Shelley Richmond | On copying, competitition and creativity...

On copying, competitition and creativity...

January 21, 2016  •  1 Comment

Everything is appropriation.

...or at least that's what I learnt at art school

I get increasingly frustrated as I get further into my life as a photographer at the notion of copying and the effect that it seems to have on some people. It's been a topic for discussion of late down at the shared studio I work out of.

I recently read this article about Tyler Shields whilst I was in the midst of considering the notion of copying in my line of work, and while this sort of illustrates some pretty obvious rip offs of some very very well known artists it does make me think, isn't imitation supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery?

I see friends and colleagues that get genuinely worried about being seen to be copying someone elses work, be it because of the shade of eyeshadow they are planning to apply, the placement of foliage or flowers, the colour of the backdrop in the studio or the location at which they want to shoot... whilst at the same time scouring Pinterest and happily creating inspiration boards.

Lets all stop this shall we? You are an artist. You will create something different, something that is you, especially when you combine your creativity with others. Like for like copying of something is actually really hard to do (the composition, the subject, the lighting, the edit...), and what would be the point anyway if you weren't adding something to it? There are only so many permutations of beautiful girls wearing long white-ish dresses... Don't be put off an idea because it's already been done, there are very few things that haven't yet been done and I couldn't tell you what they are, just create what you want to create, what you imagine in your head, get it out there and stop being afraid of being judged, of being compared...


This isn't to say that you shouldn't give credit and respect to those artists that inspire you, even if they are long dead. This year I plan to create a series based on recreations of some of my favourite Pre Raphaelite paintings by artists such as John William Waterhouse & Arthur Hughes, I want to do this because I love those images and I respect those artists, they formed a great deal of my appreciation and understanding of aesthetics although they will never know that. But if your inspirations are living, tell them! There is nothing better to hear as an artist that you have inspired someone to create something.

This brings me to the concept of competition, as an artist you have no competition but photographers (some anyway) do seem to worry about this. Your cameras are your brushes, they are your tools, but you'd rarely hear of painters considering others as competition, because painters are artists. Well so are you! Whether you're a photographer, a designer, a make up artist, a stylist or a florist, you are an artist and you are equally as important as the work you create, you are the work you create and you give a little bit of yourself with everything that you create.

The studio that I share has 3 other photographers working there and the wonderful thing is that we don't see each other as competition. We encourage each others success. I love collaborating with other photographers and if you  are a photographer too and haven't done it yourself I really urge you to, it can be a lonely old job this. Don't look at others who share your passion as competitors but as colleagues and you'll feel a whole lot happier.

“Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”
Lewis Hyde


Thinking back to those Pre Raphaelites, they had a whole brotherhood thing going on, lets be like them :)


Fabulous Shelley..Thank you for this. I'm a newbie to the industry and I've reached out to local photographers about collaborating etc and we'll most of the replies are just so rude :-( It saddens me. I'm going to carry on doing good shit, inspired by others and yes...I'm going to tell them. Sharing Is caring #communityovercompetition xx
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