Sometime ago, I wrote a post observing that Lisa Kereszi had on two occasions taken a very similar photograph as other lesser known artists. Though it seemed unlikely that Kereszi was copying the work, certainly one could not altogether rule out the possibility that this might be the case. Yesterday, I received an email from the artist, whom had heard of the AFC story, and she addressed the matter directly.
Hoo Boy! Sounds juicy right? Um, no. As it turns out she offered dates for when the photographs were taken and explanations where she felt they were needed. If there is a case to be made that she was ripping on other artists, AFC will not be making it.
I have posted the photos again though, so I can add the dates and rebuttal information, (which to be honest is not too much more than “This work was made without knowledge of their work,” but I also have to assume that not everyone has read the post I wrote in September).
Shockingly similar no? Well, both artists say they had no prior knowledge of each others work, so this isn’t a copy cat here. Both works were shot in 2001, and Kereszi confirmed this date in her email to me. So, let’s try this again, only with mermaids this time!
Again, very similar shots…but both artists claim not to have known about each other, and there is no reason to think that this isn’t true, so no copy catting here either. Kereszi’s work was actually shot earlier, hers in either 2002/2003, and Gardner’s in 2004.
Okay, so really, all this post has proven is that photographers take the same pictures*, which we already knew anyway. News Flash, it’s a trap of the medium. But what can I say? I’m disappointed. I expect more from professional artists, and I should note that I apply this to all three artists being discussed. At this level I don’t think that this sort of thing should be an issue. It’s not like the three of them are some sort of 2005 example of a Braque–Picasso relationship. That was a case of artistic influence, and this is the result of using overly popular subject matter among artists. Especially in the medium of photography, I think artists have to be very careful that the subject matter isn’t more interesting than what the photographer themselves brings to the work. Gardner avoids this to some extent by unusually highlighting the props in the mermaid pool (an element of the work that is hard to see in reproduction), but it is an issue that all three artists need to address. Kereszi herself said in correspondence with me, “…one thing this shows me is that I should avoid overly nostalgic subject matter – it’s awfully popular.” So, good for Kereszi for having the artistic balls to consider what it means to be taking these shots, especially in the face of public criticism. And I agree, in most cases nostalgic subject matter should be avoided.
*I’m using this term loosely so, photo enthusiasts, please don’t send me a million emails about the differences in these photos. I am aware of them.