people holding tiny people”?
Ultimately, I think there’s a thousand more variables that make up a photographer’s consistent body of work and gets him/her jobs, besides an optical illusion gimmick. I think Jan’s a genius at what he does, the collection of these images is really beautiful and creative, but I don’t think my work and his compete aesthetically or stylistically. He and I have discussed our positions to each other and are both fine with it.
Off topic here but did anyone call and give you a job after seeing the PDN 30? I think that’s the reaction photographers would expect after being featured like that.
No jobs yet.