Last week someone asked if I was flattered when people copied my work. I said no, but that I wasn’t offended either.
What I actually feel is a bit of sadness. I’d rather see that person putting their energies into finding and following their Vision rather than walking where I have already walked.
Now these are friends and well-wishers who send me these imitations and so I am sincerely touched by the kind gesture. Sometimes they send a Lone Man or a Harbinger and sometimes it’s an Old Car Interior.
But honestly, I’d prefer they sent me something that they had created from their own Vision.
I very well understand imitation because I’ve copied other artists too, sometimes unconsciously and unfortunately sometimes consciously. For years I tried to copy Ansel’s work, and not just his look. Once I went to Yosemite and tried to recreate specific images of his!
I look back now and see how silly that was. Was my goal in life to be known as the world’s best Ansel Adams copycat?
Someone once wisely said to me: “Ansel’s already done Ansel and you’re not going to do him any better.” It’s true.
I know that many believe that imitation is a part of the learning process. I have many photography students contact me to say that their assignment is to copy one of my images.
I must say that I strongly disagree with this approach. I believe that their time would be much better spent finding their own Vision, and that imitation actually retards their personal Vision progress.
Colefucius says: They who walk in another’s footsteps, never finds their own path.
Is imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? I don’t think so.