Week 2 – Sustainable Prospects

This week we have started to consider our photographic business lives after the MA (or during).

Having set up ShutterPod about five years ago, much of the business elements (accounting/business plans etc.) are not new to me but there have been some interesting conversations regarding copyright. After all, the image of the impoverished artist may be a romanticised one but most students will want to make a sustainable living from their talent and will need to consider how to protect their work from flagrant misuse.

The Prince versus Cariou case was provided for the students to share their views on it – read more here: artinamericamagazine.com – and it threw up a variety of opinions.

For me, cases such as this make the photography world a little more interesting. I’m not keen on Prince’s style overall but I do like the fact that he does not hide what he is doing, rightly or wrongly.

Earlier this year Souvid Datta landed in hot water when it transpired he had photoshopped part of a 70s Mary Ellen Mark image into a new photograph – what he didn’t do was to be upfront about it but passed it off as his own.

He has since owned up to this, and other occasions of using others’ work as his own, and is attempting to put things right so it will be interesting to see how his future career as a photographer known to have concealed his appropriation will be shaped compared to that of Prince who blatantly bases a good part of his on the work of others.

On occasion I have used free to use images to create a digital negative for a photogram I am working on and I do not feel it necessary to cite the creator (unless part of the usage rights) at these times.

But if my work is ever appropriated (without consent), my response would depend on the how, why. where, when etc. I would be very unlikely to go through the courts but would perhaps think of a more inventive means of redress if I felt strongly enough about it.

Coincidentally, in the past few days I commented on a post that had been shared on a Facebook page I follow.

My ultimate MA work is to be created in large glass panels and the post related to Japanese artist’s Nobuhiro Nakanishi photographs in acrylic. The article was from Bored Panda and highlighted the work, Layer Drawings.

It seemed reminiscent of some large-scale transparency work I had created about 18 years ago, and I felt it to be an inspiration for my future glass project.

But an artist in the Facebook group stated that she had first come up with this idea for this style of acrylic photographs and shared an example of her work. It sparked quite a heated discussion about originality, authorship and more. Having looked at her work, and the the timescales, I can understand her feeling this but what it drew me back to is the sense that no one can truly ‘own’ an original artistic idea as most come from a variety of sources. What influenced her to create her work – can it be proved to be the first time it has ever occurred?

A Google search for the meaning of original gives us:

present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest; created personally by a particular artist, writer, musician, etc. – not a copy; the earliest form of something, from which copies may be made; and an eccentric or unusual person.

For me that means unless I create something that has never existed before my work can only be original in the sense that I have created it for the first time; for example, my hand-made cyanotypes are original as they are produced in a way that each time the result will be slightly different even if using the same items to make the images but the ideas and techniques I use are gleaned from various sources of inspiration.

Are documentary images ‘original’ if they are records of moments in time, of things as they happen? Or are they simply original to the photographer taking that picture at that moment?

I decided a while ago not tie myself up in a need to feel ‘original’ – during the life of this course so far I have had numerous moments when I have believed I have come up with an original idea only to find with research that it, or something similar, has been done before.

I will never use someone else’s work with credit or consent, but I will take inspiration from it.

Online References

BOUCHER, Brian. 2014. ‘Landmark Copyright Lawsuit Cariou v. Prince is Settled’. Art in America magazine. Available at: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/news/landmark-copyright-lawsuit-cariou-v-prince-is-settled/ [accessed October 1, 2017]

LAURENT, Oliver. 2017. ‘Souvid Datta: ‘I Foolishly Doctored Images’. Time. Available at: http://time.com/4766312/souvid-datta/ [accessed October 1, 2017]

Stella. 2017. ‘Japanese Artist Layers 100s Of Photos Taken Over Time To Produce Stunning Multidimensional Landscapes’. Bored Panda. Available at: https://www.boredpanda.com/acrylic-landscape-layer-drawings-nobuhiro-nakanishi