Wednesday, July 27, 2016
The Anxiety of Influence
I came across this article today (link), an accusation of plagiarism by one photographer of another. One is better known, the other a comer. There are links to their works in the article. Take a look at the two. They both photograph their children in natural environments. Both look to have alternative lifestyles that they put on display. Both seem enviable. They might remind you in some ways of the work of Sally Mann. Neither of them seem quite as honest in their work as she, but the accusation that Laboile presents seems silly in most ways. Photography is a medium for mimics. He is frustrated that his body of work is so easily copied. If his complaint holds water, Robert Frank should sue everyone who came after him. I am not sure, really, what he is getting at.
Maybe he simply went off his meds. I can't imagine his letter will win him any friends.
In any case, both Boon and Laboile seem to be snapshot artists. I like snapshots and think they are the truest history we have. No one should be ashamed to be a snapshot artist. By the same token, you should be ashamed to claim to have invented the form.
A serious critic might point out that the work of neither photographer has the honesty and integrity of an artist like Sally Mann. None of that would matter, of course, except for the silly public debate. It is difficult to be honest in a picture. It is difficult to hold an integral line. It is THE most difficult thing in any art form, but in photography, which is by its very nature provocative and graphic, it most evident.
I wouldn't make any claims to not being a photographic plagiarist. Plagiarism is an American concept, American made, a capitalist plot for ownership. It is not recognized in most parts of the world, though it is spreading. I would instruct anyone interested in artistic plagiarism to read Harold Bloom's "The Anxiety of Influence." And I would suggest that Laboile look at these photographers as well (link) (link). He might want to write letters to them, too.