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Cade Martin Brews a Little Controversy & Whimsy with Tazo Tea

By Jules Ebe on April 4th 2013


“When you look at things differently, stories emerge. There is a beauty in the everyday. And when people learn to look for it, they’ll find inspiration in the least likely places.”
~ Cade Martin

Cade Martin is an award-winning photographer known for his work with advertising, fashion, and corporate clients internationally. In 2009 Martin collaborated with Design Army and the Washington Ballet to create Wonderland, a series of images for a one-of-a-kind book. The whimsy of the images, along with their fluid movement is reflected again in his new campaign put together for Starbucks and Tazo Tea.

Largely influenced by film and cinema, Martin likes to use elaborate settings, costumes, and movie crews. The Tazo project was definitely shot in Hollywood style production mode, with all HMIs (mostly Arri) lights, as well as grip and generators. The sets spanned from Beverly Hills to Pasadena, California over the course of four days.

The effect is a series of images that both invoke a sense of wonder and enchantment. Each photograph carries its own narrative and life beyond the crystalline lens.

Cade Martin’s Wonderland for Starbucks and Tazo Tea





Rodney Smith Scolds PDN

The campaign is not without its critics though. Photographer Rodney Smith claims the PDN cover image from the campaign is a copy of his own work. Yet, in such a visually inundated society, is it possible for all things to be completely “new” and “fresh”? As other artists inspire photographers, individual expressions of ideas and thoughts are often built upon each other, and are not always mutually exclusive. Is this infringement?


Or is this a form of visual conception that is similar to that found in portrait painting dating back to the Masters? I’m pretty sure I have seen baroque paintings that featured beautiful women in volumes of fabric lazing in a large estate, tea cup in hand.

What do you think?

See more details on Martin’s work from this campaign on the cover of PDN’s March lighting issue and here.

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules

[via PDN]


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.


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  1. Amy

    Yup. Complete copy. I’d be furious.

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  2. Kyla

    i’m just excited to see male models actually modeling…

    seriously, people always imagine the photography world as being glamorous. it isn’t, especially with asshats like this crying about how people have stolen his ideas. So, Rodney, where the hell did you get YOUR idea for YOUR shoot? You were probably inspired. Doesn’t that mean YOU stole from someone else? Give me a break. I see this all the time in the portrait community too and I can’t even explain how ridiculous all these people sound. Be pissed because someone took your actual image and passed it off as their own work. Don’t be pissed because someone took inspiration from you or the same damn sources you took your own inspiration from and made it their own. Oh, and by the way, the cover photo looks nothing like yours. If I were you, I’d be more upset about the floating tea pot that has basically the same lighting and background. At least that has some validity behind your argument that your ideas were “stolen”. Ugh.

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  3. raylow

    you mean the Rodney Smith who did that shot???
    How can he complain….

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  4. Doug McGoldrick

    To me the whole series of images looks like the Art Director wanted to hire Rodney Smith but didn’t have the budget. Rodney has been doing work like this since the 8

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  5. Brenda

    As far as I knew there is no copyright on ideas. While it’s a similar style it’s not the exact same photograph. Different model, clothing, set. For all we know Starbucks wanted to continue this “style”.

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  6. Lezley

    I prefer Rodney Smith’s work.

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  7. Catherine Lacey Dodd

    Neither are entirely unique concepts. The execution is of course similar but does not constitute an infringement of copyright.

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  8. bassalop

    If you can imagine it, it’s been done. If you can not imagine it, it’s being done.

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  9. osgoodschlotter

    Not a “copy” but clearly a ripoff. If anything, Rodney Smith should be flattered that Cade Martin lacked the creativity to come up with his own idea for this specific shot, and had to steal it from him instead.

    Hats off to Rodney Smith.

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  10. raeolight

    I have seen photographers out right copy someone else’s work pose for pose and I have to say these aren’t the same and aren’t at all like each other

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  11. Frank

    Back in the late ’80’s I did a layout for a well known dress designer. Back then, I had a stamp (like a notary’s stamp) that I would use to put my copyright on each strip of film. The client used one of my images as a huge backdrop for a booth at some designer’s show in NY. Another shooter came along and took a photo of my photo. He used that shot for another job.

    I thought I had him cold. After much legal battling I lost the case because my copyright wasn’t on the actual print he photographed. Copyright lesson for me.

    Aside from that sort of thing, photography’s been around a long time. There are different takes on things, but pretty much everything’s been done in some form or fashion. The images here remind me of David Hamilton’s work back in the ’70’s, some of the work I did back then, and a quite a few other shooters over the years. I think these shooters who get all upset because some creates an image that looks like something they shot should get over it. I can pretty much guarantee that you can take any current day image and find something that looks like it somewhere back in time. We could all probably sue each other at some point in our careers if we’re worried about shots looking alike.

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  12. Richard Michael Johnson

    I think the general idea is the same, but there are enough differences in composition, general color and mood that it is not copyright infringement. Many people have similar ideas around the same time. Kind of a collective consciousness. If not, every time someone shoots a rose against a field of green, or Shamu doing his tricks at Sea World -lawsuits would fly furiously back and forth…

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  13. PaulFJ

    As for some of the other images – I suggest that anyone who is familiar with Peter Greenaway’s film The Draughtsman’s Contract would be very familiar with images of this type.

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  14. Jon Woodbury

    Same feel but definitely not his image.

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  15. PaulFJ

    Doesn’t the Dutch artist Johan Vermeer have the copyright on light streaming through a window onto a female subject?

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  16. John Rogers

    Similar concepts yes, copyright infringement no way. Besides the concept of women in beautiful gowns in opulent mansions has been around for a long time.

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  17. Joel Smith

    Anyone in this day and age think a photo idea is a new one, loo through history it has been done beofre by someone else.

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  18. Justin R Mayfield

    If anyone should really be upset, it should be Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis at Joseph Nienstedt… but they’re both dead. Back to the topic at hand, it’s visually similar… but it’s by no means copyright infringement. Do you think a sports photographer would have to prove his case that a picture he took of Tiger Woods swinging a golf club isn’t infringement on one that looks incredibly similar taken by a different photog? I get that there are differences in the cases, naturally, but I liked the allusion to the masters’ paintings. A lot of those looked similar. I’d be flattered if someone took my ideas and ran with them. As long as they’re not touching my actual pixels, by all means… have at it! Good publicity for both of them, obviously.

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  19. Joseph Nienstedt

    If anyone should be upset, it should be C.S. Lewis at the both of them.

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