Good artists copy; great artists steal.
Agree with this infamous quote or not, it’s true that all artists, whether they realize it or not, are influenced by the work of their predecessors. This extends through all disciplines of art, from songwriting to photography to painting. I often get asked where I find inspiration for creating new scenes for photography or editing styles for video, and I think the answer is more complex than I even realize myself.
On a conscious level, I know that when I am looking for new ideas for shoots I often turn towards creations like album covers, other photoshoots, music, music videos, and even objects in stores that catch my eye. I might combine multiple ideas I have and I’ll throw ideas I don’t use into a document that I can reference later when I am feeling drained of inspiration.
Sometimes, even, seeds of concepts are born through pure happenstance — moments of inspiration. Perhaps it might be an accidental click of the shutter. Some of my favorite works have happened by experimentation and randomness instead of “conscious” effort or inspiration, however that begs the question: is any “new” concept original?
Personally, I think not so much. Even if you are making a conscious effort to not adhere to an artist’s work or style, you are still being influenced by them by definition. The simple act of viewing one’s creations subconsciously implants the memory of it into your creative process therefore influencing you. Wether you decide to go with the mainstream or not, any small exposure to outside influences can change the way you create.
If only uses a small diopter and pays attention to a small community, it might appear that someone is quite original indeed. However, if one widens their scope it becomes evident that their idea is quite common. This is especially evident after the advent of the internet, making it easy to research ideas and concept across thousands of miles and transcribed decades of the human experience.
Of course, you’ll always have some element that is new or changed from what has been done previously. This is the definition of innovation. We might never find two snowflakes that are identical, but there are only so many possible ways they can form. There might be some overlap of creations and concepts, but that should not scare us away from experimenting and testing new concepts.