Friday, November 28, 2008

Identity

I saw Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" several weeks ago.

If you are familiar with his work, one of his favorite themes is "what is identity?" He began questioning it in the script for "Being John Malkovich" and continued exploring it in both "Adaptation" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." But in his new film, he really spins the concept of "identity" inward upon itself until it basically produces a black hole. He even touches on "being defined by what one does creatively" as a cornerpiece of identity.

"Synecdoche, New York" is a very funny, extremely depressing masterpiece. Like all of Kaufman's scripts/films.

Lately, I've become acutely aware of some would-be photographers that seem to have no identity or "style" - which is fine as everyone has to begin somewhere and usually with a blank slate. But there is a fine line between being inspired by and ripping off. And both of those terms are relative as "everything" pretty much has been done - but not really. There are plenty of photographers that I admire that have amassed everything in the world, but spit it out as an unmistakable signature image. The stuff I'm talking about is an attempt at direct imitation - carbon copies. Notice that I wrote "an attempt" - that's the really sad part, since most of these would-be guys simply do not possess the ability to even recreate another's image faithfully. What I've been seeing looks like a Spinal Tap cover band playing on Bleecker Street for a $4.00 cover charge.

Think about that last sentence really, really hard. That's how good this stuff is...

Do I have a remedy? No, of course not. I just hate to see others passing off sub-standard copied work as their own "idea" - their own "identity" if you will.

I'm always flattered by imitation, but sometimes, when it goes to "eleven" it's just too fucking loud. Instead, think about the best cover songs you've ever heard - where the band makes the original song THEIR OWN.

These guys should all be spanked while listening to Chan Marshall.



Cover Star: Celia
Headlining Band: Cat Power

www.jamesmgraham.net

4 comments:

Chip Willis said...

You know I have had issue with someone blatantly copying something I did.

Sure everything has mostly been done, but it hasn't.

One of the things I try and do is make sure, you know you are looking at a Chip Willis Image.

When I see a Sanders image, I know he shot it.
When I see an Aeric MG image, I know he shot it.
When I see a JMG image, I know you shot it.

Then I occasionally see crude attempts.

Sometimes it bugs me but most of the time, I feel good in the fact that they will never quite get it.

Don't sweat it bro.

aeric said...

heh heh heh.

when i grow up, i want to be cat power...

-a

theda said...

It disturbs me even more when the masses don't recognize that they're looking at sub-standard copies and heap mountains of praise on these people. And I see that a lot, too.

Tia said...

I know what you are saying. I recently had a model tell me she wanted to do shots just like the ones I did with the same photographer who shot them.. I don't know why it upset me so much, but it sure did.
I have had photographers try and do shots with me that they've seen me do with other photographers, and I've just told them no. Even if I was being paid. No, I'm not going to re-create shots.