Recently, I have been thinking a lot about copying. It is true that almost everything has been invented or someone has already done it one way or another, but I am still having difficulties thinking about copying as a basis for inspiration for work.
Weirdly enough, I've had a couple of random encounters and chats with people that have told me that maybe, if I want to be more successful as a photographer, I should start imitating what's out there. So, my dilemma is: should I copy what's trending to make more money or should I stay true to myself, knowing eventually money and success will come?
Why Copying Is Good
I am completely opposed to copying someone's work; as a matter of fact, I think that is never a good idea, but I am a strong believer that getting inspiration from other artist’s work is very beneficial to our own creative mind and to our own artistry. Copying like an artist is not about recreating someone else's work and calling it original; copying as an artist is about understanding another artist’s work, evaluating and analyzing why it moves us, and using the idea behind that emotion and putting it to work in our favor. I believe that going to art shows and museums is one of the things that inspires me the most to create. Sometimes, while I am at a museum or at an art workshop, I just run out and go create my own work, because I get so inspired by seeing good work that it makes me want to be as good as those other artists. I also understand what I like about them: it can be colors, shapes, textures, the way they capture a subject, a painting technique, or a feeling. Then, with all those things in mind, I think about my own work, and I inject those inspiring ideas into my own work.
The New Trends
With platforms like Instagram and Facebook becoming more popular than ever, photographers are now being discovered by clients through social media. This has caused photographers to imitate one another because of the feeling that that's what's in fashion and that's what will get them work. All these new trends are basically people trying to create what others are making money from, mostly being nature-oriented photos, lifestyle photos or semi-naked photos. An Fstoppers reader sent me a great instagram page called @insta_repeat. This awesome account is showing how basically every instagram photographer is shooting the exactly same thing without being original. As you can see, every photo feels the same way: all the same coloring, angles and framings! And I thought that photographers where supposed to have their own vision.
The question still remains: to copy or not to copy? What to do in a world that is putting value on the same exact perspective? Is originality no longer valued? Or should we as artists replicate what is trending to survive? How can brands and clients be original if all of us are creating the same content? What would happen to those artists that remain true to themselves? Will they eventually be imitated? Will they have thousands of copycats in the future? How are you as an artist supposed to stand out from the crowd when only images that look and feel the same way are been given priority by an algorithm? How are you going to defy this? How are you supposed to have a voice without imitating or copying other voices? And the most important question you should ask yourself as a photographer or an artist: are you a copycat?
I would love to hear your thoughts and answers to some of these questions, because as of today, I have no clue of what the future of art will look like.