Rodney Smith Scolds PDN About March Cover Image

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We’re frequently sent pairs (or trios) of similar-looking photo projects by outraged readers who think they’re clear-cut examples of copyright infringement.

Inventing new photographic material whole cloth, without reference or regard to the models of the past – from Rembrandt to the latest photography show – is nearly impossible in photography, and it would produce aridly self-referential work. The creativity of photographers who “build freely” on models from the past helps their work stand out, and push the medium forward.

via PDN Pulse.

There Are 15 Comments On This Article.

  1. J.M.G.: It’s not the scolding. It is a response by PDN editors to the scolding. You’ll need to read the PDN Pulse article to get the scold and see the images in question.

    There is a fundamental problem with PDN’s response: there is a huge difference between building from, or beyond, someone else’s works, and simply copying someone else’s works. Many (I hope most) would argue that the specific content of a picture is not (usually) what defines a photographer’s creative vision or style. Rather it is more generally their use of light, composition, and other often harder to define qualities. When, as part of the creative process, a photographer sets up a contrived situation, with highly unlikely associations between objects, it is usually not the objects per-se that the picture is about. Rather the photographer is using specific props to (hopefully) tell a bigger story. The chances that someone else can come along and use the same set of highly unlikely props and associations to tell their own unique story, to reflect a new, unique, or even derivative vision, is infinitismally small. The picture in question uses the very specific content and associations of the original in a way that does not appear derivative or progressive – it is clearly a copy.

    • I have a theory. I’ve always thought that some AD is the one’s that come up with these concepts. Like the Cristo v. ATT fracas (love that word). I don’t blame the cameraman for shooting those ads, I blame the AD. Thoughts? Rob? Insight?

  2. Maybe Smith “copied” someone, too. An issue like this–if you want to make it one–doesn’t begin and end with two photos. There’s a whole history of photography to investigate and consider. And a whole history of painting and drawing, too. Maybe Smith got his idea from a Watteau drawing (that’s what it reminded me of).

  3. So. Where is it? Where is the image that is SO similar it shines total disgrace on Cade Martin. That’s some pretty heavy accusations to throw at a fellow photographer who is so obviously talented and in possession of his own style.

    • It’s on his blog side by side. It’s pretty clear that someone was peeping at his photos. Even with the lighting and sets for the rest of the campaign.

      • Ahhh, thanks J.M. – I don’t know how I missed that. It’s easy to see what happened. The images are very different but the concept is the same. You can’t copyright a concept. “Woman drinking coffee surrounded by cups” – even “in the style of” isn’t a copyright infringement. That doesn’t stop it from infuriating the person with the original concept though.

        It Starbucks driving the concept, not Cade Martin – he’s blameless. That’s my opinion but you know what that’s worth.

        • I agree. Who cares? Woman surrounded by tea cups resembles another woman surrounded by teacups. Truly pressing matters…

          I like Rodney Smith’s work. It’s beautiful. But, imitation really is the highest form of flattery and this doesn’t begin to approach infringement.

  4. Oh my. Girl in Victorian setting, surrounded by teacups. What an original thought by Smith. Who’s he scolding next? Lewis Carroll?

    • I was thinking the same. I would bet that if you look on or deviantart there are about a million different shots of girls with teacups around them. Cade Martin shoots all his work in that style so it’s not like he stole the feel of it.

  5. scott Rex Ely

    Yeah, I think we should scold Peter Lindberg for copying another lame image of Taylor Swift holding a guitar.

  6. John Ricard

    I’m still waiting for Terry Richardson to go to war with Complex, Maxim and FHM for totally stealing his style.