350MC – The Subversive Thief, The Blatant Thief and the Subconscious Thief

by alexmasonphotography

After having done my own first hand research of and comparing it to other forms of appropriation I came to the realisation that we pretty much all appropriate/steal whether we realise it or not. I don’t think it is a bad thing, it could be argued that we steal ideas from our parents and teachers. Some examples such as Elaine Sturtevant who displays a more blatant example of appropriation/theft would copy other people’s artwork for example the iconic Andy Warhol picture of Marilyn Monroe.


She would allow one deliberate mistake in her copies to distinguish her pieces from the originals. It seems as if Sturtevant’s intention here was to challenge appropriation and theft and almost make a mockery of appropriation art in general.

Whilst we do have the blatant thief we also have the thief that isn’t a conscious thief. Some people like myself will often do research before starting a project to try and gain inspiration and themes to build upon, whilst I might start a documentary style project taking photos of a small community of gypsies, I would create unique angles, compositions and use of light but the reason I choose to do these portraits of gypsies is because of work I have seen before in this style.


Although it is possible to be the subconscious thief I think that there is such thing as being a subversive thief meaning, you know exactly what you are doing to build your project but you are hoping you will be able to disguise it using different methods such as subject matter, different types of medium etc.

I had an incident recently just after I had released my teaser for my film Where We Began (a film about freerunners) whilst I was watching a film about bodyboarders called Dagdraumer I realised that there was a shot of the subjects hand going through the grass to add atmosphere much like the shot in my film that I used for the same effect.


Film still from Where We Began

I felt a bit embarrassed that this had happened and felt like a cheat and a thief even though I hadn’t even seen the film before. So it is possible to be the subconscious thief, the thief that doesn’t mean to appropriate.


Film still from Dagdraumer

I then realised I had seen it somewhere else, which was in the multi award winning film Gladiator starring Russel Crow, so it is possible to be the subconscious  thief, the thief that has innocently been inspired by something in the past which again reminds me when Marshall McLuhan said “We drive into the future using only our rear-view mirror”. I haven’t seen Gladiator for years but now when I watch the scene again of the hand going through the grass I remember it making me feel inspired and bought up emotion for me so I guess thats why it stuck in my head and I used it within my own creativity.

photo 3Film still from Gladiator (2000)

Elaine Sturtevant – http://www.weareoca.com/fine_art/ian-dury-and-elaine-sturtevant/