EMERGING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Right Moves: Inspiration or Influence

Myrna Kresh



Myrna Kresh, has 30 years of experience working with emerging and established photographers. Formerly the Executive Director of the Advertising Photographers of New York, Myrna energized and expanded APNY’s Assistant and Emerging Photographer Programs and has a profound understanding of what it really takes to make it as a pro. Myrna is an industry insider, producing and representing visual artists, in their commercial and personal projects.

Dear Right Moves,

My friends are making me completely paranoid.  I showed them the print portfolio I’m putting together and they all teased me about ripping off my photographer. How can I help but be inspired by his style of photography? I admire him. I’m with him 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, so of course, some part of his style is going to become mine, if only by osmosis. I thought it was SOP (standard operating procedure) that assistants were inspired by their bosses? Am I crazy? Or are my friends just jealous that my book is looking so good. What is the right move on this?

INSPIRATION OR IMITATION?, Kansas City, Kansas

Dear Inspiration or Imitation,

If you’re asking the question and writing to me, there’s enough truth in what your friends are saying to make you uncomfortable.
The BEST way to find out how close your inspiration is to imitation is to show your portfolio to your photographer. WARNING: This may be dangerous for your career.

I suggest you take your friend’s comments to heart and be aware when you’re on location with him if you’re shooting over his shoulder and replicating his photographs or if you’re really interpreting a location with your own style.  

Keep in mind, the photographer has spent countless thousands of dollars on gear, assistants, location scouting, and getting to a place in his career where he’s able to employ you 5 days a week, 10 hours a day. Do the right thing. If you’re shooting on location with him, be certain you’re focusing on a found image of your own. Of course, assistants, studio managers, take the nuance of their photographer’s work, but if you’re already using a location he’s found and a set up he’s created, you’re in that worst possible category for a young creator, an imitator.  In a creative business, ripping off someone’s work is right up there with having no talent at all.  It may be worse.

To submit your advice questions to Right Moves, send an email to myrna@myrnak.com.

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