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Monday, 06 June 2016


Even if it's a deliberate reconstitution—which is to say, not very original—on a scale from "original" to "Richard Prince", I'd still put Julie's work closer to "original".

The combination of the three central-but-rear figures (including the dog) seems terribly unlikely to be duplicated by chance. Oh, and a cut-off figure at the left. And there are a number of other similarities, but at that point I wonder if my association engine is getting out of hand. Still, my personal view is that this must be at the very least influence (could even be unconscious influence; can't disprove it).

I actually really hate the figures in the Balthus; they're caricatures, with (often) that horribly off-putting head position thing caricaturists love. Uncanny valley! (I don't remember ever seeing the Balthus, don't even know the name, so it's useful to have this pointed out.)

I quite like the Blackmon.

Reminds me of all the fuzz lately about the songs Led Zeppelin "stole" or were inspired by. Where do you draw the line in art? "Same same, but different" they say in Thailand...

Clearly the Balthus was used as the 'comp', and should be credited as such. The devil is in its details.

The Balthus looks to be derived from a photograph with 4 of the 8 people looking at the camera. No idea if he worked that way but it's not the kind of subject he is famous (notorious?) for.

I would think after Richard Prince basically stole Sam Abell's photo that none of this is worth worrying about. There is a great interview of Abell discussing that photo and his response is pretty classy:

My first thought is that the Blackmon isn't a photograph - it's a 2 dimensional artwork using photo techniques as opposed to brushes, paints, etc

My second thought is that the nods in the direction of Balthus stand on their own, even if derived, and are quite valid, as opposed to visual plagiarism. It also takes from Loretta Lux, I think

But I think it works on it's own terms.

I don't like it mind you - just not my taste

That photo appears in her "Homegrown" gallery. The description of the book, on Amazon, says "Though her photographs continue to be undeniably contemporary, references to classic painting and portraiture can be detected: the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch painter Jan Steen mixes with more contemporary figures, such as Balthus, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton and Federico Fellini. "

On her website, Blackmon credits Steen "and others". In a WSJ piece showing 11 of her photos, the caption under 'Queen' says "Does this seem familiar? Ms. Blackmon saw her niece dressed up in this princess outfit for Halloween with a serious face on, and immediately thought of Spanish painter Velazquez's 'Las Meninas.'" An article on inthein-between.com states "Blackmon’s more recent citations of artists like Edward Gorey and Tim Burton as influences are not as apparent without some closer inspection." I don't know where those citations might be found, but it seems that she's blatant about it. It's part of her "schtick", so to speak.

I enjoy her work. This revelation that she interprets classic paintings doesn't immediately change how I feel about it. Time will tell whether it does in the long run.

Julie Blackmon discusses another work and the influence of Balthus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_d3fQrnPPI

Oh, is gallantry really sexist? I'm sorry, but my brain kinda fizzled at that point.

At the Louvre several years ago there was a Da Vinci exhibit and in it there were multiple copies - all virtually identical at least in function if not completely in form - by other painters of many of his paintings (and the associated plethora of his sketches he used to "make" each painting). No identification or reference as to "theft" or even "influence." Just an uber artistic revelation that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." In my opinion only the actual photograph (piece of art) is copyrighted.

Theft is what Richard Prince does. On the other hand, Olive & Market strikes me as riff, homage, or maybe even parody. It has just enough originality and wit to qualify as original work, and to make it a worthwhile commentary on the previous work. That's just fine by me. It's a genuine artistic (and/or political, and/or personal) statement, unlike Prince's lazy rip-offs and defacements.

Neither what Blackmon does here, nor Prince's usual work, have anything to do with Eliot's statement "great artists steal" (which I think you're alluding to). My understanding of what Eliot meant by that is more like how Picasso absorbed Cezanne's ideas and developed his own styles, like cubism or his later "monumental" figures, or the way Faulkner styled his prose after the King James Bible.

I don't see how it has much to do with ego directly. Indeed, in the case of works like Olive & Market St., I would think ego would inhibit such obvious derivation or appropriation. On the other hand, I can see how ego might have contributed to Picasso's ambition to take things beyond Cezanne, rather than just comment or riff on, or simply copy, his work.

This post is in dire need of a poll. Is Julie's photograph

a) a deliberate homage?
b) a sly wink?
c) theft?

Democratic vote will clear this one up nicely.

(Hopefully you haven't banished humour from your comments section.)

PS: I'd never heard of Balthus, and his painting is completely different: There is no trash on the street, nor a STOP sign. Totally different.

PPS: There is nothing new under the Sun -- Ecclesiastes 1:4-11

Sometimes, providence is the plagiarist- I've shot photos on the street that when I looked at the contact sheet or the screen, bear a resemblance to a painting, and it's always delighted me, if only because it confirmed that I still know how to compose a picture.

One way to title the photoartwork would be: "Olive & Market Street, with apologies to Balthus".

"Reworking someone's vision" sounds like an art history professor or an art benefactor trying to raise up a plagiarizer. If the reworking was done without credit, it is stealing an original idea and pushing it out as if it was your own.

Could it be the photographer had never seen the painting and photographed the scene as she saw it or as she arranged models to fit?
We see this happening often in 'popular' locations and even some notable Name Photographers getting into fights over locations that, when shot, produce images that are identical for all practical purposes.
Without knowing of the painting, is it infringement? Certainly it would not be copying.

I am sure that John would have thoroughly researched whether JB gave any credit before he became "really bothered".

Mike, I'm a little surprised that you didn't provide any information about the artist as part of your call for responses about one of Julie's photographs. While I'm guessing many of your readers haven't heard of her, Julie's pretty well known. She taught a workshop at the recent Palm Springs Photo Festival, and she's represented by quite a few well known galleries. And you could have easily answered your question about her influences by checking her wiki biography...

"Influenced by the masters of the Dutch Renaissance, most specifically the work of Jan Steen, Blackmon infuses her work with a distinctively Dutch sense of light, palette and use of iconography. Also influenced by the Modernist painter Balthus, Blackmon crafts busy scenes in which time stands still - leaving the viewer to anticipate what might happen in the next moment."

I also remember her writing that when she was in school, she was inspired by the work of Sally Mann and Diane Arbus.

I like her work and am only offering the above information to provide a little context for your readers.

My understanding is that Blackmon not only acknowledges Balthus' influence on her work but that the photo in question is an explicit homage. Thus John Camp's complaint is unwarranted.

A Google search based on this understanding turned up the following brief piece among others: http://www.examiner.com/article/julie-blackmon-s-photographs-of-family-life-inspired-by-balthus

Apparently the connection is hardly a secret. One of many examples.... http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/06/25/currently-hanging-julie-blackmon-and-balthus

I just googled her name and the title of the piece you discuss. Up came the Wikipedia entry about her, among other things. Its first paragraph mentions Balthus as one of her influences. As I understand Wikipedia (or not), it is seldom clear who contributes and what. She might not be the source of the Balthus reference, but I imagine she could have edited it out if she disagreed. In any case, Wikipedia and other articles about her suggest she is quite free to acknowledge influences.

One can place Julie Blackmon's work solidly in the 'post-modern' category, wherein it derives much of its meaning from sly, witty reference to previous works and cultural tropes, while still possessing some claims to formal beauty. Just my 2 cents, but I believe art needs to stand on its own aesthetically even if you don't get the allusion, and that seems to work for this photo. Sort of like a hipster version of a deadpan Stephen Shore photo, right down to the large format hyper-real grittiness. And I can certainly appreciate Blackmon's solid craftsmanship, particularly compared to the slipshod aesthetic of some other post-modern (cough-Richard Prince-cough) practitioners. Blackmon's work also seems to have something in common with Gregory Crewdson's cinematic confections. Also not quite my cup of tea, but I can still see and respect the skill and care involved.

It's apparently not much of a secret?


I suppose an acknowledgement is due, but this is not the point. I"m tired of postmodernism, meta-art or whatever they call this these days. No doubt there is a lengthy academic text composed by the artist which answers all the whys and hows and whos. This would not be to pre-empt copyright infringement claims, but to boost the piece"s value in the eyes of prospective buyers.

Sorry for a follow-up, but my next internet search was for the book, Homegrown, from which the photo in question comes. Up first was the Amazon link. Its blurb includes this: "Homegrown shows how Blackmon's style has evolved, as she continues to capture the tensions between the harmony and disarray of everyday domestic life. Though her photographs continue to be undeniably contemporary, references to classic painting and portraiture can be detected: the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch painter Jan Steen mixes with more contemporary figures, such as Balthus, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton and Federico Fellini." Again, it's not clear if such a reference is adequate personal acknowledgement of her influences, but my guess that she is the source of this one.

Sometimes photographs can give a fresh look to old paintings. My favorite ever is without a doubt is "The Creation of Dude". Sadly, I don't know who's the photographer.



What’s an homage? It seems that the photos intentionally evoke the earlier works, but do so openly.

I’d say homage.

About different and meaningful Photoshop, have you seen this?

Stephen Wilkes: The passing of time, caught in a single photo


Below is an entry to my blog from 2009. The link to the pictures is at the bottom.

"January 22nd, 2009 — Last year as I was walking through a clear cut on Vancouver Island I stopped to take a picture of two solitary trees left standing. Somehow I thought against my better judgment they made a picture but they certainly didn’t fit into any current project I was working on. When the film was developed I was sure it was just another wasted sheet of film and never printed the image. The picture didn’t work for me. Today as I walked through a show of landscape paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery I came across Emily Carr’s “Scorned as Timber” and right away realized the reason for thinking my two trees looked like a picture, because Emily Carr had made a similar scene into a picture, and I unconsciously remembered it and duplicated it. All photographers do this, go out looking for pictures, and finding pictures that have been taken before, duplicate them. There’s little original seeing in the world of photography (painting too I suspect but know too little to comment) and few photographers admit it."


Sorry, I don't see that - if two pictures of people at a street junction counts as copying , as photographers we're all stuffed.

Much contemporary art deliberately references earlier art, no? The audience is presumed to get the references.

I found a Google search on "Blackmon Balthus" (without the quotes) enlightening. That's the kind of thing I like to do before I start stirring the pot, but maybe that's just me.

Thanks for pointing at her work, by the way. I usually don't like this sort of photo-collage work, but hers is quite entertaining.

The NYT also writes "solar system" instead of "Solar System" to refer to our solar system, which is, of course, the Solar System. The BBC has decided, amongst other such nonsense, that our moon shall be referred to as "the moon", when in reality it's "the Moon", and "earth" isn't "earth" when it's our planet, it's "Earth"!

Please don't follow what the NYT, or any other paper, does just because it's the NYT.

OK, OK, I digressed. Sorry. End of rant.

I hate that the word internet was ever capitalised. I recognise it is an important invention, but so were the telephone and television. And the automobile. And space rockets. And penicillin. And the wheel. Let's not forget sliced bread. All worthy of capialisation in their day, I'm sure. But if we kept the capitals, we'd end up with every noun capitalised. Besides, as time makes the remarkable commonplace, the capital letter starts to look silly.

There are influences to virtually all pieces (music, art, prose, etc.), of course, and I understand homage, but are these examples trying to say something new/something else that the original didn't, or is it stylised fluff ? There's nothing wrong with this,I did some of the latter for A-Level Art and this is the sort of project we did: 'using different mediums, reinterpret a painting, etc.' Back then (late '70's-early 80's)it wasn't photoshop'd it was actual cutting and pasting, scribbling and daubing. A project like this had great worth at getting to understand the original from different perspectives and the process was very interesting, but that's it, it had an academic 'internal value' to your development as an artist. As 'end pieces' I find them empty.
If this copy art was a piece of music would the original artist fight 30 year court case over it ? If so would the ruling be that a distinct separate piece of art was derived from it and, therefore, the 'copyright' of the original would be worthless (re: Kraftwerk) ?. For me, if the original is acknowledged at best its honest, but it's still a reworked copy, so I really don't know what to think, except nothing much, the piece has lost most of its worth, except that it is a version with contemporary elements. If it isn't acknowledged it joins the millions of other influenced pieces that masks its roots, riding on the shoulders of another's originality: much depends on what level it is promoted: what value is being attached to it and by whom ?

Much ado about zero, in my opinion.

I paraphrase from my recollection of meeting Julie Blackmon some years ago. Julie had an art education and was a working pro photographer before she had children. When her children came she resolved to leave her photography and be a full-time mother. But to keep sane she felt she had to get back into some form of creative photography. So, like so many women in this situation she began using her family life as her muse. Humor has been the dial-tone of her whole "Domestic Vacations" series, and related works.

To the extent that Blackmon draws from paintings (such as the Balthus or Grant Wood) or other photographs (such as the classic Abbey Road Beatles photograph) she's doing so for humor, certainly not to rip anyone's work off. (Her name ain't Richard Prince.)

I was very impressed that John Camp recognized the similarity of Julie's "Olive & Market Street" with Balthus's "Passage du Commerce-Saint-André", particularly as that Balthus is not widely well-seen.

Mimicry of works in other media is a very challenging chore (even with all adults or inanimate objects) for photography but even more so for printing. You know you've arrived when you can produce a print resembling, say, a Diego Velazquez or a Jan van Eck!* That's a good summer project.

While we're on the subject of mimicry, here's a nice smile for ya.

* There is a photographer who creates remarkable photo portraits in a 17th century appearance. I can't recall her name.

I couldn't agree more with Ben. How many authors credit all their influences? How many musicians? How many artists, for that matter? And although Keith B. was (somewhat) joking with his anecdote regarding Stravinsky and Pergolesi, it points to a real problem. Almost ALL art is influenced by other art. How far back should the chain of giving credit go? What if a painter -- without ever seeing the Balthus original -- were to paint a painting inspired by / based on Blackmon's work? Would it be that painter's responsibility to credit both Blackmon and Balthus? Did Balthus indicate who influenced him?

And I see the distinction you are trying to draw between being "influenced" by another artist, as opposed to "re-working someone's vision", but I don't think that really holds up outside of photography. Both literature and painting have countless examples of artists "re-working someone's vision" in a way that is widely accepted and respected, without any expectation that the authors/artists give explicit credit to their forebears.

Best regards,

As far as I can tell, no one thought of this (yet):
Julie Blackmon Contact Information: http://www.julieblackmon.com/contact.cfm?

Anyone suppose she might have something to say?

Just as a follow-up (sorry, I hit "Post" too quickly), there is a difference between listing your influences generally (which it seems that Ms. Blackmon has done, and which many artists and musicians do in a vague manner) and listing your influences/inspiration for a specific work or portion of a work (which very few people do, and which I would not expect them to do).

From your description (it is hard to tell what the context was of the references you mention), it sounds like Ms. Blackmon listed Norman Rockwell and Jan Steen and general influences, and John Camp was looking for her to list her inspiration for the particular pictures presented here. If that is correct, I don't think a list of general influences should ever be considered exclusive, nor do I think an artist has any obligation to list ALL of their influences when listing ANY of them.

How about Sandro Miller's project using John Malkovich in making direct copies of famous photographs, many of them originally made by masters in the medium? No deception here. Sandro has even used the word "homage" in the title of the project. But what's the merit in this exercise? I don't really see any.

Duane Michals did a Balthus "tribute" when he was a young guy.

Hmmmm Photoshopping is a crime plagiarism isn't?

[Photoshopping is a crime? --Mike]

I think, in Blackmon's mind, the reference to Balthus was so obvious that there was no need for an explanation. It may be that she was referring obliquely to some of Balthus' more emotionally fraught works, but didn't do it directly because the difficulty in crossing the line out of art and into - well, a less acceptable mode of expression.

Olive & Market St. Oh, that sneaky Gordon Lewis... and the people that promote his art. :-)

Referencing older work — sometimes much older — or work from other cultures has _always_ gone on in the art. I'm familiar with tons of examples in music and in photography, but other visual arts do it, too.

This is not substituting someone else's vision for having imagination. It is a conscious attempt to connect to other works and other times, and the references are intentional and not at all deceptive.

In fact, part of the fun of knowing an art well is in recognizing the huge number of connections, intentional and serendipitous.

The thing that caught my attention with Julie Blackmon’s photo was that she used Balthus idea, not his precise image. In most homages, the opposite is more or less true – when Picasso did bathers, he took a subject thoroughly explored by Cezanne (one of his major and admitted influences) but put his own idea over the fairly common subject matter. One of the most famous paintings of the 19th century, Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe, by Manet, was taken from an engraving of a design by Raphael, with some color points perhaps borrowed from Giorgione’s The Tempest. Georgia O’Keeffe made a number of paintings of the church in Rancho de Taos, one of the favorite subjects of modernist photographers. So, influence is everywhere in art. But in every case, I would argue, the artists took the scene and imposed their own ideas upon it. Even Richard Prince photos take well-known donor photos (I can't think of a better word) and by changing the scale and presentation, give them a different idea, although the image is precisely the same as the original.

What caught my attention about the Blackmon painting is that the painting is obviously a riff on Balthus, which is fine with me, but I don’t see any Blackmon idea in it – the idea in the photo is Balthus’ idea, the isolated figures operating without reference to their companions, the back turned upon the viewers, and so on. It was an idea that Balthus spent quite a bit of time with, in a lot of different ways.

I’m not even sure I had a particular objection to that – I saw it as more of an issue than a problem. What does the use of somebody else’s idea say about an artist’s work? Is that fine and common? Is it not fine and uncommon? I really don’t know.

FWIW, at www.foolsdoart.com, Francesco and his friends credit the originals they (ahem) recreate.

There is (and was, for a long time) an important distinction in the capitalization of internet.

The Internet (or INTERNET as it was originally referred after it was the ARPANET) is the a publicly available internet i.e. all the networks that are internetworked together to make up "the Internet". It's an abstraction.

An internet (an internetwork) is a two or more networks connected together. It's a concrete thing.

Any given internet doesn't have to be a part of the Internet. In quite a few cases there are planet spanning internets that you don't have access to (the US Armed Forces MILNET for example and similar networks run by CIA, NSA and many others).

This idea even has it's own (comprehensive) wikipedia page


As the article points out this distinction is another loosing battle.

Ah, the hoi polloi (do I mean the lower classes or the upper classes?)

Although I did not know the particular Balthus painting, I immediately thought of him looking at her photo--and assumed she was playing at would we see a connection.
In her interview she shows children crossing the street and I presume she is referencing the Beatles--believe it was the cover of Abbey Road.
If she makes specific reference (in print/title) it seems to me it would lose some of the playful aspect. And certainly she expects/hopes some of us to make the connection.
To think less would be unfair, given the work she shows--the way the arc of the composition/posture/body language/etc. harken so well to the earlier work, and yet do not feel derivative.
BTW thanks for introducing her to me.

Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life - Oscar Wilde

Everyone is influenced by everyone else, mostly subconsciously. Sometimes I feel that respect for intellectual property ownership is too lax (e.g. as in sampling music); sometimes I feel that people are two obsessive about it, as in the examples you cite. Here is a shot I took in Havana.


That dog capering around looks a bit like the ones in the photo and painting you have shown at the top of this blog entry. The same sort of capering dog appears in countless paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Was it subconscious or conscious imitation? Not really - it was just happy timing.

The NYTimes also insists on using courtesy titles such as "Mr." incessantly. Which reminds me -- I have to go back and see how they handled that element of style with the guy who changed his legal name to Bubba The Love Sponge.

Stealing is when you think you are going to get away with something without anyone noticing. This work is not so successful if you don't notice, and the intended audience certainly would notice.

Anyway I always thought those two Balthus paintings were his riff on Giorgio de Chirico. Most of Balthus' paintings and photographs are about something else entirely. ("young girls and their underwear except when there is no underwear" as a teacher put it.

And how about Duane Michals?

Or Victor Skrebneski?

Or just about anything by Hisaji Hara?

As for the Internet. There are uncountably many internets most of which have names if they are anything other than trivial. The Internet is the one with no name that many of them attach to.

If I see the lower case internet I likely to wonder which internet?

And don't get me started the cloud.

In the late Sixties, Harry "Callahan's interest in the chance and randomness of the street led him to admire Balthus' work" (K.F.Davis, New Color 1978-1987). Examples with unmistakable similarities are shown both in this book as well as in Retrospective Exhibition, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, 2013.

"God artists copy, great artists steal", Picasso.

(How do you include photographs in the comments?)

Interesting article and comments. The similarity grabs me straight away. But then Julie Blackmon has sky in her pictures and Balthus doesn't.

One could say he is trapped and she is not; that he has no way out and she does; that she is living under heaven and he is in hell.

But yes, seeing the similarity does diminish my impression of 'her' vision - assuming she had seen his work. But then what vision is it - figures transfixed or unaware in a landscape? There's lots of that in art and photography.

Seeing the photos makes me think of Gregory Crewdson, in whose photos something is definitely going on.

And Chris Killip - 'Boat repair, Skinningrove, North Yorkshire' with figures trapped because none of them have anything to do.

* There is a photographer who creates remarkable photo portraits in a 17th century appearance. I can't recall her name.
The wonderful Anne Zahalka?http://zahalkaworld.com.au/gallery/resemblance/

I know it is not the same thing, but this is the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the photo "inspired" by the artwork:


Let me stress, I am not equating the two situations - only noting that the circumstances of this case brought the Jaguar photo to my mind. That's all.

Once more:

Jeff Wall and Delacroix.
Jeff Wall and Hokusai.

The thing is, competent street photographers with a WA lens have done as well, and better, without manufacturing the scenario.

The youtube interview posted above was a real help, allowing me to place Julie's work in the context of Gregory Crewdson's (also mentioned earlier) and Cyndy Sherman's, who elaborately set up their photographs before relying on post processing. I find that comforting and humbling.

"I am not a digital guru."

Please excuse me while I get back to watching Barry Lyndon.

Definitely homage of the best kind. A pure copy would be faint praise indeed. By adding her own layer of original style, Blackmon pays due homage and it is our job as audience to notice. She is under no obligation to point it out.

"We all steal. Some of us get caught." —Martin Parr

(I heard this one through Bruce Gilden, whose photographs were painted by Bob Dylan!)

I found the photographs rendered in play-doh, to be quite delightful. A concept well executed from where I sit.

I also like the photos better than the paintings. As long as she makes it clear in their presentation the origins of their conception, I see no problem. On the other hand, the wretched vomit-inspiring photos based on Edward Hopper paintings making the rounds a couple years ago not only were awful, by themselves and especially in comparison to the original paintings, there was something cynical in their attempt to make bank by only taking from their inspiration and adding nothing of value.

Regarding Copyediting note "internet": Do you really want to follow suit on anything the New York Times does? They currently are not exactly the bastion of scholarly publishing and editorial excellence as in times past.

@ John Russell: "The wonderful Anne Zahalka?

http://zahalkaworld.com.au/gallery/resemblance/ "

Thank you, John. No, I don't think it was Anne Zahalka I was thinking of...but I certainly am NOW! She's now bookmarked on my Watch list. Thanks, John.

Re: Julie Blackmon, it's always worth seeing/hearing an artist talk about his/her works (yes, even photographers!). Julie has a 30 minute 2008 talk linked into Cathy Edelman's gallery site (under "Artist Talk") that some might enjoy watching. It might give you a better perspective on her work.

How about Wayne Thiebaud and his cakes and other desserts?Art Directors' Go To 101:

Image from http://p-fst1.pixstatic.com/51f108edfb04d628b1003a4a._w.540_s.fit_.jpg.

Image from http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/illustrations/2010/9/wayne_thiebaud_cakes.jpg.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I hate seeing plagiarism and crappy copying in action, but I love seeing a well-executed copy, and I wish more people would take the time to work as a copyist, going flat from flat, because nothing gives you an appreciation for composition quite like recreating the art you love.

There was a time when engravers who copied paintings were respected artists in their own right, simply because the act of translation from one medium to another required many skilful alterations. It was plain for all to see that a monochrome engraving could never be a doppelganger for an oil painting, so the engraver was expected to make whatever alterations were necessary to capture to spirit of the work in its new medium. It was not easy to do.

I've made a few copies myself, going from paint or pastel to photograph (and sometimes from photograph to photograph), with varying degrees of faithfulness. I think the most successful is Woman At A Window (after Degas). I think my translation of Degas' masterpiece uses the characteristics of the photons on silicon to successfully reinterpret the characteristics of oil essence on paper.

Mary Cassatt is reputed to have said, "Why do these young girls come to me for advice? They have not the slightest notion of giving to art the devotion it requires. I say to them, 'Do you ever go to the Louvre and copy some of the great masters?' And they invariably answer, 'Oh, no, we can't, we are working in the studio, we have no time.' Degas does, I answer." (from Louisine Havemeyer's From Sixteen To Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector, 1993. Quoted in Jones' Degas Cassatt, 2014.)

And yesterday night, I wrote a little something for a friend that also touches on this topic:

"I love the Dali tarot because you can see the artist's work in his play so much more clearly with these collagiarisms than you can in any of his paintings (or his more conceptual exercises, like the thousands of signed sheets of blank paper he sold to printers so they could print whatever the hell they wanted on them, which is a funny middle finger...kind of).

"The collagework of the deck shows the paranoiac critical method turned on its head as he appropriates and reinterprets the masters, both old and young--Courbet, Cranach (the most used artist, I think), Grunewald, Michelangelo, Delacroix, Gossart, the Limbourg brothers, Ingres, and others are freely copied or reproduced without attribution or explanation. A love of the old masters has been terribly uncool for a long time now, and I love Dali all the more for wearing his heart on his sleeve here.

"Dali even steals from the contemporary masters--Duchamp's LHOOQ is freely recreated as the queen of cups, and Dali uses his own Sacrament Of The Last Supper for The Magus, putting himself (with his typical modesty) in Christ's place. Each card is a scavenger hunt through the history of art and a deep delve into Dali's madness and method."

To bring it 'round again to photography (though far from the topic at hand), I paired those paragraphs with one of my favorite games--Speed Photography. I see how quickly I can set up, shoot, and process a "good enough" still life image. In this case, some of the major arcana from the Dali tarot, lit and focus-stacked as quickly as I could. Four minutes this time, and I'm quite proud of the accomplishment. The goal is not fast perfection (and this image certainly ain't perfect) the goal is fast good enough--take the picture quickly, process it quickly, and get it out into the world now, with time to regret my mistakes later. I often reshoot these images, recomposing, relighting, and rejiggering them until they're as "perfect" as I can make 'em, but they're always better for having that first speed run behind them.

Apologies for the length discontinuity of this post...my shattered day is reflected in my shattered post.

Ken Tanaka says: "There is a photographer who creates remarkable photo portraits in a 17th century appearance. I can't recall her name."

Nina Katchadourian makes 15th-century Flemish portraiture style self-portraits with a smartphone in aircraft restrooms on long distance flights with materials found on the aircraft (e.g. she uses an aircraft blanket for the backdrop).


So, if I photograph a graveyard and the moon is in the shot, I need to credit Adams?

How much art of any kind is truly original? I don't see the need for her to credit Balthus - we are all influenced by everything we've seen and done, plus these are obviously not direct replications.

Take it for what it is and enjoy it (or don't and move on).

i'm a teacher, and about once per quarter i have occasion to ask a student, held briefly after class, after everyone else in the class has just gotten back their corrected papers, 'is there anything you'd like to tell me about your paper?'

a lot depends on what they say next.

it's different of course for an established (or any thoughtful) artist; i think it is incumbent upon them to mark from the outset, in some way--even a cryptic clue in the picture is enough, so long as once it is detected it is sufficiently unequivocal, sort of like how you supposedly cannot be charged with forgery so long as you sign your real name to what you made, somewhere (hidden in scrollwork, etc) and never explicitly claim it is by the original artist--their sources, and that they are telling you to look for the original in those sources, not just duplicating it. but what i think isn't exactly going to be proclaimed throughout the land.

i cannot help remember a day trip i took up to vancouver 20-odd years ago. i spent a little bit of time in the gallery district, and happened upon an exhibit of a dozen or so very large (4 feet or so high) canvasses in one gallery, all in bw/grey paint, that were absolutely exact (so far as the skill of the artist allowed) copies of photos by ruth bernhard. they were even all from the same book, which i thought fairly famous. (the 'classic torso', one knee up in front of chest, sitting on the other folded leg, head framed off, was one of them, and the others were all from the same series.) i was standing, looking at them and thinking that maybe it was kind of a cool project to re-do an artist's whole portfolio in a different medium, even if i preferred the originals, when the gallery guy came over and began to gush about how marvelous these were, and how the best part was that the artist painted them all from dreams, and when i said, hold on, you mean they dream about bernhard's photographs? the confusion deepened, and he brought me over to read the 'artist's statement', which was detailed and quite remarkable, emphasizing the almost miraculous dream inspirations and supplying context and meanings for the various poses, and nowhere mentioning bernhard or photos of any kind.

now, this was before internet access was ubiquitous, and also about 5:30 on a sunday, so the museum and library where i was pretty sure i could find a copy of the book had already closed. and i could not persuade the gallery flack that the paintings were meticulous copies, every single one, without changing framing, aspect, anything--not even adding color--of photographs by a famous artist he had never heard of. i thought that all was really unfair.

these 'photos' (illustrations?) by blackmon, which i kind of like personally, don't strike me as being on the same spectrum. more like jigsaw pieces recreated and reconfigured, and the references clearly aren't a secret, even if i wouldn't have caught them without help. the plank carrying man, e.g., is distinctive, and deployed in a way that seems to function as a clue to his source.

but maybe i am just allowing for artistic license, so long as the license is exercised, and not merely exploited.

Even before seeing this staged "street scene" image ripoff, I considered Julie Blackmon's work to come across as overly contrived and deliberately edgy. Her subject matter seems to always verge on being cute but by adding her twist they are meant to become provocative. Her work has been dispayed here in Santa Fe's PhotoEye Gallery and always gets rave reviews. The prints are BIG and look very polished but her style does not approach my idea of anything authentic.

Hop on over to:

Dear Mike hier is another dejavu:

Artist Joanna Moen: Stairwell, acrylic, 1992, purchased from the artist by Collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Accession Number: 1992.168.003 in 1993:





Reminded me of the Jasmine Starr plagiarism scandal a couple of years ago: http://stopstealingphotos.com/jasmine-star/

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