Magritte wasn't just a mainstream surrealist, he was also capable of producing images of enormous tenderness and tactile humour. A series of photographs I produced - starting around 1970 - drew inspiration from the Belgian maestro and acted as a framework for my own experiments that were really rooted in pushing the boundaries of technical and visual illustration - with a camera.
I was prompted to post this image from my latest book FASHION ETCETERA, by the announcement of an exhibition in London featuring the work of a 20th century photographer and life adventurer, Marcel Mariën (also Belgian and also a surrealist with a penchant for using apples as subject matter) at the London Gallery Diemar / Noble Photography.
The thumbnail below shows the image in its book spread, the introduction to the final chapter of FASHION ETCETERA, Apple & Eve.
FASHION ETECETERA will be launched in September with an exhibition at Milk Gallery in New York. The project is a partnership with the Tommy Hilfiger group who have exclusive 3rd party rights to market, distribute and sell a special edition of the book and are sole sponsors of the exhibition.
A PDF of the standard edition French Fold jacket can be viewed here. A PDF of the special edition cover to be sold in Tommy Hilfiger stores can be viewed here
For clarification of the two editions of FASHION ETCETERA please see the 'Two Editions' post on this blog.
Exactly when creative inspiration turns to in-your-face theft can sometimes be a grey zone. But then there are occasions when all debate is removed.
Of course there are those who say that imitation is the highest form of flattery but that’s garbage, when it looks like theft, tastes like theft and smells like theft – then guess what?
The May 2008 cover shoot for British Elle featured Madonna as Cowboy Kate. This wasn’t a case of ‘influence’ – dipping into my books for a spark of inspiration or developing an idea or a variation on a theme – this was plain stealing.
Photograph by Tom Munro
One monitor in the studio was plastered with images from my books including the iconic shot of Kate with her black hat over one eye and next to it another monitor with the copies – literally an identical copy of Kate, live digital images of Madonna from Tom Munro’s camera. This is as brazen an example of photographic plagiarism – straight forward stealing – as you will ever see.
Three centre photographs by Sam Haskins
Cowboy Kate by Sam Haskins
Madonna as Kate by Tom Munro
In the video below, the Oscar nominated Hollywood stylist and costumer, Arianne Phillips holds forth on “the concept” of the shoot without mentioning Sam Haskins or Cowboy Kate at all. The commissioning magazine Elle also stays silent in print and online. The photographer Tom Munro who, (at the time of writing ) has a Cowboy Kate rip-off image on his website cannot find the honesty to give credit. Many of his photographs are very ‘reminiscent’ of my work as well as that of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Sarah Moon and on occasion, David Hamilton.
The only person to emerge from this graceless – ‘I’m-so-cool-I-can-laugh-off-my-thieving’ – with their professional integrity intact, is Madonna’s Make-up artist Gina Brooke, the artistic director of Shu Uemura. She mentioned in an online interview (published just after the May 2008 issue of Elle went on sale) that she regularly turns to my work for inspiration.
One cannot help wondering; Why work so hard to copy a living photographer? Why not just hire him or her to do the job! The copies are always second rate. Great photographers do not allow themselves to be prostituted into plagiarism.
Or better still, why on earth don’t these stylists, creative directors and photographers come up with some ideas of their own. There are infinite new fresh ideas out there. Idea theft is a disease among certain players in the business – its time the editors, if they weren’t so complicit in the process, put a stop to it.
Lighting and Image Theft
Its noticeable that the first thing that gets screwed when photographers steal image ideas is lighting. They don’t even begin to appreciate how much of the original mood and design was down to lighting.
To illustrate the point, here’s one of the shots by Tom Munro from the Elle shoot and the original below.
We all stand on the shoulders of giants – its fundamental to the history of art. We have all been influenced by our contemporary colleagues and the great figures of history but it should be done with full knowledge and respect. Especially when influence is explicit, paying homage indirectly is not enough.
I have had my work relentlessly copied for the past 47 years but this is outrageous! And yet, I would be happy to let it pass with a smile and a shrug if there was the simple common decency of a credit.
The shoe is from Charles Jordan, a prop I used for what was a personal creative shot in the seventies. The model was the actor John Grillo. The location was a builders hoarding on the South Bank in London.
The article mentions a project from the early seventies when Polaroid launched the SX-70 and gave cameras plus a generous stock of film to a group of photographers and published the resulting images in a limited edition boxed set. Particularly striking shots were submitted by Christian Vogt, Pete Turner and Helmut Newton.
My contribution to the project - and the only in-camera montage in the series - is shown below.
This boxed set was not the only promotional project organised by polaroid. There was also a calendar called 'Four Season' in 1976 which features one of my images for the month of May.
The limited edition boxed set of twelve prints for the SX-70 called '12 Instant Images - The SX-70 Experience' was repeated for another Polaroid product, '12 Instant Images - Type 105 Positive/Negative film'. Collectors should keep an eye out for it especially for the excellent contributions by Ansel Adams, Sarah Moon and Jeanloup Sieff. Each boxed set was limited to a production run of 1,000 and in both cases the first 50 sets were signed by all the photographers.