As creatives we like to think we are all unique. The idea that our imagery is our own and not influenced by others around us. Some might not be so optimistic and admit to the lack of originality today. I think it is valuable as a lesson/study to view the proof that we are all copies of what has come before us and will continue afterwards.
The Case Study:
Recently, an Instagram account called Insta Repeat launched into popularity. The idea is simple, but in practice the presentation is brilliant! A repeated pattern of images that are visually alike, demonstrating how a certain type of photo is overdone. They use images that have been done by others to show how there is a lacking of originality from one to the next. I have talked about this Instagram nature of repeating things over and over again before, but this shows it brilliantly!
The demonstration of a lack of originality online is hilarious! The repetitive and bland flavor of each image when shown in this way transforms the original images on their own into something meta. The account actually just suffered its first ‘claimed’ post for ‘stealing’ a photo from someone else which is absurd because the premiss of the posts is showing how none of the images used are original. It doesn’t matter which post is claimed or what photo in the collage was claimed because nothing presented is unique. No image stands out as different and that is why the posts have the appeal they do.
What is the point of this? The same could be asked about making the same imagery shown in the posts. Repeating what has been said or shown is just creating copies of what we have all seen before. Sure, some of the images are beautiful and done quite well. What is the value add though when you see the same compositional elements, processing, and locations. This tendency can be looked at in one of two ways: deeply troubling about the state of creativity today or the inevitability of humans to try copying things we like.
Creating these types of imagery can make you popular and earn an income through photography. Showing an ability to create visuals that only go as far as copying what has been done before is a low bar, but it is just as far as some have to go to find their version of success. Marketing this ability to do what has already been done is all you have to do in today’s world of Instagram influencers. Just don’t get the idea any of what is done is pushing boundaries or is new in any remarkable way.
It is all a little bit funny. The humor of everyone being so full of themselves to post work the is clearly a derivative of something else they saw online is hilarious to me. Accounts that proudly display work that has been repeated over and over again while gaining a large following just demonstrates the state of today’s social media. There is no real desire to move towards anything that is different or truly unique. Perhaps this is because any other territory is scary, unproven, a challenge to the stars quo, etc… It almost seems we act like Neanderthals on a creative level not wanting to explore other possibilities that might exist outside of the known here.
On the other hand, there is the chance that we have so many content generators out there that it is near impossible to create things that are different in a meaningful way. There are literally millions of people creating new images every day and inevitably much of this is going to have visually similar appeals creatively. The human brain also is very good at categorizing and seeing similarities between things. It is also the reason why we experience Deja Vu because it is easy to connect similar experiences even where there are minor differences. It makes it easier to take in the huge amount of information we have to every day.
The place where we set the bar for creating quality work is up to each individual. Are we existing in a world where nothing is ever going to be all that different. We are all inevitably going to copy what has already been done? I don’t think so. It is part of the creative process though to repeat and copy others in developing our own style. Thinking outside of the box requires knowing what the dimensions of the box are first!
To recap, there is a lot of content created and published every day. There are plenty of creators out there that stop at creating imagery they have seen done before and are capable of doing themselves because it is proven and will gain popularity and earn them a living. Stoping here though is not going to further you as a creative or artist though. If we are going to see the field of photography expand with more character and new imagery, it will take brave moves with stepping outside of what is known to work. Do something different and make it your own because there are plenty of others that are content with producing content that is repetitive and bland.