A Photographer Plagiarism Experience… What Goes Around Comes Around!

Vanity © Benjamin Kanarek

A few years ago, I was seeing an Art Director with whom I had worked with frequently. It was a well known French fashion magazine. As you may already know, in all magazines the credit to the photographer is often on every second page either in the gutter or along the vertical edge of the page. As Paris is one of the major centers for fashion and beauty advertising in the world there is a huge influx of photographers coming in to try and get some fashion or beauty editorial work for their portfolio that may eventually generate advertising revenue from the exposure garnered in the magazine. Photographers will come in with their book and show it to the Art Director in the hope of getting a gig.

On this day while visiting the Art Director he said the following to me…”Hey Benjamin, I saw a photographer today and his work was very nice…” and I said “Yeah..OK..So..And..?” Well he came in to the Art Director’s office and presented himself as so and so. He was from somewhere in the States and had only arrived in Paris about a month or so ago. Now, it is difficult to determine the source of “tear sheets” (pages ripped out) of a magazine unless you are familiar with the layout, font etc.. Now if you cut out the pages, you can cut off the photographers name without detecting anything too disproportionate.

The photographer proceeded to introduce himself and went through the standard formalities. The Art Director said

“OK let’s have a look at your work.” The photographer presented his portfolio and the Art Director very deliberately started to go through it taking his time as he leafed through the pages. He got to the end of the book, closed it and said,

“Very nice, just one thing…” and he re-opened the portfolio leafing through the pages to a specific story buried somewhere in the photographer’s book. He looked intently at the photographer and said “I really love this story, where did you shoot it and for whom?” As the magazine had French text the photographer said that he shot it in New York at a studio for a French magazine. The Art Director again looking intently in to his eyes and said,

“Very nice, but this is very embarrassing..” “Why is that?” the photographer asked. “Well I don’t remember working with you on this shoot, in fact if you were the photographer I would have known that and recognized you and as I was the Art Director and Benjamin Kanarek was the photographer, it couldn’t have been YOU!”

Without saying a word, and in total deafening silence, the photographer picked up his portfolio, put it in it’s bag and walked out of the office, never ever to be seen or heard of again…

And that is what happens when you steal from other artists…

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About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…

9 thoughts on “A Photographer Plagiarism Experience… What Goes Around Comes Around!

  1. Question…a friend of mine had another situation: in a nutshell, another photographer essentially copied his exact shot – same pose, same hand position, same outfit look, same hair, same backdrop (backed into the trees), and same cropping. Then of course presented the photo as his own original work. Is that considered plagiarism or just “inspired”? If the former, is there anything that can/should be done about situations like that?

  2. I LOVE that story!!!  At least this guy got caught!!

  3. I did something similar & was caught. Unfortunate but at a certain level, the desperation does creep in when you’ve been struggling for a couple of months with no gigs in sight.

    It sure is a Catch 22 situation – they wont give you a gig till you show them published work. How are we to show them published work if we are just starting out??? amusing. 😀

    i love the raw nerves you hit with your blog. the bestest blog for the fraternity. & everyone else. thank you.

  4. Martin McElligott says:

    What a great story.

    Great work, i think once a photographer like you has such a distinctive style its a cheek for some mindless wannabe to try and rip you off like that.

    btw i love reading your blogs there such a great source of inspiration to me.


  5. I have a story that goes a little further:

    I have twice in my career interviewed wannabies that had MY work in their portfolios.

    In one instance, the presenter had simply pulled proof sheets from the ad agency he worked for (as an assistant art director), mounted them on foam board and put them in his portfolio case. When he eventually interviewed at the agency I was working for at the time, he simply didn’t know that the creative director he’d be seeing (me) was the creator of the work he’d stolen from the proof files. I had worked for the same agency a year or two earlier.

    In the second instance, I was freelancing at an ad agency when a young man that had been an assistant A/D at my previous full-time job came in to see the creative director at my freelance gig. He turned beet-red when he saw me in the hallway then turned a deeper red when the creative director of the agency asked me to join him in reviewing this young fellow’s portfolio.

    In both instances, those two never did develop solid careers … not in Los Angeles, anyway.

  6. Hello. I think the article is really interesting. I am even interested in reading more. How soon will you update your blog?

  7. Happens all of the time, especially in the music business!

  8. Sad that this happens at all, but inevitable with human beings.

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