We are big fans of TED Talks as they are quite informative and insightful. I recently saw Embrace the Remix, a TED Talk by Kirby Ferguson, which essentially provides a different perspective when it comes to the borrowing and use of intellectual property.
In the article, he discusses how some of the greatest artists and inventors of our time have really just “borrowed” or even “stolen” and remixed the original concept into a new finished product. How Bob Dylan (one of the greatest singer/songwriters ever) songs are essentially “borrowed” from popular folk music. How Steve Jobs (probably the most well known CEO and inventor of our time) stole and refined Xerox’s concept of a GUI for the original Mac, and multi-touch for the iPhone (later patenting it as his own).
Artists of the past even recognized this phenomenon of everyone essentially borrowing from one another, even Picasso had a saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
As photographers and artists, this entire conversation and topic applies directly to our craft as well. Among photographers, it seems like there is a constant barrage of criticism in “copying” and “borrowing” ideas from one another. “You stole my shoot location… I did that pose first… That was the same lighting I used… etc”
Don’t confuse this with me saying that it is OK to blatantly plagiarize and steal by claiming someone else’s work as your own. Rather, my question is simply which one of us out there is creating truly “original” work? From lighting techniques, to poses, to locations and concepts, it has all been done before to some extent. Some of the most creative photographic works of our time are artistic projects that have been remixed from other artistic media outside of photography.
Either way, I believe it is time that we follow Kirby’s advice and Embrace the Remix. Embrace the fact that as artists, we learn and mimic those that came before us until our voices and identities become more our own. Even then, our artistic identities will always be rooted and inspired by someone who came before us, and modified by those who came after.
Watch the original video here:
What are your thoughts?