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This photo is...
A rip-off the famous work by the famous Gursky 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
An original idea by this not yet famous photographer 100%  100%  [ 4 ]
A rip-off a photograph you took once but never showed anyone except your mum. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 4
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:05 pm 
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Simple question stemming from some online drama.

When you see a photograph that reminds you of another, already famous photo you know- what must the similarities be in order for you to say 'That is plagiarism'?

Boing Boing linked to this photograph on Flickr the other day:


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In the comments you will see a recurring trend; people claiming this photo is 'a blatant rip-off' of this photograph by Andreas Gursky:

Image


I think it's ridiculous. The photos are different. They have a similar theme, but they are not at all the same photograph.

But, what do you think? What makes a photograph a rip-off? Do you think this one is? Why yes and why no?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:20 pm 
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You mean, when someone photographs a particular object from a particular angle, no one may ever photograph anything similar from any similar angle again? They're going to have to ban cameras at every national monument and natural wonder in the world.

I think that's absurd.

Both photos are interesting, but I actually like the first one better, as a piece of art.

If the angle had been identical, showing the back wall and the ceiling of the store, I might be more inclined to wonder how much the second photographer was "inspired" by the first. But not when the two photos are framed differently and give me, anyway, a different "feeling."

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:25 pm 
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That's like saying that Howard Shore was ripping off Wagner because he used some themes that were inspired by the German composer. Or that a filmmaker who was influenced by Hitchcock's distinctive style was "ripping him off".

Like Prim, I like the first photograph better. But what do I know?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:33 pm 
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I agree with both of you that the first photo is nicer- and also, yes, they do give me a different feeling! I feel that the first one is meant to show us how much we consume, what an endless sea of products and packaging we walk through every day, while the second one seems more like a comment on the bleakness of modern life.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:50 pm 
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I like the first one, too. It reminds me of African kente cloth.

Kente Gallery

If only one person can take a picture of a market, how many can take a picture of a tree?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:23 pm 
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narya wrote:
I like the first one, too. It reminds me of African kente cloth.

Kente Gallery


That was my thought too :) (though I didn't know the name)

And if it is a rip-off rip away cuz I also find the first far more interesting. It'd kinda be like the occasional case where the cover song is better then the original (say, All Along the Watchtower).

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:30 pm 
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It's interesting to see that the photographer stopped commenting herself once the "rip off" comments started (although she did respond to the first Gursky comment). Of course, there IS another person who does a good job of responding to the rip-off comments. ;)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:04 pm 
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I don't know that we can call it a "blatant ripoff" without knowing what inspired the photographer. Had the photographer ever seen the Gursky photo? Were they conscious of the Gursky photo when they took it? If so, then I think we could say it was semi-plagiaristic, although there are some key differences such as the presence of people and the signs on the back wall.

You have a keen eye, narya. It does have the of patterns and colors reminiscent of kente cloth. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:17 pm 
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The photo only has two similarities: location and angle. Everything else is completely different, including the apparent theme (I agree with Ro). The two are much to different and at most, the first could be said to be inspired my the second.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:19 pm 
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This is what the photographer had to say:

Quote:
I didn't want to make the Gursky reference because I thought it would sound snooty. But the similarity is pretty uncanny.


That seems to imply that she was not thinking of Gursky's photo when she took the shot, but it is hard to say conclusively.

But earlier, she said:

Quote:
This was one of those shots that I actually saw when visiting the store for the first time (this was last December) and RAN home to get my camera because I was in awe.


That certainly seems to indicate that she was inspired by what she saw, not by Gursky's photo.

(Ro, do you think it is bad for me to quote her comments here? If so, I will delete them.)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:32 pm 
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No, I don't think so. They're posted publicly on Flickr. I wouldn't worry.

So, if everyone seems to agree that calling this plagiarism is too much, then can you think of a situation where you would be certain a photo is a rip-off?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 10:01 pm 
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Well, if someone decided that they wanted to duplicate Ansel Adams' famous photo of Half Dome at Yosemite and set out copying the angle and the lighting and everything else as exactly as possible, I suppose that would be a rip-off. But it would still take a lot of skill to come anywhere's near duplicating the original.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 10:19 pm 
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I think plagiarism would be easier to claim if there was some humorous point to the photo, or some other "message" it was sending. A similar image is not enough; it has to have a similar meaning that's clear to most people.

No one attempting to duplicate Ansel Adams' photo is going to come up with the same photo; it will just be another pretty Yosemite photo. What made the original distinctive and valuable was that Ansel Adams took it.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:09 pm 
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Who took the one in your sig, btw, Prim?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:57 pm 
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If someone copies the actual photograph and claims it as his own, that's plagiarism.

Otherwise, it's another photographer. Seems plain enough to me.

Um. I could write a poem about "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" but it wouldn't be like Frost's. I'd probably use a different title, but even if I used the same title, it's a different poem. It's not plagiarism unless I try to pass another's work off as my own.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:26 am 
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So I just spent half an hour trying to find the photo I used for my sig. I couldn't (the original, I mean, the one I could then use to find the photographer's name).

I'll be replacing it, and I'm going to try hereafter to put a link to the source of the photos I use. I don't use people's commercial work or work that's for sale. There are a lot of spectacular amateur sites out there, though.

I haven't been particularly stringent about this, but I'm going to start making sure I've got a name or at least a Web site for any photo I use in a sig.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:28 am 
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That's a grand thing to do, Prim. ALmost no one cares about that online, and yet it matters, a lot, especially when the internet is so HUGE!

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:28 am 
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I think plagiarism would be easier to claim if there was some humorous point to the photo, or some other "message" it was sending. A similar image is not enough; it has to have a similar meaning that's clear to most people.

No one attempting to duplicate Ansel Adams' photo is going to come up with the same photo; it will just be another pretty Yosemite photo. What made the original distinctive and valuable was that Ansel Adams took it.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:29 am 
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Hmmh, excellent question.

I also like the first photo better, because it seems to be about the richness and diversity of ordinary things - they are all just boring old chewing gums or whatever, but seen from the right angle they are a marvel of colour.

The second picture, as all the others have remarked, too, is exactly the opposite. The cold light and the people getting lost amid the mass of products show us how the consumerist world is soulless and product-oriented.

But it's still both shelves in a store photographed from a bird's eye view, which in itself, it must be admitted, is pretty unusual.

And that's, I think, where the originality value comes in. There's no doubt that a million tourists all taking photos of the same monument aren't committing plagiarism. There's also no doubt to me that if I happened to take a pic similar to the one in Prim's sig, I'm not committing plagiarism, because although a lovely photo, it's still just some forest, and countless such pictures of forests have been taken without anyone consciously imitating anyone else - just because the natural beauty of the situation strikes many people and it doesn't take much invention to choose this particular angle and excerpt. (Although the slope strikes me as pretty unusual.)

However, in the case of the store shelves there might be a different aspect to this. (I'm not saying that this makes it plagiarism, though.)
The reason is that it would not strike anyone as self-evident to climb up some place in a store and take a bird's eye shot of the shelves.
If you have an original that is very well known and unique, you can't do something similar without having people make connections.
Yes, if the person who took the pic just found herself up there (maybe because the store has a second floor?) and looked down, she would have noticed the interesting picture that would make.
But normally, stores just have one floor, don't they? How did she get up there, if not in order to recreate someone else's picture?

I still don't think it's plagiarism, because even if Gursky's picture gave her the idea to take a bird's eye view from store-shelves in the first place, she is saying something completely different with the same material.

So, this seems more a case of artistic influence, which is perfectly legitimate, and even, one could say, vital for art.

But it is also a fact of Western art since the Renaissance that invention is the thing that counts most, and if you imitate something which is famous for invention, you better have a good reason for it.



ETA: who on earth is this Ansel Adams???

ETA again: I'd never heard the name of Gursky before, either.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:47 am 
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That's two, yov. Two! :x

Hobby, Ansel Adams was a great photographer best known for his black-and-white images of Yosemite in California. A quick Google search should bring up a lot of sites with images of his work. It's worth a look. He used huge photographic plates, so his images are amazingly sharp, and he was willing to wait all day for precisely the conditions of light and cloud he wanted.

I'd post an example here, but they're copyrighted.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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