Monday, September 03, 2007


American Girl in Italy. Florence, 1951 by Ruth Orkin.

"Gli Italiani Si Voltano" (Italians turn their heads), was taken in Milan in 1954 by Mario de Biasi.

And the third is a postcard I'd had on my wall all these years, until I took it down because people kept asking if it was me (yeah, me and my bazookas often wandered through Florence wearing a semi transparent dress) taken in 1991 by Max Perissi.

In American Girl in Italy, the (top) famous original picture the girl looks like a rather bluestocking'd student, uncomfortable with the male attention, as if she's trying to get past them as fast as possible. In the second picture, we don't see the woman's face so it's hard to know her thoughts, though from her sexy outfit and '50s wiggle straight towards the men you get the impression she doesn't have a problem with all eyes being on her - she looks powerful. To me, even if this second picture was inspired by Ruth Orkin's photo, it has a different intention and evokes different feelings. The third picture, if seen without the other two, is acceptable, funny even. It must have said something to me that I bought the postcard and kept it all this time. But seen in the context of the other images, the third photo becomes just an outright set up imitation of Ruth Orkin's original work - even down to being taken in Piazza della Repubblica as hers is. It also has an added dubious element of the girl in the photo's expression being that same one of shyness and intimidation at being leered at, though she's been made to wear a practically see through lace/crochet what the hell is that? dress.

It's something I've been pondering lately, the nature of ideas and creativity. Who can be said to own an idea? There have been a few major instances where I've had an idea, maybe not executed it fully but talked about it, or not been fast enough to act on it, then seen someone else execute "my" idea.

I think that the difference lies between copying something and that very modern word, referencing. Sometimes it seems that our age is nothing but continual referencing of other eras, which in turn referenced another. With all the information we see and hear all the time, it's not surprising we can't even tell sometimes when we've been influenced by someone else's work. A creative person will internalize all the references and turn them into something unique to them. Others may think that's what they're doing.

Maybe we can't hope for originality, only individuality.

“Originality is the art of concealing your sources” ~ Benjamin Franklin.
"Originality is undetected plagiarism" ~ M.C Escher.


l'embrouillamini said...

What a great post. I'm constantly inspired by other peoples' work, both consciously and subconsciously. I think we let ideas into our psyches without even knowing it.
In her biography of Marie Antoinette, Antonia Fraser writes that MA used to sign her letters 'A heart entirely yours' because she was inspired by Rousseau's Heloise. Now I like to finish my letters with the same parting.

p.s. I was even inspired by YOU :) I loved your pic of the 'tout va bien' postcard so much I had some vinyl letters with the same phrase cut out and I have stuck them above my bedroom door, so I am reminded that everything is peachy as I leave every day. I will put a piccie on my blog xx

Anonymous said...

I think of it like wine-- we each produce from whatever we suck in around us but even two of us right next to us will not produce precisely the same thing-- I also believe in the "universal consciousness" for lack of a better word, and that if you have a great idea-- you'd better move on it because it's only a matter of time before it reaches someone else--

anyway-- I could write for hours here on this subject (not coherently, mind you) but must fly out the door--

and darling girl, yes there is a beach right down the road-- on the LAKE, of course, not an ocean beach-- but lovely never the less-- the photos of my nieces (end of july early Aug) show them on the beach . . . bisous, bp

Lola is Beauty said...

Love that: a heart entirely yours...I gotta see the "tout va bien" and yes, above the door is the perfect place for it

BP: exactly, exactly! And re: the beach - like, with sand and everything?! I will check the pics!

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful post. i think of this often... and the truth is, no matter how hard you try to copy, it's always part of you, therefore, original.

this makes me think of homemade chocolate chip cookies. everyone in the states uses the same recipe, the one on the nestle tolhouse semi-sweet chocoalte chips packet. Yet for some reason, no two people make the same cookie. How does this happen? The things that go on in my brain, I tell you.

So, love. Your blog is great, I'm linking to you right now.

Another think I'm going to do, is take that ben frank quote and put it on my monitor. my mouth is way to big for my own good.
; )

Joanna Goddard said...

i think the story behind the first photo is that the model was walking to the photo shoot and ruth snapped her being whistled at. it was a candid shot. at least, i read that somewhere a while ago....
thanks for the thoughtful post!

Anonymous said...

the snaps of the girls walking away from the men (not the one with the women from the back...) are taken in the same spot, no?
Lots of gawping men on that street corner!

Lola is Beauty said...

Yes they are both taken on the corner of Piazza della Repubblica in Florence.

perfect bound said...

Love these. Brillant post. I've only ever seen the Ruth Orkin print. Re: your questions..Isn't there an expression, "Nothing is new?" I am grateful we have both the originals and the individuals. I'm also grateful we have beauty on our side. (love the blog!)