Jennifer Rocholl- PDN 30

- - Photographers

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.

There Are 85 Comments On This Article.

  1. “I don’t think my work and his compete aesthetically or stylistically.”

    Funny. Until I read this, I was under the impression the published picture in question was by Jan.

  2. I too thought that Jennifer was Jan (couldn’t remember Jan’s name) and I was a bit disappointed at PDN’s selection because I remember the work being so much stronger than the one featured on PDN’s page.

    Having said that, I’ve got a project now about life on a frozen lake in Maine complete with Ice Shacks (Scott Peterman’s terrain) and Chevy Van’s (of which David Bowman’s got plenty.)

    Can I say that I hadn’t seen or been influenced by Scott’s and David’s work – not really. But….

  3. FirstTime LongTime

    Random observations about this topic:

    1. If you think you’re doing something somewhat original, then, in this day in age of instant blogging and buzz, it’s best to do something to get the image out there on the streets publicly, so that you can somewhat stake your claim to it. Leave a Hansel and Gretel crumb trail. Because in this current day, the thing that matters most is the perception of what people think; the perception is 90% of it; that people think that “you did it first”.

    2. Did anyone write to that Jan guy and ask him the same set of questions, about what was his “inspiration” for his series? Seems odd to take this new person to task to such a degree, publicly too? Drag her into the public square, and shine a 2k into her face and get her to come clean?

    3. While we’re dragging into the public square, how about Idris Kahn and Jason Salavon?,biog/

    Didn’t Kahn really get the credit, but who did it first?

    4. And while we’re on the topic, there’s going to be about a thousand guys that need to answer to the “original solution of using the six foot Octobox, shot two stops hotter than the sky” approach. And another thousand guys running HDR and HighPass filters.

    So where do you stop?

  4. They look the same, i thought they were the same photographer too.
    She had not been familiar with him as a photographer or his series……..please tell this lie to someone else, the work is an absolute copy of Jay’s work.
    There goes to show you that PDN 30 is run by ppl that are trying to push their photographers and not the best ones.
    It’s a shame for Jays, she should try to be original and do her own thing.
    When Jay to shows his portfolio what do you think ppl will see..his own original work or pictures that resemble the work of a “PDN 30” photographer??

  5. “collaborative idea” Ok cool, I’ll use that one next time I copy someone else’s work. The client and I “collaborated.”

    What Jennifer did was different enough from Zach Scott’s shot’s but it’s really close to what Jan does. Her work is cool but the shots that PDN chose for her 30 makes me call bullshit on PDN.

    “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”

    Maybe if you stopped and thought about something original you’d have a breakthrough as an artist. Sadly though you’d probably get looked over from PDN.

    Bravo Jen, Flaunt and of course PDN for perpetuating copy-cat work.

  6. It’s a crying shame that Jennifer is being perceived as a rip-off artist. I think rule #1 of my art college training was the understanding that there’s no such thing as an ‘original’ idea. So, if that’s the case then what becomes important is the quality in your idea and your personal vision for that idea. And if you’re influenced by other artists with similar ideas, then doesn’t that just push that concept further? If we find 10 artists that do this similar style but each one pushes it in another direction then it’s transformed and NOONE owned the idea in the 1st place.

  7. I’m concerned that PDN is giving out awards based on one image, especially one that is starkly different than the rest of her image from the same body of work.

  8. I trust Jennifer on this. At a magazine you’d be surprised how many people pitch the exact same story and think we ripped them off when it’s assigned to someone else. Happens all the time. One image in a portfolio is not a cause for alarm in my opinion.

  9. Similar ideas, similar lighting techniques….but to copy the whole body of work??
    I mean each shot has the same original concept of Jay’s work.
    “but I don’t think my work and his compete aesthetically or stylistically”
    They are just exactly the same

  10. @giulio… “Maybe if you stopped and thought about something original you’d have a breakthrough as an artist.”

    says the man who has a Rolling Stone cover-ripoff in his portfolio (janet jackson by patrick demarchelier) and uses hotspot-lighted coloured backdrops (jill greenberg, anyone?).

    nothing against that, but dont raise yourself above others…

  11. I am so surprised and disappointed that PDN did not know of Jan’s work. Aren’t they supposed to be current on what’s happening in the photo world since they are choosing the 30 emerging photographers to watch?! He had a solo show at The Victoria and Albert Museum last year! It just shows how New York-centric they are.

  12. The concept!!
    The concepts is exactly the same, not the lighting,backgrounds or anything else.

  13. I actually like the “Ashley” series on her website the best. And the image of Don King’s hair is great.

    I think the image PDN chose isn’t her strongest work and generally not very representative of her work as a whole. I didn’t mean to imply before that she was knocking off Jan but that both his work and her image weren’t the most interesting or original I’ve seen (as evidenced by them having come up with the same idea simultaneously). Her work is uncontrived and loose and the image they chose to represent her is anything but.

    You don’t have to stop doing something just because someone else does it, but I think if it’s not your strongest work, it’s a shame for PDN to choose that one image to represent you entirely (it’s really not like any other image on her website).

    It’s really bad editing on PDN’s part, if you ask me. It would be like choosing one of David Bailey’s pix for Vogue Baby Knits to represent his entire work (yes, he did shoot Vogue Baby Knits).

    It’s really remarkable how PDN can take some really talented photographers and make their work look ho-hum through lousy editing.

  14. A concept does not define a photograph. That would make photographers interchangeable. There is really no similarity in tone or style between Jan and Jennifer that I can see on first glance.

  15. @Mark. Exactly, its the concept that’s copied that’s most important to me. The lighting is the technical side.

    @Bernd The shot you are talking about was designed to be like a contrast (subject matter) of patrick’s shot. It was a story on pseudo-celebrity.

    I’m not putting my self above others but if I were in the PDN 30 then all eyes would be on me and I’d expect harsh criticism.

  16. FirstTime LongTime

    I’d say, if you have to hang your hat on one type of photographic style, you’re in trouble in the long run. That Jan person’s work is nice, but at some point, you’ve got to move on. You can’t get all territorial about “owning a style”. Life is too short, and people’s (client’s) taste is simply too short-sighted in this gobble-it-up culture of ours.

    The only one laughing in this scenario is probably that Idris Kahn, who’s at this very second, accumulating all the “shoot down from above, with or without chalk, with or without kids” imagery that we’re witnessing here today, and he’s in the midst of creating a new set of high-priced layered imagery titled “Every Photograph Shot From Above”. Laughing all the way to the bank.

    Everybody does this. How many images of a “starlet sitting in a makeup chair, with three 5k Fresnels in the background” have you seen? How about Norman Roy shooting 8×10 BW portraits, with the Avedon full frame border, and then having the balls to piece them together end to end, with half heads adjoining?

    It’s everywhere you see.

    And the most telling thing about the questions to Jennifer was: “No jobs came from the PDN story”. That, to me, should remind everyone to chill out about the importance of any and all awards, and especially anything related to PDN. It’s all overblown, and everyone thinks that’s their ticket to success, to have some profit-driven awards banquet bestow an award on you. Awards are about entry fees; pure and simple. Don’t elevate them beyond the actual reality.

  17. I believe Jennifer and it seems that it could be unfortunate for both, I hope not. Photography is full of sameness but it seems the more bland the more likely it will be accepted, even if it was done countless times through the decades, however if there is a specific style/technique thats “copied” the photographer gets jumped on. Why is that, what is it in the photo world sociology, the hierarchy that makes that happen, when were floating in a photo world of sameness ?

  18. That air you are breathing.
    I invented that.
    The seat you are sitting in.
    I made that when I was 5.
    The blue in the sky…. you guessed it.

    This gets you no where. Jen is right if she sat around and worried about this she would never get anything done.

  19. I’ve seen others (beyond these two) who work with this exact same concept. I don’t see how this Jan fellow has any claim to it, except that he also uses it.

  20. I planned a this sample shot for months, an athlete jumping while being “observed” by video cameras & other equipment. I finish the shoot and a few months later I see similarly themed shot by Nadav Kandar. Great minds think a like or pure coincidence?

    I’m gonna give Jen a pass on this one.

    Maybe it’s the next hose master!

  21. anotherphotoeditor

    Yo, Quit hating on her cause she got in the 30 and you aren’t.
    I am going to hire her because her whole portfolio is stronger and more creative then yours

  22. There’s a bunch of people playing around with these concepts and thats been going on for a while (although his work has a charming simplicity about it). Its entirely possible that she didnt know of his work. Maybe he was inspired by someone she was inspired too -who knows…

    it really happens all the time.

  23. Piffle…

    In music, fashion and photography it’s all been done before. All we have are variations on a theme. The trick is to do yours better than the other guy.


  24. “He asked why I chose that particular image to represent my photography.”

    So, if anyone in the future ever shoots a model who is posed on the ground in a similar way, should be call up this Jan fella and ask his permission? What arrogance!

  25. And, one of Jan’s images is titled “Ghostbusters” and is an obvious rip off of (or should I say homage to?) that film?

    Should the producers of that movie send him a smarmy little e-mail inquiring why he “chose that particular image?”

  26. I think the artistes should get off their high horse as this style comes from stop motion cinema. Science of Sleep is a good contemporary example. 3d meet 2d meet live action meet stop motion meet stills!!!

    Kudos to Jennifer and keep up the good work!

  27. Not Bitter Photog.

    I believe Jen Rocholl. The concept is OLD hat. In high school, I’m talking 1988, Photo 1, we shot people “walking” with their books, scarves, box cutters, whatever trailing behind them. I think our photo teacher actually assigned it to us, so it wasn’t even our idea. We did the same thing with video, staging Prospero’s monologue from the Tempest complete with a set.

    On borrowing from other people’s styles, you know you do it. I do when I’m backed into a corner. On editorial shoots with little or no input from a PE or the subject and I’m on the spot and the idea I had actually sucked in practice and I know I HAVE to pull off something memorable. That’s when you fall back to something safe (octa two stops hotter than the sky) or you imitate something you’ve seen. Sometimes, after the initial shots that are borrowed from someone else, the creativity flows and you produce greatness.

    And the PDN 30? Not that anything in the 30 is bad this year, its just that nothing is really great. It all has that SVA feel to it, sort of a post modern aesthetic that is easy to reproduce but no longer resonates as it did when K. Opie first started doing it in the ’80s.

  28. I feel for Jen. I had almost the same thing happen to me. I came up with, what I thought was, an original concept for some underwater shots. I collaborated with a friend of mine, got the shots done, and got some gallery wall time. During the artists’ reception, I got asked about 50 times about which Howard Schatz shots I liked best…and I’d never heard of the man until that night. After researching him, I realized that I’m extremely flattered to be compared to him, but at the same time I’m disappointed that I wasn’t “the first”.

    Like Jen, I can think of several examples of work that inspired me, not including the one I got compared to. Everything is derivative of something…

  29. And the most telling thing about the questions to Jennifer was: “No jobs came from the PDN story”. That, to me, should remind everyone to chill out about the importance of any and all awards, and especially anything related to PDN.

    The list only came out, what, a week ago? Give the girl a break!

  30. I think I feel for the photoeditors and art buyers. We’re all fighting for something different when its more or less the same crap remixed.

    Maybe what Richard Prince does is what we’re all doing in it’s purest form?

  31. FirstTime LongTime

    @ #35 Carrie:

    The statement was not toward Jennifer’s work; I’m sure she’ll be fine. The statement was about the importance that’s given to PDN. Let’s be frank here: PDN is a magazine that’s for sale, that can’t buy a Buyer. Their job is to do anything to create eyeballs to read that magazine. So do whatever it takes — add drama, add fear, throw in a good amount of technical articles to make you fearful that you need to buy the next 1ds-whatever, or else you’ll be left in the dust. Add to that these “awards” that target the main consumers of digital photography — young photographers — then create some buzz that if you’re chosen, you’ll be The Next Overnight Success, and then count the money from the entry fees, and hope that that pays the salaries until the magazine is sold.

    All I’m saying to any young photographer — just keep doing the work. A good solid promotional program will, in the long run, pay off much more handsomely than any “award” out there. Last time I looked, PDN, or the Lucie Awards, or any of those silly scams, has never hired a photographer for an ad campaign. Don’t buy into the fear.

  32. I think any visual creative who looks at a lot of imagery is bound to emulate consciously or subconsciously something that they have seen before. The only time it is a problem for me is when a creative comes to me with a color xerox out of someone else’s portfolio and asks me to copy it. Use it for inspiration, sure. I have always found it interesting that PDNs 30 are these golden children and this is their ticket to the top. They do pick a lot of good people, but I don’t really consider PDN to be that tuned in on much of anything contemporary.

  33. @37, love it truly. Last year I spent 10 grand plus on shit like PS100 (garbage) and Blackbook RAW (garbage) and the Alt Pick Deck (sweet) and have not got anything from it.

    I could have used the money to visit agencies in larger cities to show my book. I’ve just begun to do out of state visits and have got a great response with big agencies. No national work yet but it’s only been the first qtr of the year.

    It’s also refreshing to hear (sorry jen) that she did not get any work from the 30 nor did it have any major impact on the others selected from years past.

    My friends that have been shooting for 20+ years keep telling me to stick it out, it will get better and it has.

    I’ve gone from being on food stamps and sleeping on the floor to owning a home and having a studio with some great local clients. I’m also grateful to have shot Best of Phoenix for Village Voice Media 2006, 2007.

    Great advice FirstTime

  34. I agree shooting from above as jennifer did does have similarities the eames photo by jan. I assure you it happened out of purely organic circumstances… But let me recount and give you a little back story. For I am the subject and collaborator in coming up with the picture… We met at Rob’s house, the man on the moped and my partner the other subject and the owner of the house, “the location for the shoot”. Originally we thought we’d be taking a quick shot on the couch in his living room or something mundane. Jennifer showed up and we found her to be quite enjoyable and open to doing something a little more fun. We all started scouting out around Rob’s house for a space, a vantage point and light. Now Robs’ house has one rather different feature, the front porch stands a good 8 feet above the front lawn. Usually we use it as a movie screen in the summers, where we cozy up on the lawn, and project onto the “front of his craftsmen style home”… This time it offered a great vantage point down onto the lawn. We thought since the article in Flaunt magazine mentioned our infatuation with mopeds and our clothes that we would combine the two, so we drew up a cloud of smoke on some foam core cut it out, and of course Jennifer used a little imagination and came up with the idea of making it look as though Rob were jumping over me, and the scarf was flying in the wind… This Idea came up and was put together by the three of us working out the details bit by bit, and no one said oh hey, remember that picture or that picture… and in the first place, isn’t andres kertesz the grandfather of shooting from above… So I suppose you could say this jan photographer is a plaegerist as well.

  35. “A good solid promotional program will, in the long run, pay off much more handsomely than any “award” out there.”

    In the main I agree, but in the fine art world, for sure if you get nominated or the Turner or The Photographers Gallery prize your going to be getting some where.

  36. the comparisons between similarities seem to focus on technical aspects of photos (e.g. props used or treatment of photos)

    I think the very important thing that differentiates an artist from another artist is not mainly the technical aspects of one’s work but the viewpoint towards life (sorry for sounding like a new age medium) each artist instills in their work.

    What separates Juergen Teller and Terry Richardson from the rest of their wannabes (using the same lighting style) is the sense of authentic decadence (both high class and low class) that you can feel radiating from the photographer as he takes his photo

    The comparison with nadav kandar’s piece
    only focuses on the technical similarity of the perspective, however, the sense of wide space, muted color and texture are so different from each other.

    Ideas are easy to come up with. But if it’s not an idea you truly believe in you aren’t going to take that much pride in it anyway.

  37. @j q, I think you’ve got it exactly right. It’s one thing to take the technical treatment of a photo and apply it in the context of your own style, and another thing entirely to intentionally try and duplicate an existing image. The former is a logical progression of creativity as we incorporate external artistic influences into our style, the latter is copyright infringement.

    If you haven’t tried it, I would highly recommend stepping outside the bounds of what you usually do as a photographer in order to try and see like any number of shooters with a distinctive look. Consider it a creative exercise. I did it for the last portrait I shot (see the latest entry on my blog), aiming for a that ‘Platon look.’ Judge for yourself whether or not I succeeded, but I find the differences between the image that I created and the work I was trying to imitate quite telling — both in what they reveal about my own style and as a humility-inducing reminder that the ‘look’ of a famous shooter is far more than a set of technical treatments.

  38. Posting anonymously as my purpose is not to call attention to my own work, but i must pass along this. When i first saw one of Jan’s images, a few years ago, it was obvious that he had directly ripped off a very distinctive series of photographs i had made years earlier, in 1998/1999. It was a real knock-off by him, the perspective, the subject matter (young people) and the use of personal objects and interaction with the perspective. Then i realized that i had only released (exhibited/published/included in proposals) a few of the images from my series publicly, and those that were out in the world were images that were more formal and restrained and the images that were more playful, slap-stick-y (like jans) were never released widely and couldn’t have been copied.

    The point is that jan hasn’t originated this concept in the least. and at the same time his work is, in its own way, his own.

    I don’t know if you can say that about the photographer in question though. Not trying to be needlessly critical here, but looking at more of her work online leaves one with the feeling that she owes much more than she owns. Which, incidentally, is the bottom line of most things highlighted in “PDN” in general. Truth be told.

  39. I saw the image and thought of the similarities as well. I don’t think it is reason to yell bloody murder or get one’s panties in a wad. Good ideas never stay with one person for too long and while I don’t suggest plagiarism, “sampled” ideas are bound to happen. If anyone here has shot anything not similar to any other work in history, then I applaud you and can’t wait to see more of your original ideas. In the meantime, stfu.

  40. Blognonymous

    Wow, what an angry bunch of APE readers we have here. I hope that with all this anger and confusion, you can all turn around and put it towards making the most original, beautiful and interesting work ever. Knocking someone else for daring to try, winning an achievement, and then being blasted by a bunch of blog readers is really lame.

  41. anonymous too!

    Hmm. I would agree with chris@18. The photos in execution look nothing alike at first glance. Which, to me, is indicative of a far greater problem. I have to disagree with the statement somewhere above that the concept is greater than the technical execution. The two are equally important in my mind, and it’s the combination of the two (subject matter + format selection, film or digital, iso, color/bw, negative format, lense selection, knowledge of final output, warmth or coldness +personal sensibility) that actually makes a piece of work memorable. Just walk into the first month of any college freshman art class and you’ll hear a lot about ideas but see no trace of memorable execution. And my one little pooh pooh to digital is that aside from megapixel comparison it has largely taken this analysis out of the fray.

  42. @46, awesome video and great song.

    @49, I don’t read anger here just passionate photographers. If you want to meet angry photographers just hit up a local ASMP meeting.

  43. scott Rex Ely

    Could I make a suggestion for a book: Richard A. Posner’s ” The Little book of Plagiarism” It’s only a 109 pages long and will provide quite the bromide for this situation. Here is a quote from page 101: “The most important distinction between plagiarism of verbal passages, musical motifs, and paintings, on the one hand, and plagiarism of ideas, on the other- a distinction that suggests that much of copying of ideas isn’t plagiarism at all- is that old ideas are constantly being rediscovered by people unaware that the ideas had been discovered already.”
    He continues on page 108: ” The subject of plagiarism requires cool appraisal rather than fervid condemnation or simplistic apologetics”
    $10.95 US, quite the value meal for your brains………..

  44. Come on… give a girl a break! It’s not that innovative idea anyhow. And who came up with an idea that Jan Von Holleben was a first guy to use this idea? Or at least that’s the impression.

    Oh…. another fraud! She was copying aesthetic of Victor Hasselblad!

  45. ‘PDN was unaware of Jan’s work as well, when they made the selection.’… What does that say about PDN? I thought they were on it. Useless…

  46. scott Rex Ely

    Rob could you elaborate on your quote: “At a magazine you’d be surprised how many people pitch the exact same story and think we ripped them off when it’s assigned to someone else. Happens all the time.”
    Are you talking about the content of a story or the aesthetic delivery of a story or something else? What is the consistent variable in ” the exact same story” ?

  47. The whole discussion is rather pointless in my mind. The only people who originality in art matter to are artists, and art critics. The rest of the human population couldn’t care less. Ask your family or neighbors about your top ten favorite (original, creative, ground breaking, or even genius…) photographers, and unless they are photographers, art buyers, or photography enthusiasts, chances are they’ll never heard of any of them. Unless of course Ansel was one of the, and of course what real photographer would ever name Ansel as one of his favorites?

    Photography is generally a means to an end, and that end, if you do it for a living is to generate income by having your photography serve a purpose. The purpose could be to raise awareness, compel someone to buy something, illustrate something, build a brand, serve as an investment medium, etc. The purpose is not to be the most creative or original. We may like to think so, but really that’s not the purpose it serves. It may win accolades and praise from others in the industry, but other than feeding our egos, and helping us to get more work, it’s not accomplishing much. PDN may be New York centric, but that’s not surprising. So many would have you believe that those profiled in, or graced by, the photography gurus at PDN are the only ones worthy of being photographers. When in truth, there are so many others out there successful, fulfilled, and making a good living as photographers. And many of them probably never read PDN or CA, don’t enter the contests, and don’t care who wins.

    As has been stated several times, the most creative and original are not usually winning the awards anyway. Most photography is a product, and their are winning formulas out their. Swap out the pages of the last five years of the PDN’s photo annual, or CA’s photo annual, or whatever. It’s all the same. With all the blank stares in portraits, the muted landscapes, banality, and all the typical “anti-photography” photography, along with the illustrative, surreal look, there’s not been much new in years.

    Not that I’m complaining. It is what it is. My work serves someone else’s needs in order that I may get paid, so that I can do it again and again. My corporate clients, the customers who see the ads, and buy the products are completely unaware, and unconcerned with whether or not the photography is original or creative in any way. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like creativity and originality. I do, and in fact I glance through the PDN photo annual and CA photo annuals in about 5 minutes these days, as it’s rare that something is compelling enough to make me stop. What it does mean is that while I’m inspired by creative and original work, they are only important if they serve a purpose. I guess for many, feeding the ego is purpose enough, though, I think many more of us are just happy to make a good living, and be paid to do what we like to do. My job is to make the client happy, not the jurors.

    By the way, I once shot a whole bunch of black and white landscapes of the mountains and deserts and even won an award or two. I sold some too. None of them were original or very creative for that matter.

  48. In my opinion there is not a lot similar in these images except they use models lying down to appear in air. I have seen this trick done by more than just these two photographers, some of which work has been published I think I recall. To say anyone stole anyones idea is a tad over protective and silly in my mind. I think everyone should get their panties out of a bunch and move on. Im glad the photographers in this case handled it as they should have – as though they were two people who had similar ideas separately of each other. I think most things have been done before somewhere, so not much is likely to be truely original anyway. Both works are really good. But different.

  49. @ 55. Scott: The content not the execution. Several writers would pitch the exact same story at once and they always think we take their idea and give it to the other writer.

    @ 56. Kevin: Bravo. Great response.

  50. I just wrote a different view on an idea I had yesterday on my blog. The post is called Dammit!!!!!!

    This is an interesting read ( keep up the good work APE ).

    How many of you had an idea, and yea, you know its been done before, but then you open one of your favorite mags, and see it that same day?

  51. Photo District Nerd

    This isn’t the first time that PDN has recognized someone for work that has, knowingly or not, been done before.

    PDN and its staff are not experts any more than anyone else who avidly follows photography.

    The awards mean very little. Most awards mean very little.

    The ones that are selected are skilled photographers who are also very lucky. There are many more than 30 good young photographers out there.

    Oh, I am a past PDN30 photographer. Being selected didn’t change much for me. Continuing to shoot and make good work did.

  52. Peter Wilde

    i had a great response to this, but i see someone else had already copied it & posted it ;-)

  53. Hey Chip!!! I have some pictures of a mutual friend to send you.

    I remember a few years ago I had this great idea to paint one of my walls glossy black and shoot against it with a hard light. I did this with a great model and was so excited about the pictures…then someone referred me to Terry Richardson’s “Black” campaign for Sisley. Oops.

    Nowadays something like that wouldn’t bother me. I think if one’s style is so dependent on the concept that they need to be concerned with its originality, then he/she doesn’t really have a style at all – the photographer is easily replaceable. The Jennifer/Jan example is a good one. They have distinctly different styles, and the coincidence of this one photo concept is really no big deal. It’s not so peripheral that it’s some kind of surprise two people came up with it independently.

  54. @ 37. FirstTime LongTime, I think this would be a great new topic….Are photo contest worth the entry fees? From what I can tell if you get in one of these photo annuals (PDN, Communication Arts, American Photography) photo editors do notice. APE made a post about the PDN’s 30 last week, so he obviously looks at it. Jen Rochell may not have gotten an jobs yet but I bet she got more notice than she would have from a promo.

    I understand that the entry fees are a way for the magazine to make money but I think you are ignoring the fact that they are also an inexpensive way for a young photographer to (possibly) get noticed by a ton of photo editors and art buyers.

    Now that I think of it PDN’s 30 doesn’t even have an entry fee.

  55. @ 65 has a good point and one I’ve been wondering about a lot lately. $65 is cheap if you win the contest and get the “free” advertising. But it sure isn’t cheap if you don’t. It seems like it’s only worth it to enter if you know you will win, but obviously you don’t.

    There are 4 or 5 contests that I’d like to enter each year, to a total tune of $300 or so. Which in some ways is not a lot of money, but at a time when I’m trying to establish myself, pay my bills and promote myself, it’s very difficult to come up with that kind of cash.

    I’d love to hear Rob discuss contests.

  56. I agree with 61, i am one of the Avant Guardian and it didn’t changed much for me too, actually it seems that it was really bad to be included in this year AG.
    I’d love to hear Rob take on contest too.

  57. It was me. I invented this. Also…that Duct-taping Holgas to Gold Fish thing…that was me too.

    I am also planning to pioneer a technique that requires Natalie Portman, a cutlery drawer and at least three copy editors holding chairs…but with a twist. No one else my now photograph her. Ever. You might as well send her to my house right now.

  58. Hey ho!
    Nice one.. I just had a brief chat with Jennifer the other week and suddenly we have a huge discussion!
    Please all: ITS ALL GOOD!

    I don’t claim sole copyright on the idea and was just very surprised that pdn featured that image as a signature-picture of Jennifer for given reasons.

    The discussion is an interesting one, but please dont haggle over whose wrong or right between Jennifer and myself. We re both fine with it.
    In the end the visal consumer decides if he likes the individually produced image, considering his/her knowledge. The discussion should rather be about political power and manipulation in so called indipendant and all-knowing photography magazines. What do awards mean after all, who funds them, who makes money with them and who are the people in the judging panel.. how much do they know and how limited is all of that!

    A good day from sunny Berlin,

    P.S: You should all see Robin Rhode’s work.. he rocks.. and funny enough we both started independantly with our series in 2002…

    and who knows who influenced us on our creative processes. I am a strong believer that great ideas come always to several people. It only gets funny when ad-agencies or magazines think commercial!

  59. “The discussion should rather be about political power and manipulation in so called indipendant and all-knowing photography magazines. What do awards mean after all, who funds them, who makes money with them and who are the people in the judging panel.. how much do they know and how limited is all of that!”

    Its why I don’t have a website and don’t engage with any of that, the whole celeb “name” bollocks is just turning people into headless wannabe chickens seemingly desperate to be part of a feudal structure (with “important” curators as king and Queens) and getting fucked over along the way, its now entertainment with TV programs showing us endless wannabes stepping up to be humiliated, photography paid review, mag submissions is just part of that. The people who are really doing intense and, for me, interesting stuff, are not part of any of that, and in this environment are never likely to be.

  60. For those of you who believe in uniqueness, get on the bandwagon that’s been pluggin along since, oh, early to mid last century. Nothing about you or your work or life is unique. Despite what your Mums told you, you are in fact a conglomeration of all the shitty TV you’ve been enjoying over the years. If you’re smart, you’ll embrace this. Picasso did. Warhol did. So forth.

    And in this particular case of Jeniffer and Jan…in biology it’s called parallel evolution.

    As for PDN doing poopy edits. I have long had a theory that they do it on purpose, that they intentionally muck the work up just a bit as not to intimidate, isolate, or make their very sensitive ego photographer reader base feel like un-subscribing (that’s you). Imagine if the work in PDN was really brilliant and you weren’t able to get high horsed about how smart you are and how dumb they are and you were instead on a monthly basis reminded that you’re mediocre.

    (All the shit-talking on this site lately has made it lame.)

  61. FirstTime LongTime

    On his excellent blog today, Colin Pantall posts something about Stephen King that has interesting parallels to this topic.

    And make sure to follow the link, near the bottom, about the video interviews published by the Tate. These are not related to this topic, but they are fine interviews, especially the ones from Rineke Dijkstra and Paul Graham.

    (There is another one, from Stephen Shore, easily missed. Scroll down the list of interview names to find his.)

  62. Not Bitter Photog.

    @ DMorton: Absolutely correct re: the feudal structure lorded over by “important” curators. What makes the structure so intolerable is the quality of the curators. Jorg Colberg? Jen Bekman? The publishers at PowerHouse Books? Gallerists who don’t trust their taste but need to make a return on investment? Failing magazines looking for another income stream? These clowns prey on the natural insecurities of young photogs, reenforcing the bland sameness we see over and over again. A sad state of affairs.

  63. @67: Amen to that.

    I’m not an avant guardian, but I know a few people who were and from that point on, you run the risk of being pegged as a “Surface” photographer. Sure, it doesn’t dog you for the rest of your career, but it can take a while to shake the stigma.

    I’m not naming names, but certain, VERY prestigious NYC based independent fashion magazines (that should narrow the pool a bit, so guess away) in the past have openly stated that Surface is a conflict. Actually, I think it’s just that they don’t like Surface’s aesthetic (too plastic-y/contrived) but go figure.

    Back when I was a young-un, I wanted to be an avant guardian but now I am soooo happy I wasn’t given that “honor”.

  64. Let’s say for the sake of argument Jen did ripoff Jan and Jan ripped off someone else.

    How is this different from all of the Jim Fiscus wannabes a few years back?
    I mean, look at all of the overly contrasty images floating around because so many photographers wanted to outright copy his signature style.

    But wait … did Fiscus ripoff Andrzej Dragan or was it the other way around?

    Ahh … the cycle.

  65. Dreams of Flying is such a great set of pictures.

    I immediately saw the connection with the PDN picture, but to be honest I just thought “that reminds me of those brilliant photos of kids by that dutch guy”. If anything, Jen should not show that one picture purely because it is so reminiscent of the Dreams of Flying **and yet just not as good**, which is for me the crucial thing.


  66. Funny… I see the similarity, but really I think Jen’s pictures look much more “clean” while Jan’s stuff looks much more raw. Or I guess you could say Jan’s looks like “art” while Jen’s looks like “commercial art”

    Interesting how this all works.

    I think she makes some great points in her remarks.

    I can’t imagine that Jan is the first person to ever have done this.

    If Jen gets knocked on for this, then there are a lot of us who have been inspired by other photographers and artists who should just quit now and start doing some number crunching job.

  67. Go to nadav kander’s site, click the assigned work, then adidas. One of the first pictures in the horizontal-pic sets is the same premise as these too.

  68. “As for PDN doing poopy edits. I have long had a theory that they do it on purpose, that they intentionally muck the work up just a bit as not to intimidate, isolate, or make their very sensitive ego photographer reader base feel like un-subscribing (that’s you). Imagine if the work in PDN was really brilliant and you weren’t able to get high horsed about how smart you are and how dumb they are and you were instead on a monthly basis reminded that you’re mediocre.”

    Some of the posts – like the one above are hilarious. Not to say that PDN is the end all be all of what is good, but they run plenty of stories about amazing photographers. And all of you that are putting it down would absolutely JUMP at the chance to be in the magazine. The 30 is not a contest – it’s a free editorial that highlights 30 talented people each year. I’m a photo editor and I use it every year to hire people. Love it or hate it, it’s one of the best showcases in the photo industry. Everyone should just get off it and go make some work they are proud of.

  69. Hi,
    I am no relation to Jennifer, well maybe way back possibly, but I have been a pro photographer for 28 years in Yorkshire, England and am a former Picture Editor of the Yorkshire Post.

    Over the years I have looked at so many portfolios and seen time after time the same ideas and similar images. Its not unusual. I feel people can make up their own minds about who has been influenced by who and where credit should be given.

    The best photographers I have ever known in my opinion are the humblest, they realise how lucky they are to be the conduit of circumstance that has chosen them to create what they have. Where as the worst and most insecure are generally those who claim status over others.

    V best Giles Rocholl