Following the post about the lawsuit photographer David LaChapelle is brining on Rihanna, on the grounds of copyright infringement of a number of his signature candy-coated, saucy images on which certain shots and looks of her S&M video were based, I got to thinking about the fluid transcendence of ideas and how they register in other forms besides their original application.
It would be obvious to state that music videos today are, for the most part, increasingly more sophisticated than they were five, ten years ago – borne from interlocked cogs of a team of creative minds, in the business of fashioning three and a half-minute experiences that will, hopefully, leave the viewer either lost for words or drooling copiously while holding the screen in passionate embrace.
Now, some of these visual parcels are utterly ingenious from the concept to the delivery while others are just plain mediocre attention grabbers.
As the artist becomes more appreciated on a mainstream level, their value increases – not only as a musician but as a brand. Record companies would shell out millions to gild this brand; artists would spend equally exorbitant amounts to keep it blinging, and the media cashes in on the action. Everyone is twinkling.
As far as creativity is concerned, they say nothing is original, that everything is a version of itself or something else. It could be quite tedious for even the most innovative of artists to come up with something they feel is truly unique without the fear of repetition. There’s also the tendency to lean towards what is already socially appreciated and acceptable. Only a few artists would dare to create something out of this world that may go on to be revolutionary and shake up the status quo. This is how styles, eras and even religions are born. However, it’s never always that straightforward and the today’s genius may be robed in that of yesterday’s garments.
About a month ago or so I went to see an exhibition by South African photographers at the V&A museum, . There was a photographer by the name of Pieter Hugo whose images, taken in Nigeria and Ghana, were formed part of the display. In one of those images there was a centrally-placed, muscular fellow staring straight out of the frame and in his right hand was a thick chain attached to the neck of a huge hyena. This formed part of the series of portraits, called The Hyena and Other Men, of beast-handlers that tour the country and put on shows to the amusement of massive crowds.
Hyena Men series by Pieter Hugo
Somehow, I wasn’t surprised to see a similar shot in Beyonce’s Run The World shot. I can appreciate that if a work is remarkable, when it drops, its aftershock would be felt in various avenues across the board. Sometimes, the originator of this work may either file a law suit against any reproduction of the work, as in Rihanna’s case, or simply take it as a compliment, so far it doesn’t hurt the bank.
Another snot from the Run The World video.
Now, it’s clearly evident that both shots were inspired by that one picture taken by Pieter Hugo. The masterminds behind the video probably felt certain elements of the picture represented the mood of the song and fancied infusing these into their shot. Moreover, the dance Beyonce performs in the first dance sequence is called Kwaito, a style of dancing that originated in Johannesburg. So what we have here is a single image, taken under a bridge in Nigeria by a South African photographer, which goes on to inspire certain shots of a music video, also starring a South African dance, made for a high-profile American pop artist for a global audience.
Was it all worth it in the end? Personally, I didn’t find anything special about the video. It’s your typical Beyonce video, with her army of angry independent lady-dancers doing what they’ve always done but in different costume, this time though with a bit of sand kicked about.
I hope this post doesn’t lead to any damage, and if it does – my sincerest apologies to all parties involved. Best believe , I’ll be getting my cut of whatever comes out of it though. No, not really.
As far as ideas are concerned, both personally and universally, one concept is a draft of the next ad infinitum.
A director by the name of Jim Jarmusch puts it nicely:
“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.”