Most of us are aware of the recent phenomenon of huge masses of photographs—many, many billions—being uploaded helter-skelter on the internet, leading me to wonder sometimes if the next great movement in photographic creativity might not come from some form of editing, rather than from photographers. But here's one artist—Switzerland-based Corinne Vionnet—who had another insight: that, as TOP reader John Daily puts it, "most tourists take pictures from the same spot."
Corinne combines between 200 and 300 similar images found on photo sharing sites to create her artworks. To me these are a little less interesting visually than they are for their meaning, but it's an engaging idea.
(Thanks to John)
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured [partial] Comment by Jeff Mills: "A friend sent me this yesterday and it led to some very heated discussions regarding copyrights. Given her statement that, 'it is without their knowledge' also implies that it is 'without their permission,' What do the rest of you think? Is she selling any of these images? Personally, I hope she's using only creative commons licensed photos and not any of my photos."
Mike replies: Forgive me if I sound a little fatalistic here, but copyright is one of those subjects, like depth of field, that are never going to be properly understood by everyone no matter how much educating we do or anyone else does. Here goes...it doesn't matter what anyone "thinks." Her use of the constituent photographs very clearly falls within Fair Use—her use is obviously "transformative," not "derivative."
Ultimately, the only absolute arbiter of Fair Use is a real court case, but in this instance I very much doubt a valid legal action could even be brought, because no one could prove from Ms. Vionnet's work that she used their picture specifically...only one like it. In any case, it is likely that any challenge would fail on the "amount" assessment and on the "substantiality" assessment.
Ctein can chime in if he wants to, as he is one notch closer to being a legal beagle on coypright issues than I am. However, I'm as sure as I can reasonably be that no one's copyright is being violated in this work. She has violated neither the spirit nor the letter of the law. Yes, she may use your photograph in this way, and yes, without your permission.
Featured Comment by James: "Ingenious. I like the idea, although I would have no idea how to do it, nor the patience, nor have the lateral 'art' brain to have come up with the concept.
"I heard of a similar theory about Ansel Adams' images, and how some devotees aim to replicate them as closely as possible. The article (it may have been in L-L, or possibly one of Thom Hogan's pages, a few years ago) illustrated the point with a flock of photographers in identical poses, shoulder to shoulder. Given that most serious landscapers and Ansel fans are going to have spent upwards of two weeks of salary on a state of the art CF tripod, presumably it's a case of just finding the well-worn holes on the desert floor. There just may exist some GPS file that can be downloaded to get those tripods into exactly the right place.
"I love good art and images, but once someone else has done it, I can't bring myself to do the same. But I do admire the point being made by Corinne Vionnet."
Ctein chimes in: OK, since I've been asked...
I'd argue that Ms. Vionnet's work is collage, so far as copyright law is concerned.
Case law has established that collages that incorporate copyrighted material can be an entirely legal use of said material and don't require the copyright holder's knowledge, permission nor any compensation.
The critical criterion is whether the individual item included in the collage is a primary or key or featured component of it, rather than merely being one of many minor/incidental components contributing to a whole.
If it is a key component, the collage artist does need to acquire rights from the original source.
This came up a few years ago around some work exhibited in a major New York museum. The collages did feature copyrighted work. The original creator of that work contacted the collage artist and the museum, both of whom readily agreed the use had been inappropriate without permission, and they compensated the original artist for the usage. Everyone acted in a stand-up and ethical way and all went away quite satisfied.
I hope it's pretty obvious to all and sundry that Ms. Vionnet's work doesn't even come close to featuring any individual component photograph. In fact, there'd be considerable problem even identifying the individual components (not in itself a legal issue, but when you can't even recognize any one source image, it'd be hard to argue it was a primary or featured component).
As for the work itself, I find it both intellectually and emotionally engrossing and fascinating; at the same time it isn't doing much for me on the aesthetic level. I'm still trying to figure out what that means to me.
And, yeah, it is photography, and purism be damned!
Featured Comment by Jesse Colin Jackson: "Given that it's topical, I thought I'd bring everyone's attention to some visually related work that Tori Foster and I have been making for a couple of years now. Less conceptually straightforward, perhaps. Certainly less iconic. No copyright infringement issues (grin). We'd love to hear your thoughts. I can be contacted at the address on my site.
We're showing the work again in May if you happen to be in Toronto. I've been reading TOP for years but this is my first comment. Mike, Ctein, everyone else: keep up the great work.
Featured Comment by Michael W: "Hey, that's my snap of the Acropolis on layer 73!"
Featured [partial] Comment by Roger Bradbury: "...It was almost exactly a year ago that we were discussing the taking of similar pairs of photos by two professionals, in The Case of the Copycat Photographer."