The fashion world is abuzz over a Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott’s 46 page fashion story for Love Magazine entitled “What Lies Beneath.” They’re also talking about the inspiration it draws from Jeff Bark’s body of work “Woodpecker.”

You can see a couple of the closest comparisons between the two in the images below. Clearly the lighting, set, animals and overall idea come from Bark, but there is almost no exact copying of the images beyond that. Of course that’s plenty for many people to cry foul, and they have online, but the similarities do end and the fashion duo go on and do their thing with it. It’s always a little shocking to see famous photographers knocking other famous photographers off, but it’s not very uncommon in fashion.

(Berk on left)

(Berk on left)

via, Fashionista.

Recommended Posts


  1. This is not just a fashion story that has used another photographer’s work for inspiration. This is work that was shown at respected galleries (Michael Hoppen in London) by a fine art photographer (who as well has a fashion photography career) and has been plagiarized in such a blatant manner by a respected magazine and the fashion world’s top photographer disregarding copyrighted work of Jeff Bark.

    It’s not just the two images you’ve posted either, it’s the entire body of the Woodpecker Series:

    As an agent who represents photographer’s I am deeply disturbed by this as anyone who can see what they are looking at should be.

  2. Using or even referring to, Mert and Marcus in the same sentence as:
    ‘ the fashion world’s top photographer ‘
    is an insult to photographers that actually know what the hell they are doing.

    Mert and Marcus ripping off anthers works, really??
    That’s news to anyone?
    Ever hear of Google Images? plenty of examples of the other rip offs they have done.

    Mert and Marcus could not light their way out of a match book much less light their own sets.
    Just ask those crew members that do ALL of the work for them.

    Once again this is a clear and perfect example that it’s who you know and who you blow in the world of commercial photography. To$$ in some deep pocket$ and you can become infamous even faster.

    Posts like this only serve to promote Mert and Marcus and drive traffic to their site, it does not condemn them.

  3. Blame the idiot art buyer or photo editor that hired these guys. What were they thinking? “Yes, please supply us with artwork similar to another photographers work.” Besides – If you research the photographers of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s – you’ll find – it’s all been done before. Nothing today is original.

  4. Rob, it’s helpful when you make these posts in an effort to disseminate what’s going on in the community at large, but I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make with this post. What’s your point of view? On the one hand you seem to be taking the position that it’s not a big deal– that Alas & Piggott were clearly influenced but ultimately turn it into their own thing– then you close the post with a sort of passive-aggressive statement that it’s shocking to see famous photogs knock each other off. Which is it? I’m genuinely curious and not trying to be critical.

    You’ve facilitated interviews in the past with notable photographers who’ve been questioned by commenters about their influences and those commenters have usually been shot down or chastised for even insinuating that notable photographers might be influenced by what they see or that they might even knock off what they see. One of your interviewed photographers in particular I remember displayed lots of images in their portfolio that bear striking resemblances to equally talented yet lesser known photographers that your interviewed photographer ostensibly travels with on personal projects. It happens all the time and a lot of times it isn’t a big deal until someone makes it a big deal. Other times these scenarios where people obviously have been overly influenced by someone else’s work are indeed a very big deal, but they get glossed over commensurate to the stature of the photographer who does the copying.

    These scenarios fascinate me.

    • It’s clear what I think but other than that I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  5. All questions of copyright foul or lack of originality aside, I’m just super sick to death (ha) of seeing ‘dead’ people –and especially dead girls (as they outnumber the dead boys by at least 10-to-1)– in fine art & fashion photography. Is necrophilia so popular/common as the plethora of such images might lead us to believe…? Ugh.

    • Unless it’s a play on the death of beauty.

      But no, your idea that it’s just a bunch of guys butt fucking corpses makes way more sense.

  6. It’s not surprising, these guy began their career by knocking off (sometimes shot for shot, sometimes just in style) the 70’s French photographer Jacques Bourboulon. When it’s almost a shot for shot knock off, they really should acknowledge the photographer that inspired them.

  7. with photographers like David LaChapelle suing music artists like Rihanna for copyright infringement of their work by replicating it’s look and feel in a video, can we really condone photographers ripping off each others work? Inspiration is one thing, but this I think is one step too far.

  8. Well, every single possible combination of angle, composition, color, pose and concept has been done. I say we pack it up and stop shooting photos, cause it’s all been done before.

    • Years ago I was working on a TV series. We had a new (as in first job) director. The young director was walking around the kitchen using his thumbs and forefingers as a framing device. After several minuets of this the DP told him “There are only 100 shots in this kitchen, and you’re not going to invent another one.”

      BTW dead people in fashion hase become a cliché.

      • You do realize I was being sarcastic right? :)

        But I do like that DP.

        • I’ve been looking for a good reason to pass along the story, and you gave it to me. Thanks.

          It was obvious that you were being sarcastic, but the DP was telling the truth. 8-)


    ” LEETA: A lot of photographers in the ‘90s copied your style, using hard flash, hotel rooms, cars, even dogs.
    HELMUT: I’ll tell you something, I’m touched if I can influence young people. I was influenced by Brassai, by Erich Salomon — they’re the people that I admired when I was very young. In fact, I still think there’s some Brassai in my photography — which is a good thing. But what really pisses me off is when famous photographers do it. I’m not mentioning names, but I’m thinking of a Versace campaign. You know the photo of the woman with the garters?

    LEETA: You mean Steven Meisel?
    HELMUT: Mind you, he’s a very good photographer. But it’s a dumb way to work. But look, young people have got to start somewhere. I grew up in the Bauhaus period, I looked at Maholy-Nacy, Cartesh [fc], and Brassai.”

    But read all its good


  10. I like the Newton quote above. Marina Abramovic also complained once about Meisel ripping one of her performance pictures and recreating it without so much as a thank you note. This is so common at the high commercial end of fashion, but people call it “homage” to get away with it. It’s really just lazy – playing it safe by sticking to old successful ideas.

  11. WTF?? Wow, this is just beyond wack. This “inspiration” B.S. has really got to stop. I mean, what’s with the euphemism? It’s a COPY (or “KNOCKOFF” works if you prefer).

    I’m not exactly a lawyer here but I’d say Bark has a pretty strong case – Mert & Marcus ripped off Bark closely enough for a us to all notice the similarities. Besides, it doesn’t need to be an exact copy to hold up in court, but needs to be close enough that there are substantial similarities. M&M copied Bark closely enough that gazillions of people noticed the similarities or even confused the images in some cases. I mean, as a point of comparison, the M&M knockoff is a lot closer to the original than Rihanna’s video is to David LaChappelle’s pictures, and even that’s proceeding to trial. You can see the images in question here – they’re not nearly as close as M&M’s knockoff is to Bark:

    Also, there are a lot more similarities than the 2 images above:
    show good examples.

    It’s also even more remarkable that Katie Grand, editor-in-chief of LOVE magazine was previously editor of POP magazine, where she hired Bark to shoot for her:
    So, she was obviously very much aware of Jeff Bark’s work. She should be fired for this.

    What I really don’t get about all this is that she liked his work enough to hire him previously, and liked this series enough to knock it off (no doubt at great expense – artificial lakes don’t come cheap! They even copied details like the flowering bush in the background and the rickety wooden dock!). Well then, I mean, why not just hire Bark to shoot it himself???? Seriously!?!?

    I sure hope Bark is able to come of out this very well compensated for his work.

  12. While I agree that it’s a shameless rip-off, I have to say that I find Mert and Marcus’ version much better.

    Also, let’s not forget that Jeff Bark’s series seems very much ‘inspired’ by Bill Henson’s work.

    • I fail to see the connection between Henson and Bark, other than low-key lighting.

      • Low key lighting, location, pale semi-nude people in white underwear leaning over each other.
        I’m obviously not saying it’s plagiarism by Bark at all but one can clearly see the inspiration.

        • I definitely see the Bill Henson connection

  13. “Over the years, many of my pictures have been copied by many photographers of note and some who could be categorized as legally blind, as an homage to my work. I never understood why someone would blatantly copy and publish an image that is so obvious, as to shout to the world this image is a bad copy. In fact, I believe other than the basic idea, it is not possible to copy a photograph or a painting. The crucial ingredients that cannot be copied is the chemistry and spirit that went into the original. The act of stealing is most debilitating to the perpetrator as they can never experience growth through organic creation, and in turn destroy their psychic potential as an artist. The convenience of the internet has amped the appropriation or homage of “Stolen Sweets” as an old friend and jewel thief, Albie Baker, called his swag. We are living in a time where the tools and technology are the best we have ever seen, but somehow the images produced are …lacking in originality and spirit. “. from Melvin Sokolsky blog

  14. This is total crap and unacceptable. They’ve ripped off Guy Bourdin before on top of the other example,s previously mentioned. I have to agree with Don above about the complicity of the buyer/photo editor. What were they thinking? Why not just go hire Bark? That’s what I never understand when this happens. I’m guessing he’s not more expensive than M&M.

    I posted about another instance of this this month:

  15. How this is is surprising to anyone at this point is what’s surprising. If you’ve ever worked on a fashion shoot, from editorial to catalog you’ll see binders full of “swipes” that the photo editors, art directors, photographers, stylists models, and crew pour over ripping every possible combination of things off. From angles to sets to lighting to props to locations to makeup to even talent and on and on and on. Hell I’ve seen people demand the same catering as on other fashion shoots.

    It’s like being pissed that a thief got ripped of by a burglar.

  16. As an impartial observer who has never seen any of these photos before today and doesn’t care about any of the individuals, I find the relationship between Bark and Henson is a level of similarity that might be deliberate or inadvertent inspiration or even just that they like the same stuff, ie acceptable. Whereas it is quite obviously that the production team at Love sat down together with Bark’s photos and deliberately recreated them, which is unacceptable. The fairness/legal aspect of this is obviously important, but to my mind far more important is what it says about the lack of creative inspiration and complete laziness in the fashion industry. If fashion people would stop looking at models and stylists, and photo books and old magazines and started to pull inspiration from the outside world, which is actually pretty exciting and full of stuff, it would be a lot more interesting for the rest of us. And I include the designers of clothes in that too. But not graphic designers, who still manage to surprise and delight with something I haven’t seen before at least some of the time.

  17. Inspiration and appropriation are the sincerest form of flattery.
    Steven Meisel has made a living using other artist’s work. In most cases he improves on the idea or work that is being appropriated. It doesn’t diminish his images one bit.
    Artists have done this forever.
    Most people don’t know it”s stolen because most viewers don’t know anything about art or art history.
    At least most people in fashion do a good job with this method, whereas advertising usually botches it due to the hive mentality.
    How this is still a topic of conversation is what is really surprising.

  18. Enough is enough.

    They ripped off Steven Kleins Aesthetic for Interview Mag with Naomi Campbell. Then they ripped off Steven Meisel BADLY with their Paris Vogue Isabeli Fonatana shoot. Now this? It’s despicable.

    Sure, they’ve always ripped off photographers such as Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin but at least the shots were old and the photographers, dead. This is just sinking to a new low and a new level of gutter trash.

    Jeff Bark really should sue these guys. It’s hideous and representative of the industry right now. Stale, dead and caught, stuck up it’s own ass.

    This? For a Conde Nast publication? The industry is doomed.

    Please. It’s time to move on. No more Mert and Marcus, or as many, in certain circles know them as – Fat and Carcass. Anyone can copy. how about someone who can create?

  19. I have been following the various blog sites that have been covering the blatant plagarism by Marcus and Mert by one of our most talented gallery artists – Jeff Bark. I showed “Woodpecker’ when Jeff made the series some 6 years ago. I know the blood sweat and tears he went through to make this shoot happen – all on his own money too, no one paid him nor gave him the idea, the idea came from HIS heart as the scenario actually happened to him when he was a teenager. So to see this copied in such a hammy fashion by two people who are also notorious for copying other artists work ,and getting paid for it, irks me, and I support Jeff in all that he decides to do. H. Maybe Nobuyoshi Araki (who they also copy) should also take a look at their ‘version’ of his seminal work. It’s tacky, sad and should really be stopped. People who are paid to come up with fresh ideas should make them so, and if they decide to copy – it should be a ‘hommage’ rather than portrayed as their own. Why on earth the magazine and art director did not ask Jeff to make the series I have no idea – maybe they could explain to all of us how they thought no one would spot their skulduggery? I suspect this will inevitably happen again as they continue to copy one photographer after another and the veneer they cover the work with in postproduction does not hide the clumsy composition and cheap-thrill effects they think look cool.

  20. Michael,

    I think there are many, like you, who will support Jeff with this. It really deeply saddens me that as you say, this is Jeff’s idea, an idea that he spent so long working on, developing, with his own time and money for some cheap thief to come and rip off. I think many of us saw the behind the scenes documentation that went into this project and it’s fully realised the great deal of blood, sweat, tears and love went into this. It’s a work of genius and personally I find the original work infinitely better. So much deeper and sensual. But yet it pains me to hear so many people amazed at Mert and Marcus for their wonderful idea.

    How on earth these two are getting so much work is beyond me. It’s like buying a fake Picasso or a reproduction painting off the web. I want to use the word regurgitate but it’s not effective enough anymore – this is vomit. It’s cheap and pointless. If brands want to align themselves with that then really, what does that say for them and their brand?

    For me, this is the ultimate sin and exposes them as frauds in a twisted industry where this kind of thing happens alot. What annoys and saddens me the most is they get a way with it and continue to get so much work, such big campaigns and it says to the rest of the world that it is OK to do it. So the younger generation go further into a earned helplessness where all they do is copy and regurgitate, which is a really good word in this sense.

    Da Vinci said, in his time, that he didn’t think that in a time so advanced he could ever invent anything new…to say there is nothing original is rubbish and lazy.

    It’s time for a change. There are original people out there with original ideas.

Comments are closed for this article!