selfie cindy and eric pattern obscure

Good Photographers Steal; Bad Photographers Copy

selfie cindy and eric pattern obscure

Dear friend,

A realization: GOOD PHOTOGRAPHERS STEAL; bad photographers copy.

Part 1: Stealing

I stole this idea.

Cindy eye and red curtain, flash. Kyoto, 2018
Cindy eye and red curtain, flash. Kyoto, 2018

This is a riff from Pablo Picasso, who also stole this saying from somewhere else.

This is what this saying means:

  1. Stealing inspiration/motivation/ideas from other photographers/artists is a good thing!
  2. However, simply copying (exactly) what others did before you (without adding anything new) is “bad” — meaning, boring for you.

Things to steal from other photographer-artists

Green leaves and black background. Kyoto, 2018
Green leaves and black background. Kyoto, 2018

I steal a lot. I steal shamelessly from other master photographers or master artists from the past. I steal their philosophies, ideas, compositions, the way they edit/sequence their books, and their color palettes/monochrome style.

My suggestion is to shamelessly steal anything and everything in the realm of art, but remix it and make something new — make it your own!

Cindy eyes bottom of frame composition (I stole this composition idea from my friend Charlie Kirk). Kyoto, 2018
Cindy eyes bottom of frame composition (I stole this composition idea from my friend Charlie Kirk). Kyoto, 2018

That means, you can steal the layer composition technique of Alex Webb or Constantine Manos, but try to do it a little differently– doing it in your own way and style!

Kyoto shadow and orange selfie. 2018
Kyoto shadow and orange selfie. 2018

If you love black and white like monochrome in the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Daido, Shomei Tomatsu, or Josef Koudela; steal their style– but still, try to do it in your own way!


Just shoot it!

Construction man inside Family Mart (looks like a statue). Kyoto, 2018
Construction man inside Family Mart (looks like a statue). Kyoto, 2018

Of course, if you make any photos (regardless of how much you steal from other photographers) it will be your own style. Why? Because when you make photos, you’re doing it with your own gut, your own soul, your own artistic vision, with your own idiosyncratic/unique/personal way.

Leica MP + Leica Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH + Kodak Portra 400 + flash in Paris subway.
Suit in Paris Subway.

For example, let’s say you wanted to do a photo project of the NYC subway, and saw Bruce Davidson‘s “Subway” book. That book shouldn’t discourage you– rather, I recommend you to shamelessly steal some ideas from it! But, when you do it– don’t try to copy the book or project picture-by-picture. Rather, find inspiration/motivation from Davidson, but when you shoot the subways, don’t try to copy his technique or approach. Do it your own way! Use the camera equipment/gear you would prefer, approach strangers however you want (either with or without permission, Bruce Davidson almost always asked for permission), and whether with flash or natural light (Davidson used flash).

For more inspiration on how to shoot street photography in the subway, pick up a copy of STREET HUNT >


Originality is overrated

Woman in New York Metro who is looking directly at me with eye contact. The dynamic tension of, “What is she going to do, or say next?”

A lot of photographers get discouraged by other photo-critics, or photographers, who say that their work is “derivative” and “un-original” or “un-inspired”. I say ignore all the haters, critics, and nay-sayers. Just shoot whatever interests you, however it interests you, and stay true to your own vision, and don’t compromise your artistic vision.

Originality is overrated. Better for you to make photos which YOU consider is good.


Part 2: Copying

Copying is bad.

stop kyoto texture

Why do I consider copying bad? A copy (if you imagine like copying files, or a xerox machine) — to make a 100% replica of something is boring. To copy another photographer-artist means to literally try to make photos exactly like how that photographer made photos, to use their exact same technique, approach, etc.

For example, when I started shooting with a flash in street photography, I copied Bruce Gilden. When I was a newbie at flash, I think it was a good thing. But as I evolved, I just started to “steal” the techniques of flash and street photography from photographers such as Martin Parr (who “stole” the concept of shooting with a macro lens and flash for his ‘Common Sense’ project, which he got inspiration from Araki’s Flowers project) and Anders Petersen (who got inspired by Daido Moriyama, who got inspired by William Klein). And the more I stole these ideas/techniques/approaches (without being a 100% clone), I got better — my photos became more unique/interesting.

Taxi driver and frame covering face. Kyoto, 2018
Taxi driver and frame covering face. Kyoto, 2018

I started to evolve from simple black and white street flash photography to color street flash photography. Now, I use flash quite often to photograph anything and everything– whether an urban landscape, whether my food, or something else.


“Do you

Cindy in front of our apartment. Dutch angle at night. Kyoto, 2018
Cindy in front of our apartment. Dutch angle at night. Kyoto, 2018

Your life is short. Why waste your time/life living the life of someone else?

Be unabashedly/shamelessly you. There is only one of you on this planet. There is only one person with the same life experiences, outlook, and opinion as you.

It is better for you to true to yourself (even if you may be “bad”), than to copy someone else and be great.

BE BOLD,
ERIC


JUST SHOOT IT.

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