July 25, 2008


there is an issue i am having with flickr... well, flickr people to be more exact.
this issue can best be called "inspiration abuse".
here is my story:
months ago i received a flickr message from a girl in nyc, titled "jealousy - a trait that i am trying to rid myself of". immediately i was a little taken a back, but the message went on to say how she was inspired by my photos and was curious to my printing process and then there were the occasional uncomfortable compliments, like "you seem to have what i do not yet have." however, i thought she seemed sincere and so i messaged her in back in great detail about how i got into polaroid. i tried to encourage her as much as possible, telling her to stick with it, and most importantly - to find her very own, personal, and unique style.
in the months to follow she would comment on my photos, but never favorite them (which i didn't really care about or pay attention to ... until later when it began to make more sense). her photostream grew rapidly. it seemed she was taking pictures of everything and anything and posted up 100s of photos a week. it became hard for me to keep up with her work, plus i was very busy with the art show and getting ready for my road trip.
finally, the shit hit the fan for me a few days after i got back from my FL adventures. my roommate, kylie, was looking at the polaroids i chose to put up on flickr when she noticed a couple of odd comments by this particular contact of mine. so naturally kylie looked through her photos to see who this person was. surprisingly kylie found tons of photos on this girls stream that were exact replicas of ones i had taken, and i am not talking about "similar ideas", i am talking about "carbon copies"...
now i know this is quite common. in fact, i do it all the time. i will cruise through flickr and find something wonderful and inspiring and make my own interpretation of it.
mine (may 29th)

emilie's (april 23rd)


mine (may 21st)

mia's (may 11th)
the only difference between what i am doing and what this girl is NOT doing, is twisting the idea into something uniquely my own and more importantly citing the source of inspiration. what a terrible terrible thing to conveniently forget to do...
so, i end up calling her out on this in a message i write her. she denies it and says "great minds must think a like". i equate this as bullshit and an obvious lack of respect or creative consciousness.

i get more frustrated when i see a photo she has taken of her polaroids.

immediately i am able to point out at least 4 or 5 identical copies of my work:

the underwear, the chandelier and the self portrait, the bandana over the mouth... there is also one of the same exact fashion add i took a photo of (which i clearly title and tag as not my own). very ironic to copy a copy...

the inspiration abuse doesn't stop there. in the past few months, i have found my images posted on websites, blogs, other flickr accounts, etc etc without any mention to me or even an email requesting permission.

of course i am upset about all of this. wouldn't you be if your passion was to make art that expresses who you are as a unique individual?
it is completely discouraging for me and it almost makes me want to quit flickr entirely.

i addressed this issue in a flickr post yesterday and to my surprise i received overwhelming responses from other flickr friends who had either had a similar problem, or had been dealing with some other form of negativity from the site and it's members.

not surprisingly, i have yet to receive a message or comment from the girl who failed to mention or give me fair warning about these shots...
i truly have no intentions of writing a nasty blog about another person. nor is my goal to be hurtful. rather i want to shed some light on what the wrong way and the right way is to using other people's art as inspiration.
i also wanted to stick up for myself, as an artist, and as a believer in flickr as creative commons.


  1. i like the example you chose =p

  2. there have been a lot of people lately, it seems, that have had work stolen from their flickr accounts and used in deceiving ways. very uncool.

  3. If you want I can find so many other persons that took shots exactly like yours but before you so don't try to pass for a victim, this is the system you copy they copy you. To become someone everyone copy someother artists or photographers.

    If you don't like this, just leave out flickr an use your pictures to make your bedroom more beautiful.

  4. thanks federico for sharing your thoughts...
    perhaps you have mistaken me friend.
    i am not suggesting that i am the only one in the world who takes polaroids or that noone else has made art similar to mine. i am not saying that all.
    what i am saying is that when you specifically use someone's idea for your own invention you should give them a little credit.
    it is interesting to me that you use the word "victim" in an almost demeaning tone. to be victimised means to be taken advantage of, to be tricked, or swindeled... i never suggested i was a vicitim here. but now that you mention it, i sort of do feel victimised. so thank you for that. thanks for shedding a little more light on the subject for me.

    i also agree with you in the sense that nothing is really original. we all draw from things we've seen or heard or experienced and put that into our art. however, there is a distint difference in being inspired by someone and ripping them off.

    i do not think i am alone in saying that.
    thank you again for voicing your opinion. i truly value what others have to say on this subject and i am always trying to learn how to make myself more optomistic and open minded, especially when it comes to sharing my heart/words/art on webbased communities.


  5. forgery is not flattery...it's a bad knock-off...the threads will soon fall out of her cheap t-shirt...just pull a little more...

  6. Man, it made me angry reading this. I started to feel a little paranoid myself even. I can completely understand this would be such a blow to see, someone replicating exact shots. We are not talking about a photo of the Taz Majal, or strait on head shot. The example of the head scarf and Chendelier? That gave me the chills to be honest as this stinks of more than stealing ideas, it reeks of online stalker behavior, all too common in this world.

    I will try not to leave this on a negative tip though, the reality is that intentions prevail and Karma is a bitch. Just do YOUR thing, keep thinking creatively, expressing yourself as best you can and try your darndest (sp?) to ignore the noise out there as there will always be noise in one form or another.

    Ive been around musicians before that had their meolodies stolen, and all they could do, due to licensing and what not, was just keep doing music because they loved music.

    I understand Frederico in saying that "copying" is extremely common in all forms of art, I agree, but there really is a right way and a wrong way IMO. This scenario is extremely specific given the emails that started it all, and should be treated as the specific scenario it is, not just a case of another artist copying someone out of inspiration.

    Keep your head up.


  7. federico's comment reminded me of that song "Dead Disco" by Metric which I think is, for the most part, about the cannibalism of pop-culture and how the idea of one being original is an absurdity because it's almost like everything has already been done.

    (Song = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBd2tAlCJdk )

    Here's a sample of the lyrics.

    "Tits out, pants down
    Overnight to London
    Touch down, look around
    Everyone’s the same
    World wide, air tight
    No one’s got a face left to blame
    And all we get is…

    Dead disco
    Dead funk
    Dead rock and roll
    Everything has been done
    La la la la la la la la la la"

    While I lean towards agreement to that there's still the fact that you being inspirational wasn't even brought up in photo descriptions while, like you said too, we can see that some are near carbon copies. Ditto @ "there is a distint difference in being inspired by someone and ripping them off.". (listen to that song it's cool I promise!)

  8. yeah there are alot of people out there as i like to call them, "biters"

    keep your head up cause your the one with talent!

  9. thank you for reminding me! people are not always well-meaning. if you ever see anything of mine anywhere wierd, please let me know! xo

  10. That's pretty cynical Frederico. Sorry. Big big distinction between being "inspired" by someone's work and stealing their work (including the idea AND the process).

    The really sad thing for artists is that ideas can't be copyrighted... only the artwork itself. And even then... it only requires a small percentage of difference to avoid copyright infringement. Laws don't work for this sort of thing.

    Honesty and integrity are what's needed... both sadly lacking in today's breakneck society.

    I am truly sorry Colie... I share your pain.

  11. first of all I'm far to be your friend :)
    then for me the meaning of the term copy is something like putting a carbon paper on a picture and tracing out the picture perfectly equal to the original one, and I don't think this is your case.
    Can I write, as graphic designer something like this:


    but with other words. Well I copy or I get just inspiration?

  12. again.
    i am only trying to address an issue here about something that made me feel shitty and paranoid.
    since this post i have made some changes of mind.
    i got a really great flickr message from david teeter that basically opened my eyes to where I am going wrong in this situation.

    i am taking flickr too serious and far too personal. i am making it mean more to me than it should.

    what i need to do is take it lightly. not get worked up over things like this "issue"... so that is just what i intend to do.
    take pictures. have fun. speak my mind. hold tightly to my ideas and dreams and not give a damn about anything else!

  13. Collie this is the problem when you have so much darn talent! I don't think you need to take it lightly I would be furious.

    I think what really differentiates your work it the fact that it is so highly personal. There are thousands of polaroid takers on Flickr but your work gives an insight into your life and who you are. When you look through your stream and read your blog it can feel like getting to know you. That's why someone copying ( and lets face it it is copying) your work is creepy- your work = you.

    So please take it as your right to be hurt, angry and a little creeped out- but also know that people will imitate you as your work really is something special. I mean that's why I am sitting here commenting on your blog when I am at work and am meant to be doing actual work stuff!!