Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Original Ideas?

I shot this photo in London in 2003 (you can read the details here). This sort of shot isn’t unusual, and it isn’t difficult. It’s done quite often. As ideas go, it’s not the most original one, even if it is fun.

The other day, I found this photo on a blog I read:

I like this quite a bit. Instead of shooting someone holding up the Tower of Pisa, the photographer (who wasn’t credited on the blog) shot people posing for other photographers who were taking the ‘holding up the tower’ shot. The first time I looked at this, I thought it funny and original. The second tilme I looked at it, I thought it looked a lot like the work of Martin Parr. It looked so much like Parr’s work that I did a Google image search for ‘Martin Parr Pisa’. What I found is that the photo isn’t Martin Parr’s. He did do a photo very similar to that, however. You can see it here, along with a short discussion on his work.

Of course, that same Google image search turned up several other examples of people ‘doing a Martin Parr’, and shooting people in a similar manner as in Parr’s photo (you can see several interesting ones by the same photographer here). Parr has, in fact, done an entire book of photos of this sort, titled Small World. I haven’t seen it, but it’s probably great. Most of his work is.

Turns out, I’ve done this type of shot as well. This was shot in 1999, in Rocky Mountain National Park:

Above the treeline in the Rockies, the grasses and mosses grow at an extremely slow rate. Walking on them can cause irreparable damage. Signs are posted everywhere warning people to stay on the paths and to avoid any wildlife. These tourists selfishly ignoring those signs and trodding on the delicate grasses while chasing after the wildlife made an interesting, if annoying photo.

Looking at and thinking about these photos raises a question. When a subversion of a typical tourist photo itself becomes typical, do we accept the seeming scarcity of originality, or merely chalk it up to independently occurring ideas? Or, do we look for the next way to be subversive, even though we know that someone else is probably thinking the same thing?


Brady said...

In art or life, what was the last really original idea you can think of? Much more evolution than revolution, methinks.

Regarding your last paragraph, when the subversive becomes commonplace, it's time to move on. Same as getting out of the market when the cabbie recommends stocks, or how I knew it was time to move on from Norah Jones when my dad really liked her.

Actually Norah did some good work with Q-Tip this year, so I'm cool with her even if my dad likes her too. He has no clue about Q-Tip, though.

Sorry for the digression. Good post!

Heather McDougal said...


It's weird that I should come across that image here, but the uncredited photographer was my 9-year-old daughter. So I suppose it's ideas occurring simultaneously. Or maybe we all just think alike.

Tyler Hewitt said...

Very cool! Thanks for providing a source. I love when small mysteries are solved. I hope it's ok for me to have posted the photo. Let me know if you don't want it there, or if you want me to credit your daughter.

Your blog looks fantastic!. Everyone, check it out: