It appears that Mexico has its very own Mark Seliger… well, they have a photographer who bought Mark’s Physiognomy book and tried to knock-off many of the setups for Mexican television company Televisa’s book featuring their on-air talent. The photos were taken by Gabriel Saavedra.

This blogger (here) broke the story several months ago.

Obviously simply copying an idea and setup doesn’t come close to making a picture work but it’s interesting to see how difficult it is in the comparison. The rigid attention to detail in Mark’s work really comes out here.





Discovered it on You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice.

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  1. and not only the attention to detail, but perhaps more importantly, the convincing persona, attitude, and stance of the models just isn’t there in the copies.

  2. This is a great post. A visual comparison of the quality side by side is a rarity.

    I am not sure what the second photographer was trying to accomplish with replicating the idea. But it highlights that quality of a finished product is king. Also that true originality is distinctive.

    Creative conceptualization and directorship is an important key element to producing stylistic work. Joel Peter Witkin would be an extreme example. Could you imagine someone trying to re create his work and slide under the radar? The map always leads back to the originators door.

  3. That too mucking fuch. Hopefully Mark sues them and he gets some pesos for that stupid act.

    • @bob scott, Great work! Particularly love your Pinkstaff Gallery photographs!

  4. Ha. This post brings up a funny, unrelated, memory. Not long after Chris Rock was photographed by in the fish tank by Mark, I was shooting him for a Life section cover of USA Today. Chris was getting really huge at this point in time and the headline of the story was going to say something along the lines of “Chris Rocks.”

    We had gone to a ToysrUs and gotten a silly rocking horse for him to sit on. Which he did, though he was in a really grumpy mood that day due to a crammed travel schedule. And while he put up with our silly request, he was doing it begrudgingly. We needed a “yee-haw” out of him and he was just kind of grinning.

    Finally, my assistant that day, Dan MacMedan, said playfully, “Dude, come on, you just were photographed for Rolling Stone with your head upside down in a fish bowl.”

    And without missing a beat, Chris said, “Dude, that was for Rolling Stone. You’re just USA Today.”


    • @Matt Mendelsohn,

      The illustrious world of celebrity portraiture.

    • @Matt Mendelsohn, I remember that picture. I suppose you didn’t mention the fact that U.S.A. Today was going to reach about a thousand times more readers.

  5. The interesting thing is that the copies don’t really make me stay with the photo. They seem more like a snapshot rather than a well produced shot. There’s not real emotion or feel in the photos.

    • @Michael Schulz,
      I concur, it felt like pathetic attempt. The ones by Mike had one thing the other guy could never replicate…..substance.

  6. I remember a number of years back being called out by a friend for taking a series of ‘jump-shots’. He’d nailed it; I had just discovered Philip Hasselman and felt I HAD to do something like it…While it was just a fun project for the hell of it, I felt pretty badly.
    But that was NOTHING compared to this….I don’ think.
    Shooting this, having it printed and then published in a book -kinda makes me want to retch. Just stupid.

    • @stephen edgar,

      Do you mean Phillipe Halsman?

      Debra Weiss

  7. There’s always got to be a Mexican version.

  8. I wonder why they didn’t copy the photo of Jenny McCarthy squirting mustard all over a hot dog.

  9. Andrew Jackanory’ Hetherington posted Rankin’s “magnificent seven” early this week, Rankin doing Beaton, Blumenfeld, Bailey, Bourdin, Avedon, Newton, and Ritts. (hey that’s some crazy law firm…or a wacko ad agency BBBBNA&R)-

    for me he gets three of the four B’s right, at least in feel, and they are not so purely knockoffs that they don’t have their own something. The Newton in its simplicity also seems to stand on its own. The Avedon and the Ritts are not even close.

    If there is a comparison here between what Rankin is doing and what Gabriel is doing, maybe the difference is that Rankin is picking better pictures to rip off-?? so it is more successful.

    In other words, “classic” or “timeless” survives better in translation, and literal concept pictures not as much. That might be fairer to Seliger.

    …but wasn’t Seliger riffing Leibovitz anyway?

  10. Well, granted these shots are a poor copy, it does go to show you that having good assistants, a great retoucher and top notch talent, not to mention a budget, can really help define a shot, .
    Mark Seliger is a man with a fantastic vision, an eye for precision, and a gift at pulling personality from his personalities.
    A tribute or homage this is not, at least not a gracious one.
    All it takes is one art director at a major publication to say “this guy is a genius and we can afford him” and then the world of photography becomes even more of a joke.
    Bless you Mark Seliger for keeping it real.

    • I’m not sure about “keeping it real”(whatever that means), but he keeps it interesting with great ideas and flawless technique. He may have started out trying to be like Annie but in my book he left her behind a long time ago.

  11. shows once more, the idea isnt enough.
    you have to understand it.
    and be able to pull it off.

    or he was just to forced to do those images by the image department… you never know.

  12. Taking the cliché: “Imitation is the highest form…” a bit far. That’s the Third World for you : – See it, Steal it, Mass produce it and sell it back to the godless hordes.

  13. On the legal side can he take action against the photographer or not? I don’t know much about international copyright laws and how they can be enforced.

    Pretty bad copies though, they don’t engage the viewer at all.

  14. Mark seliger started out just like Chip Simons in 1986-87. he was shooting any editorial that he got… really style. in fact he shot just like chip at one point…fish eye or wide angle and soft box….

    He somehow was destined to land one of the most covented positions in Commercial Photography.

    The Rolling Stone – Chief photographer that he inherited from Annie.and a contract , that was very rare.

    a few people made this decision. jann wenner, Annie and someone else .

    Mark busted his ass for sure but he was no Joel Peter Witkin or anyone with
    gifted talent. Instead he was some acned mofo from Texas that worked harder than anyone for that much money and schedule and if I was him i would not fuck it up either. HE HAD OPPORTUNITY and the rest is history.
    Now fast forward 20 years and he learned on the job just like Annie did.

    how many of you dudes were shooting in 1986 and making a living in NYC. without a lucky break in the fabulous world of Photography…

    whats my point ? no point…fuck the point….. just that Mark Seliger is not a great photographer , he is a blessed person that did not fuck the opportunity that he got somehow back in da day…Yo…..he had deadlines
    worked as hard as anybody that would have had that opportunity of a lifetime. Photography chose him…..but hes a scumbag….

    • @bitter photographer, Laughed and loved the running pop tart guy. Cool Mom. :-)

    • @bitter photographer, YES yes he is a filthy man parading around as this wonderful image maker. he loves to call whores to his hotel rooms and present them with disgusting requests.

  15. ¡Ay, caramba! A fine line between love and copyright infringement!

  16. Televisa’s entire business model it’s been -for years- about copying someone else creativity… I grew up and Mexico and saw that for a couple of decades in Mexican TV… I feel sorry for the photographer who gave his creative integrity and follow Televisa’s game … the word ‘copyright’ in Mexico does not exist… if you ask an attorney in Mexico about copyright law, their response will be- copyright what?!?

  17. It’s not just Mexico. A vast realm of the emerging economies (i.e. third world) regularly rips off popular visual and audio works. Really, this does not surprise me at all, despite that it might shock a few people.

    It would be interesting for the photographer in Mexico who did these to offer a few comments. I doubt that will happen, but it would be very interesting.

  18. @ Blue (11)
    or, “All it takes is one art director to say “this guy is a genius and we CAN’T afford him” so let’s just copy his work – would also sum it up for me, and then in a second step, as you point out, somehow the derivative becomes the next thing. I am sure all of us can think of some careers that were built this way.

    My guess is that in this case the copying was the strategy (and who knows, maybe they even thought of it as an homage.) Creatives have content copied all the time by the photographers they hire. Ad agencies use existing images for comping concepts and then rework those, etc etc etc. Ideally, the original artist is getting paid for that “in-house” usage, and the final product isn’t a cheap recreation. In the worst case, the end result is nothing but a bad copy and results in law suits.

    One of the funniest memories from when I first started shooting editorially was when an intern at a local magazine called me up one day. I can’t recall if I wasn’t available or had already moved away, whatever, but the poor girl was asked by her editors to phone me and ask for the recipe for my special sauce, as her assignment was to shoot something “in my style”, and she needed to know how to do that. No joke. She was mortified.

  19. It’s nothing new.
    It’s happens everywhere and all the time.
    How many times have you been handed a layout with someone else’s photo comped in and told to “copy” the shot?

    I once got a call from an assistant of mine who was working for another shooter across town.
    It seems they where just sent a layout with my shot comped in and told to copy it.
    At the time it was a highly distinctive style I was known for and the client new me.

  20. To quote the always brilliant “Simpsons” show:

    “Mr. Burns: Get me Steven Spielberg!”

    “Mr. Smithers: He’s unavailable.”

    “Mr. Burns: Then get me his non-union Mexican equivalent!”

    Something I noticed last week – the celebrity actor photo on the cover of glossy ‘Sydney magazine’ (that comes with the major daily newspaper) is somewhat reminiscent of the style of a high profile international portrait shooter. It was shot by a local photographer however. Homage seems to be very popular these days.

  22. Mark Seliger is a hack, one of the most uninspired photographers out there. See L’Uomo

    • @damnthatlion,
      Yes of course all photographers are hacks… or so it would seem since I can’t write about anybody with out a comment from someone like you that they suck. Of course I wasn’t even writing about Mark but that doesn’t stop the jerks from getting a couple shots in at him.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Bravo Rob!

  23. would the pic be the same if mark , instead of chris rock, would have used….. who is the guy in the mexican pik? does anybody know him? can you dip anybody in paint or does it have to be lennny krav? what format does mark use? can you get the same feel of genius with a 3 megapixel point and shoot? how many photographers in mexico have a nifty 3000000000 dollar 14ooooooooooooooooooooo pesos digital hasselblad back? did mark use the same drugs to sedate the cat as they did in the mexican shoot? how much did rolling stone pay for the chris shot? how much did gabriela get for the mexican rip off? i will contact televisa and ask them how much the charge per shoot and see if mark agrees to the price.

  24. We can’t relate to anyone in the copy images because we don’t know who they are that’s why it doesn’t work for us. The copies were made for the same campaign not for individual stories. Actually I think I would understand them in better context i.e Shepard Fairey. Some would say that he is a total rip off artists (I agree to that) but when you look at his work in the context it does seem interesting.

  25. Many are called few are chosen….Mark was blessed by being both called and chosen.How much was luck and how much was skill is a question to ask Mark(he’s pretty personable and a relatively accessible humanoid)but his skill level now is definitely way way up there w/ the gods like M.E Mark,Halisman,Parks, Bresson ,Hurrell,Liebowitz,et. al
    I don’t know about bitter photographer and his buds….
    We all have plenty to be bitter about nowadays but I don’t think Mark’s(or any one else’s for that matter )success is something to be bitter about.Why don’t you rant about something more rantworthy like absurdly low editorial rates worldwide,or amateur photogs and 9.00 usd per hour interns low bidding on bread and butter work,or Getty images trying to buy the whole world’s visual legacy for a nickel on the dollar in the endless quest for 100% market share,or all these fake web based “magazines” that are really a front for the old barbizon school of modeling scam,or hackers and picture thieves ,or microsoft and/or apple actively and passively enabling widespread theft of intellectual property,or mean people who kick puppies?????Leave Mark alone …the poor kid has had it rough….why doncha pick on someone with a good complexion?
    The mexican guy’s work is more than derivative and even though artists
    influence each other his ear’s should be boxed for blatant ripoffxploitation,there are just enough differences to make a lawsuit frivolous ….PS I still occasionally rip off the lighting from Mark’s Saturn campaign….its just too easy…sorry bud…

  26. Да уж, автор блога на самом деле очень добрый и отзывчивый человек. Спасибо :)

  27. I know this is about a year old, but the lessons here are still fresh. And so are the issues raised. Had I not seen the Seliger photos, the Saavedra opus would be passable, even interesting on the offhand. Seeing them placed side by side with the original really induces lip biting. What was he thinking?

    Another thing here were the third world comments by some. Seriously? Did you guys really think coming from a third world country would matter just because Saavedra’s Mexican? Brian de Palma as a director ripped off Alfred Hitchcock. Kurosawa was ripped off by Hollywood. And so on.

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