as we meander along our journey in life, camera in hand….the road twisting & turning…we, as photographers,¬†learning our craft & nurturing our creativity, and learning the value of our images….somewhere along the way as we honor & maintain the ever important “copyright” to our photographs….there is a little tiny problem….”copyright” does not mean “copycat”….so i implore you, especially young photographers, trust in yourself & your own vision…it is the one thing absolutely unique & special to you…in a world full of “inspiration” & “ideas” i imagine there is a certain allure to aspire to create images that are reminiscent of ones we’ve seen & been moved by….in fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, when i began my journey as a photographer, i was mesmerized by SALLY MANN’s work…it spoke to my soul…it moved in ways i had no language to describe…my sister gave me the book IMMEDIATE FAMILY (if you have not seen this book, you must…its wonderful)….the book is full of SALLY MANN’s photographs of her three children…..i would say her work has influenced me greatly….although i too now am the mother of three children (i swear i didn’t mean to “copy” SALLY MANN on that) & i love, as many of you know, to photograph my children….i suppose i understand more now how poignant SALLY MANN’s images are….how being a mother changes you in ways that are ever-changing & beyond the scope of any human language…when i photograph my children i am drawn to the unique & special beauty they each possess….i capture what is in front of me…what they reveal to me…it is an awkward dance of caught moments & missed moments, crowns & birthday cakes, it’s our life…so yes, i was touched by SALLY MANN’s images of her life….i have never tried to “copy” a specific images of hers….what would be the point?? the beauty of an image lies somewhere between a proper exposure & some modicum of authenticity….my point is, don’t try to copy another person’s work….everyone knows….and the saddest part about it, is that you are missing the most amazing opportunity to create special meaningful images…each human, each photographer has something special to offer, if you are “copying” others, you never really discover or reveal what is special and amazing about yourself….i do believe in inspiring each other…and let’s face it, it’s not like we can re-invent the wheel….there will always be overlaps & similarities between photographers & their work…but really when you outright “copy” another photographer you are only making yourself look bad…& truly missing the point, because you were probably drawn to the amazing image you are trying to copy because if felt authentic in some way…& the minute you copy it, you have lost any sense of authenticity….art is in your heart…so instead of looking outside, try looking inward…you might be surprised how much inspired beauty you will find inside…xoxo

a little more sweetness...

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  1. Jan 11-2011 , 01:16AM
    WORD.
  2. Jan 11-2011 , 04:07AM
    thank you for saying what has for so long needed to be said. And said so well! As always, you are an inspiration just for simply being who you are, hopefully THAT will become the new thing to be copied, being YOURSELF!
  3. Jan 11-2011 , 06:46AM
    i am all for inspiration but you are exactly right. and i truly feel so many are out to "make a quick buck" and not actually be an artist. it makes me so sad. and a little irked. haha! just be YOU already, right?

    and E, although i have yet to meet you in person, i wanted you to know that i visit your site whenever you update because you are so incredibly kind. your images are amazing, don't get me wrong...but i like connecting with people more than images. and you are one of the sweetest out there! xx oo
  4. Jan 11-2011 , 07:20AM
    I adore this post; it's one of my new favorites of yours. You've stated the importance of authenticity and looking inward to create so perfectly.
  5. Jan 11-2011 , 07:21AM
    This SO great and so true. And a perfect article to share.
    On another note, Sally Mann was and is he first photographer who I truly feel deeply in love with. The lighting, the medium & large formats, the beauty and raw innocence of her kids, landscapes & life.
    Your work and portraits are INSANELY inspirational! Can't wait to meet you at WPPI :)
  6. Jan 11-2011 , 08:09AM
    The idea of "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is only great when you don't pour your whole existence into a craft, then it becomes dishearting to see so many people simply trying to "copy" you.

    I am with you, find yourself and let that come through in your work. Only then will you feel complete. I assure you, these "copy cats" can try to copy everything from what you shoot with to how you shoot it, with like subject matter and they still will not be Elizabeth Messina. It is sad they don't understand that.
  7. Jan 11-2011 , 08:20AM
    Hello! Good to put this out there- thank you. I love, love love sally mann, and 'immediate family" really struck me to the core when i saw it so many years ago. the funny thing is, in experiencing your work, I never would have thought of sally mann, but now that you mention it, can see a certain emotional quality to both of your styles. That's what inspiration should do- not copy a style, but move the creator to then make their own beauty.
  8. Jan 11-2011 , 08:59AM
    Very, very, very well said.
  9. Jan 11-2011 , 10:23AM
    ...still feel the same way about you...you're a rockstar! And if anyone is going to wppi next month....you MUST go to Elizabeth's class! She was amazing in NYC : ) always the best Elizabeth : ) xoxo
  10. Jan 11-2011 , 11:20AM
    A truly wonderful post.....I think in many ways whatever your passion, style, & inspiration you will always have an idol, but i would never ruin that by coping them....whatever you do you should always have your own twist to it or it is simply not you.
    I have come across this coping in my work too, and it breaks my heart....i love the way you have expressed yourself here...it shows not only what a gorgeous photographer you are but also what a wonderful soul you must have.
    Emma x
  11. Jan 11-2011 , 12:14PM
    Beautifully put.
  12. Jan 11-2011 , 12:23PM
    No matter how hard they try to copy you...even if they used the same model, same clothes, same film, camera, lighting, location etc... they would NEVER be a copy of your photos...Your photos breath....
  13. Jan 11-2011 , 12:28PM
    Well said Elizabeth. I agree completely.... I also adore Sally Mann, she's been a great inspiration to me as well. Amazing work! I hope your post will help budding photographers find their own unique voice.
  14. Jan 11-2011 , 12:47PM
    Excellent. The industry is filled with copy-cat images, copy-cat websites, copy-cat web-content. What you stated is just plain accurate.
  15. Jan 11-2011 , 01:37PM
    Very well written, beautifully said! I cannot agree with you more! When looking at photographers to recommend, I am most drawn to the ones that are truly unique in some way, that really stand out to me amongst their peers... those are the ones I want to learn more about and am impressed by! Those are the ones that make a name for themselves!
  16. Jan 11-2011 , 05:09PM
    We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.
  17. Jan 11-2011 , 09:19PM
    So true... I think as artist we often watch others that are more successful and try to be more like them... however, being just like someone else is doing nothing for yourself. Expression of an imagination that is all our own is so important because no one sees the world exactly like we do!
  18. Jan 12-2011 , 05:29PM
    Beautifully and thoughtfully said. What I love about this post is that this is a real issue in the wedding industry, especially in photography and stationary and instead of pointing fingers or calling people out, you've simply made a plea to industry to say "you're better than that, be yourself and give credit where credit is due." Bravo! We've all seen mimics and knockoff's... I hope that this post allows people to reflect on their art and not on their ego.
  19. Jan 13-2011 , 07:46AM
    Thank you for this post. So eloquently put.
  20. Jan 13-2011 , 05:46PM
    I love sally mann, I met her once when I worked at a gallery and I thought I had died and gone to heaven and there was sally mann. she also would send my boss all of these folded up prints in the mail. love your work.
  21. Jan 16-2011 , 02:15PM
    I just wanted to tell you that there is a Sally Mann exhibit at our museum! the VMFA. We are going to see it tomorrow. Im so excited! Not sure if its a traveling thing...but it might make it out to the west coast!
  22. Feb 02-2011 , 08:03PM
    I was a writer first and then I became a photographer. This is one of the best things I have ever read. Thank you!
  23. Jul 18-2011 , 01:32PM
    I am not a photographer by any means and I myself have three children with whom I love to photograph and have since they were babies. I come to your blog because I work in the wedding industry and write the blog pieces for our work blog (www.madeleinesdaughter.blogspot.com). I just had to comment on this post because it was so beautiful and well said!

    Laurie
  24. Dec 30-2011 , 08:58PM
    Thank you Elizabeth for this poignant reminder..."to thine own self be true."
  25. Jan 31-2012 , 08:37AM
    How wonderfully said! I agree that by focusing all their time and energy in recreating another's work, they are actually slowing down their development. I admire your work inmensely, but the greatest inspiration you provide for me is how freely you embrace life and everything beautiful that is in being a woman. :)
  26. May 21-2013 , 06:53AM
    Love this post. Noticed you posted on 01.11.11 (I have a thing with the number eleven - neato!) Awesome blog! :)