8 thoughts on “Steal Like an Artist”

  1. My answer to the question would be neither. I don’t steal, I copy. Not like an artist but like anyone else.

    Since the first time you talked about that book, I’ve had mixed feelings. I read it as soon as possible because it’s based on ideas I’ve believed in for over a decade now. For that reason, I’ve loved it. But at the same time, I hated it because of the choice of words. When I think about theft, I think about someone taking possession of something. Getting inspired, or even “blatantly ripping off”, is (most of the time) very far from that.

    I’ve also never liked this classification of the “good” and “bad” ways of copying/stealing. I’m not saying that all of these are good, but at the same time I don’t think they’re bad. The world is more complex than good and bad. I prefer to think that there are “smart” ways of copying, less smart ways, and very stupid ones. Plagiarism is definitely part of the last category. But overall, I strongly believe that copying isn’t a bad thing. The ability to copy and imitate is one of the greatest quality of human beings. There are just different ways of doing it, and some are better, smarter and/or more productive than others.

    That said, it’s pretty rare when I give credit to my sources of inspiration. I think it’s something hard to do for any sort of artistic creations. I’m not always conscious of who has inspired me, and even if I were, the list of people would be too long. On the other hand, I would never pretend that any of my ideas are original. That’s why from the very first photo I uploaded publicly on Flickr, it was under a Creative Commons license. It’s my way of saying that all of my ideas were inspired by something/someone else, and that… copying is fine.

    1. Maelick I appreciate your comment. Yes this book title is made to grab your attention, but doesn’t even begin to reflect the nuances inherent in creating art. Steal is a very negative word while good and bad are very judgmental. Creating art is about knowing who your influences are. It is about knowing that there are no new ideas under the sun and you’re probably ‘copying’ someone, whether you know it or not. I think its great that you have learned your style by ‘copying’ another artists style. That is how we all learn. But it is the true creative who can move beyond those early stabs at a style into their own work. It is that journey I hope to inspire others to take.

      Of course you may feel differently on the day you open up a social media platform and see one of your photos recreated by another artist. 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post Shelly! I’m very flattered that you mentioned me – Thank you very much! 🙂 I’ve never consciously tried to emulate someone else’s style. I have been influenced by other artist’s backgrounds and/or builds and I always try to credit them when this happens.


    1. Lynn, You have always had your own style. How you came by it, is only a journey you can tell us about. We are all influenced by each other – whether we know it or not. Ive been sharpening aspects of my photos which is a direct influence of your work. I may not do it over the entire piece, but I have learned to use that tool for greater impact. We all learn from each other. Its good to be honest and know where those influences originate. It is also arrogant to think that what we are doing is somehow original. Both Jennifer and I have talked about those toy photographers who came before us, as far back as the 70’s, who have paved the way for the world we know inhabit. Thanks for your comment my friend!

  3. OK, yet another case of you freaking me out with posts that directly relate to what I’m doing. Stop it!!

    I read this as I was about to begin ‘making snow’ to take up Vesa’s invitation to ‘join and do some too’ from a conversion that started from a comment on one of his Hoth Halloween posts.

    As I mixed the frozen concoction, I debated how I would approach the planned shots. I’ve written about shooting someone’s shtick before, and this was definitely someone’s shtick!

    In the end, I stole from the list of “do’s”! Credit those you’re emulating, that’s a no-brainer. And, transform what they’re doing into your own work. Even though I was shooting in Vesa’s world of snow, I put my own spin on it. Actually, I didn’t really have to try to do that, it just happened. If I was to full copy his style, it would’ve taken a lot more effort!

    Sure, we all take inspiration from others. But when we take, it only seems fair to give back too. Crediting the source of inspiration might seem meaningless, but those who have inspired I’m sure it means a lot.

    1. Its amazing to look at your images and see how different your work is from our friend Vesa’s. I had know idea you could mix snow from a recipe! I learned something new. This is a great example of taking what someone else is doing and using it as a jumping off point to learn something and still make the work your own. I think it is safe to say you know how to ‘steal like an artist”. I do agree with Maelick that that title is inflammatory!

  4. Excellent post, Shelly. I know this topic has been covered before, but thank you so much for touching on it again. I hate when people clearly emulate or steal from others, without using any of the suggestions you pose here.

    When I first started out, I definitely tried emulating the style of photographers I loved. I’m proud that over time, that helped me develop my OWN voice. I remind myself to always “steal” properly, and credit when credit is due. I think that all we can do it set a good example, and let those that come next do the right thing in turn!

    1. Thanks for your comment and kind words James. I think you’re right, we can only do our own work and set a good example. I love having my own voice. I love doing my own work. But that is my journey. I appreciate the fact that others only need to fill a social media agenda and any old photo will do. To each his own. But if you want to be a creative, you need to dig a little deeper and be a little more honest with yourself. What ever you want to call it.

      And like you say, this is a topic I’ve covered more than once. But with a continually changing audience, important topics need ot be revisited. 🙂

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