I recently wrote about plagiarism. About the need to pay tribute. About paying homage to those that inspire us.
I know when you see a lot of photographs, you are likely to borrow, or at least recall certain composition elements, or particular subject matter. This is as old as time. Romans copied Greek statues, and basically, it has not changed much since.
Picasso is said to have stolen liberally from his peers and borrowed even more from those he called his friends. Books have been written about his rivalry with Henri Matisse, and when you see a Juan Gris cubist painting and one nearby by Picasso, you would be fully in your right to think one is the other, and the other the one.
In photography plagiarism has been discussed widely, and this blog is not so much about that, as it is about how we pay tribute, and are inspired by great photographers.
I had a chance to walk a Marc Riboud retrospective, maybe 10 years ago. Marc Riboud was a Cartier-Bresson protégée, who broke free from the Master and Magnum, the agency that he founded, to follow his own path. Riboud spent a lot of time in China around the time of the Cultural Revolution and is responsible for some of the most iconic photographs of China at the time.
One of the most unassuming, but genius photographs that he took was indeed in China. It is titled: Le Petit Lapin – Shanghai 2002 (The Little Rabbit). As you can see above, it shows a simple white plastic bag, with its handles knotted. With a little imagination, it is a small rabbit sitting on a table in a Chinese classic garden.
When I left the show, aside from his most famous photographs, such as the Painter on the Eiffel Tower, or Washington DC 1967, the photograph that stayed with me to this day was the simple plastic bag.
For years after, I kept seeing tied white plastic bags, and I kept thinking that I too could take a photograph that would perhaps be my version of the white rabbit. I have been at this for years. Then one day, I was in Aix-en-Provence, and saw what I think is a fair homage to the master. I don’t place objects, nor do I move things to create composition, I merely observe, focus and press the shutter. Did I get a monkey off my back. Not really. I still see knotted white plastic bags as rabbits.
So, for what it is worth. Here is my homage to the great Master, Marc Riboud, who will be an inspiration for the rest of my photographing years.
Mr. Riboud, you may have passed, but your legacy lives on.