On being influenced and inspired by other artists

If you define yourself by what other people think of you and their opinions, you can come undone. You can give up your whole passion or dream – just one person’s opinion.
Joel Grimes

A few weeks ago, someone told me something that I haven’t been able to get off my mind.
I was having a conversation with a friend about Brooke Shaden and her work, and my friend told me that she knows two people who know me and my work and think it’s great, but they also think I try to copy Brooke.
It’s kind of like when you have a lot of people giving you great feedback and leaving amazing comments on your work, then there’s one person who says something negative and it’s the negative thing that sticks with you. I found that that comment hindered me a little. Every time I think of an idea, I start asking myself “would that look like something Brooke would do?”, and when I get to editing I think “no, these colors are too Brooke.”
And that’s not good. I know that Brooke would tell me to just do whatever I want. I also remember once, at one of Lindsay Adler’s talks in Dubai with GPP, she said that she could have a photographer with her shooting the same model in the same location with the same makeup and wardrobe, and it wouldn’t be the same because each one of them has a different voice. And it’s funny because I actually did an image that looked SO similar to one of Lindsay Adler’s images, without realizing it.

© Lindsay Adler

I posted a picture on my Facebook page of a print I was sending to South Africa for an exhibition, and Lindsay commented saying something like “that looks like something I’ve done!” But she was super sweet about it and never made it sound like I was trying to copy her, and she even said it’s a great image.

I didn’t shoot this image having Lindsay’s in mind. I even remember when Lindsay brought it up I felt awful and apologized a million times. Cause I knew I’d seen her image before I did mine, I just wasn’t consciously thinking about it.

And these things happen and it’s okay. I’m not trying to rip anyone off. I’m not trying to be someone else. I’m not trying to be Brooke. Do I aspire to be like her? Definitely. I would give anything to be as loving and caring as she is, to see the world as a magical place, to believe in better things. If that’s me copying her, then it doesn’t bother me at all. But when it comes to our work, I will say that I definitely am heavily influenced by Brooke and I believe that it’s mainly because Brooke got me started. It was her workshop that made me realize that this is what I want to do, that this is what I’ve been looking for to express myself. I started doing squares because when she demoed an edit in her workshop and we followed along, we did everything the same way she did, including square crops and it stuck with me. I loved it. And I also thought “hey, this is awesome for instagram and it’s gonna keep my images consistent!”
I’ve always been drawn to darker themes so I think that could be a reason for people to think I’m trying to copy her, but even if you look at some of my older work (before the workshop) you’d see that it was quite dark and almost gothic, and somewhat disturbed.

But the main point is: I’m still growing, I’m still learning. This is not it for me. What you see now is probably not what I’ll be doing 5 years from now. My style will change and evolve. I’m influenced and inspired by so many people. And I remember Sara Lando telling me something like our work is kind of like a collection of everyone and everything that inspires us. You take inspiration from people, from things, from places, and that becomes you. That becomes your own voice.

This is an image I shot in May. I was playing around with color, not knowing exactly where I was going with it. I stopped working on it for a while, thinking this should just go in my scraps folder. But then I did go back to it and played around with color some more and just loved it. I was hesitant about posting it because like I said, I started thinking the colors are too Brooke. I usually prefer cold tones with lots of blues but the warm tones just worked perfectly for this, so I decided to keep it the way it is 🙂

The Ground Swallows The Malleable

2014-2017 Thoughts

8 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Dear friend Amani! As you know, I’m a big fan of your work and I think you must not worry about those opinions. Brooke would not be the only one to say that, I also would tell you, do what you want, because I love it. It does no harm to create an image with influences of an artist we admire and in my opinion this is not copying. I would not worry if the colors are the same as the Brooke! The colors are there to be used. If those are the right colors for your work, then these are the colors you have to use. I remember this photo similar to the photo from Lindsay and by chance, a few months ago, I and Lindsay exchanged this same opinion that influence is not copy. I also got influenced by the work and by the person who she is. And fortunately it is so, because it never felt so good and capable to climb. I also do my work in square, not because Brooke does, but because I just love and believe and feel that is the best way to focus the story. But the main point is: Keep it going! I love it! 😉


    • Hey Paulo! Thank you so much for this comment. I definitely agree with you, I try not to think about it too much and just do what I love doing. Isn’t Lindsay a wonderful person? I absolutely love her and her personality. I find her personality, and Brooke’s, very inspiring too.
      Sending you lots of hugs!


  2. Did you have a chance to read this? I have had similar self questioning. I love your work and I can personally see how it is yours not Brooke’s. Just keep working, sometimes you will see your style emerge in looking back at a large body of work. One foot infront of the other. Keep your blinders on, try not to get distracted but what others say, look straight ahead and keep working. Love you girl!


    • Hi Janelle! I have read that blog post before! I love it. I’ll go back and read it again now 🙂 and you’re right, I definitely think that the more I do this, the easier it would be to figure out what my style is. Love you too! ❤


  3. I love Brooke shaden and I have been following her blog and YouTube.. But you will see that when I tried to bring some of her style unconsciously into my work it not necessarily worked or turned out just like hers…. One will always get inspired by others but at the end it will have our own essence in it
    and will be authentic to us.


  4. Hello, Amani!

    My name is Maria and I am a conceptual photographer from Russia.

    You have arosen a really touchy topic. What I would like to say is that there is nothing bad or strange in being inspired by other artists. Especially, when we speak about Brooke, who is a role-model for a lot of people not only in photography, but also in life.

    I once received the same comments about my work and that got me thinking a lot. I admire Brooke, but of course as any artist, I want to have my own way, my own experience. That is why I usually don’t pay attention to such comments. I simply I like vivid colors, fairytale look in pictures and pictorialism. These things don’t belong to one specific artist, they are universal and can be used in different combinations.


    • Hi Maria!
      I definitely agree. Brooke has inspired so many people and not just in photography. And I admire you for not letting those comments get to you, yay! You’re right, and I think that everyone portrays them differently because no matter what, art is always personal.


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