B&W,  Daily photo,  PhotoCritics,  Photography,  Tokyo

Creativity vs Originality

Is the photo above creative? Is it original?

Well… yes and no.

It is certainly original because I ‘in person’ took it, and it is creative because – regardless of the aesthetic result – I took the time to arrange all the elements (composition, light, etc.) in a coherent moment —and I have the film negative to prove it.

On the other hand, it is neither original —as in ‘unique’— nor creative because the same photo can be found here and maybe elsewhere on the Internet.

Obviously, the linked photo it is not ‘the’ same as mine, because it is clear that they were taken at different times and places (mine was taken at gate 113, while the one linked, at another gate, has a different light and the latter does not show people). However, they are essentially the ‘same’ picture: same composition, (roughly) same angle of view, same, generally speaking, idea.

This is another example: this photo, taken in Italy, has an almost identical twin in Alabama, USA.

In this picture and its ‘doppelgänger’ there a few difference in terms of focal length, perspective and post-production. However it is out of question that the idea behind the shots was essentially the same.

So, have I committed an act of plagiarism? Of course not, because I was not even aware of the existence of other similar images, nevertheless, the existence of other similar images deprives mine of its intrinsic photographic sense.

Should I, therefore, refrain from taking this type of picture? Again, the answer is no. In practical terms, I can use my photo as I wish without risking (sometimes ridiculous) copyright claims, and somebody might find interesting the peculiarity of my pictures when compared to others; so even those with reduced originality can retain their dignity and usefulness.

However, I think the main reason why such images are important and one should continue taking them, is that they force the photographer to stay away from the obvious, pushing the eye to look for unusual perspective and composition. i.e. for originality and creativity.

I summed it up in one line: if a shot is too obvious, think twice before taking it.

To this end, I have found that a regular use of Google Lens or Tineye to search for similar, already existing images is very effective.