In December last year I read an online article about a US photographer who discovered that an artist had painted some of his photographs and was selling them in a gallery. As the price being asked was $US4,000 we are not exactly talking about chicken feed. Now in this case there was no question that the painter had copied the photos because several of the images involved exact replicas of photos of people wearing bunny ears. (You can find the article here).

This was clearly wrong, but it does raise the question is copying always wrong and when does it cross the line from being referred to as inspiration.

I believe that Inspiration is where you take something as an idea and then develop it and try to put your style on it. Copying is where you reproduce an image whether in totality or a major part of it.

In my opinion “copying” is only okay if you are using it to practise ideas and techniques, as long as you do not then claim to have created the final image yourself.

In fact this concept is quite old. The masters of painting all practised as apprentices by copying the works of their masters and those that have gone before them. Pablo Picasso produced some amazing copies of old masters when he was in his teens that are a million miles away from the cubist style that he would become famous for. In fact Picasso said “good artists copy, great artists steal”.

This has been taken to mean that you take something that someone else has done and then build on it. The source of the inspiration does not need to be in the same field of art. When we visited the Melbourne Art Gallery I say a small porcelain statute.

Inspiration (1 of 1)

This was the inspiration for the shot below.

Inspiration (2 of 1)