© Birthe Piotnek (left), © Brea Souders (right)
© Birthe Piontek (left), © Brea Souders (right)

I've been aware of Birthe Piontek's work for a bit now, and only just saw Brea Souders' images for the first time yesterday via pause, to begin. I'm always happy to find photography that really strikes me on a gut level, and Brea's imagery really did that for me. She's working on a new series about superstitions (which she's posting on her blog) and I find her current photos to be really powerful. They're dark and eerie, but not so dark and eerie that they turn into a cliche or tip toward the sentimental.

Another thing that I was struck by was the similarity between some of Brea's and Birthe's images. It brought me to thinking about a post I read recently on Cara Phillips' blog about originality. Cara writes: "How do you deal with originality in photography? Is it enough to shoot with your 'eye' and apply it to any subject matter, even if it has been covered by someone else, or do you need fresh subjects?" I do worry sometimes that someone else out there is making art that's similar to mine, but I found it heartening to note my reaction to discovering Brea's image of the hair after having seen Birthe's version before. I actually loved having the moment of recognition, and seeing the above work side-by-side I find it exciting to compare and contrast (I have a feeling Cara would agree with me on this). I hope that the photographers themselves won't be disheartened to see the images placed together. This is a complimentary post, one that's meant to give kudos to two talented women, each doing her own thing.

This may be a bad analogy and will reveal my dorkier side, but I'll admit I love the show "So You Think You Can Dance." Last season one of the choreographers made all of the dancers perform the same solo piece one after the other, and I thought it was fascinating to watch the dance over and over and see how it changed simply because of the individual way each performer had of moving. Obviously it's different in the case of two artists working without seeing each other's images beforehand, but my point is it doesn't have to be boring to see one photograph that is like another. I think sometimes there's a certain zeitgeist in the air, the same way an obscure baby name will suddenly become popular across the country. I don't know how it happens, but it does, and as long as it's not mere recycling, or overly intellectual and lacking substance in a riffing-on-other-photos-in-a-self-conscious-kind-of-way, I'd say originality is almost always overrated. I think it's enough to shoot with your "eye," as long as you didn't knowingly take your idea from someone else in the first place. I'm happy to have been exposed to the four images above, and in a meditative way am enjoying looking back and forth between the photos.


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