On Authenticity.. “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”  ― Jim Jarmusch

My photographer brain is never really switched off, I get inspiration from many sources… Jazz music, song lyrics, art galleries, while watching movies and looking at all types of photography. There are just two decisions to make, is the idea worth stealing and do you credit your sources.

There are two very good points here, firstly your influences need speak to you, and secondly you need to take it somewhere. It is interesting that we can spot a staged photo 9 times out of 10, we do not know it, but we feel it. Our work is Authentic if we are true to ourselves and add our own taste and style, not simply copying ideas and images, but taking it somewhere, it then translates to the viewer.

I recently read the best seller ‘Steal like an Artist,’ and in the spirit of this book, it was borrowed not bought! “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.” ― Pablo Picasso

I would like to present three images that were taken at street and see if you can spot which portraits were stolen and which were taken with consent.


This image was a stolen portrait that was taken in a workshop in Paris. The subject was aware of another photographer who was taking her photograph. She was giving him direct eye contact but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture her intense expression. I liked the two wine glasses and coffee cups, which represent the absent friend as well as the street scene behind her.

Another stolen portrait, this image was taken outside the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre Paris. I was walking past when I spotted this couple, they were completely absorbed in each other. As I passed she flicked her hair which is evident in the movement, it was very crowded and this un-cropped image was my only frame. Feedback from a viewer suggested that it was staged, however if it were staged I would have definitely got the focal point a lot more precise. For me it is more about the emotion captured than the technical precision, this was my only shot and I took it.

This image was taken with permission, although no words were exchanged. I simply pointed to my camera and he nodded, he then proceeded to ignore my presence. I then quickly shot off two frames, this is the second frame. I liked that it was a found subject and it was captured with no direction, but it was quite obvious that I was taking his picture so it would have been impolite not to ask, as the French are very private people. So how do you feel about the subject becoming aware of the camera, does this make the image less authentic for you?


All feedback welcome.

Leave a Comment