Take a look at the two images below. One is from the latest issue of Love Magazine. One is from a shoot by Jeff Bark, photographed several years ago. Can you tell which is which?
Inspiration or plagiarism; that’s a question that arises frequently where fashion and art are concerned. The truth is that fashion, like all forms of art, is often based on recycled ideas – it’s about taking something and making your adjustments to it, tweaking it, contributing to its evolution; before setting it free again into the big wide world. If there’s no evolution, if the concept is merely replicated and returned without change, it’s not art. It’s copying.
So back to the case at hand. Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott’s shoot What Lies Beneath is one we saw only yesterday and loved for its dark romanticism. Today it was brought to our attention that its remarkably similar to Jeff Bark’s shoot Woodpecker. Coincidence? Inspiration? Homage? Plagiarism?
The setting is remarkably similar and so are the themes (later note: I’d already mentioned the parallels to Leda & The Swan in the original post so don’t go into detail on mythological references here). But we have no real insights into whether Mert & Marcus intentionally ‘remade’ Jeff Bark‘s shoot, whether they were inspired by it and deliberately evolved it, or whether there was no relation at all. Either shoot could be compared to the extravagant, dark paintings of Baroque artists like Caravaggio or Rubens. So who’s to say that Bark’s concept was original in the first place?
Once we’ve taken away the question of where an idea came from and who had it first, a question that’s often near impossible to answer, we’re left with another question. If a concept is not original, regardless of where it came from, do we as the consumer still accept it?
Odds are that for the most part we will: as we’ve said before in relation to Vogue Paris copying shoots, if the output is good, people will consume it. And there’s no denying that Mert & Marcus’ work is stirring, compelling, and visually stunning. What the industry does need to be careful of is balance. A good film remake is perfectly acceptable, but that does’t mean we want to watch remakes all the time; similarly do we crave for fashion to throw us something original. Or, heavily evolved, at least.
What do you think of the comparison between Mert & Marcus’ What Lies Beneath and Jeff Bark’s Woodpecker? You can see the full Love Magazine photo shoot by clicking on the thumbnails above, and you can let us know your thoughts in the comments below.