Recently recognized by the 2020 World Press Photo contest, Fading Flamingoes, a project which documents a lake in northern Iran and its environmental issues, bears a striking resemblance to the work of a photographer from the region itself. Has this photojournalist effectively stolen this project, or is there more to the story?
As reported by Kaveh Rostamkhani, the project shot by Maximillian Mann and awarded by the World Press Photo Contest shares a few vantage points and various themes with the work of Iranian photographer Solmaz Daryani, with Rostamkhani also commenting that some of the editing is similar. There are certainly parallels and the visits to some of the obscure locations suggest that there is more than just an overlap.
As one would expect, Daryani is upset at the alleged copying of her work, made worse by the fact that a photojournalist was able to “parachute in” to document a topic that is very much a part of her life. “I share so many personal bonds with it,” she tells Rostamkhani. “Now it is hijacked.”
Speaking to Mann, however, the evidence is not as clear as it might first seem. Mann has published a response (zip file containing jpegs and PDF) to the accusation which explains the research he went through before undertaking the project. “I acknowledge that in the selection I submitted to World Press Photo,” he explains, “there are similarities to the work of Solmaz Daryani that cannot be dismissed.” However, he explains that Daryani’s project is incredibly diverse, and when seen in the context of the entirety of each project, the parallels are not so glaring. “I find it regrettable that the huge differences between our works are ignored.”
He goes on to explain the themes and locations that Rostamkhani draws attention to, and cites the work of various other photographers whose photographs of the lake also focus on certain aspects.
Two photographers focusing on the same topic — especially when it is tied to a specific location, however large that location — will have some shared ground, but how easy is it to avoid replicating someone else's work and when can accusations of plagiarism be justified? Leave your comments below.