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My photograph has been copied! | Nick Frank

I lost faith and almost quit photography when my images were copied

Dec 9, 2019

My name is Nick and I am a professional photographer based in Munich. I specialize in commercial work, such as branding, corporate, and industrial photography, as well as architecture. Additionally, I enjoy pursuing fine art projects that primarily focus on architectural photography. This is where I find inspiration and find the most pleasure in my work.

In 2014, I was surprised to find that someone had been copying my images, which I had taken and published between 2010 and 2013. Not only were the copies identical in terms of the shooting angle, but also in terms of editing and overall appearance. At the time, I didn't give it much thought as I assumed it was an amateur who was admiring my work and trying to replicate it. I may have also been a bit flattered, as I thought it meant my work was very good.

Gegen├╝berstellung der kopierten U-Bahn Bilder

Photographing subways has become a trend in recent years. When I took some of these pictures, they were fresh and new. Of course, now anyone can photograph a subway station from a central perspective, because we see them every day. What sets my images apart from others is the editing. I didn't focus on reality. I retouch a lot and want to convey an artificial overall impression. It was with these images that my career in photography essentially began and I gained a lot of attention with them.

How it escalated

I didn't get back to the subject until two years later when one of my fellow photographers informed me that someone was recreating/copying my work.

I was shocked:

While the theft was previously limited to my hometown of Munich, it has now become a chase across the globe. This guy chased me to cities like Stockholm, Vienna, Dubai and Frankfurt to recreate my subway pictures.

Weitere Bilder aus der U-Bahn Serie

Even the image processing is almost perfect. Working with contrasts seems to be a bit more difficult for him, so the images look a bit flat, but the overall effect is pretty damn good. He also retouched the same elements in his images.

After looking around his website, I found that he had not only recreated my subway images, but had also stolen from other series I had posted earlier. I should mention that he also copied parts of my homepage layout and texts.

Kopierte Bilder aus der MIRA Serie

MIRA another project that went to live in 2022. Apple licensed some of the images.

Kopiere Bilder aus der Concrete Living Serie

concrete living - 2011

Even long-distance trips to Hong Kong/Kowloon and marches to some of the surrounding peaks didn't stop him. I keep asking myself: All this effort - why not create something himself? There is literally nothing new from this man.

I found out about Michael Wolff when Concrete Living was already in the can. Even though there's always a chance that you can get to someone else's work if you delve into a particular subject. Some things are just obvious. What my colleague did is not an approximation, it's the same thing.

Weitere kopierte Bilder von KK aus der Serie Hong Kong

While you're in Hong Kong, why not copy some of my other stuff? How about Dubai?

Auch aus Dubai wurden viele meiner Bilder kopiert

Why all of this is so sad

Copying someone else's work doesn't sound like much of a problem to you? I mean, this guy is an amateur?

Wrong.

It turned out that my copyist was competing for the same assignments, entering (and winning) the same award shows, and being published in the same magazines.

The whole thing not only hurt my business, but also took away some of the fun I had with photography as a profession.

I contacted the award panel to which he had applied and won, and everyone there seemed quite upset and assured me that they would get to the bottom of the problem and keep me informed. No one ever got back to me or responded to my emails. They didn't care or didn't want to give the impression that they didn't check the posts for originality - which I believe is the reason they didn't respond.

I had a similar experience when I contacted a number of magazines and news/design sites that published the images. No response or a stop after a few emails.

At this point I was pretty dumbfounded by the fact that it doesn't matter where the fresh content comes from, if it's imitated, stolen or whatever. There is no conscientiousness in these award shows, magazines, etc. (exceptions prove the rule). It's especially odd because all these channels are there to promote creativity, not theft. So there should be accountability in some way. I wish we had an industry standard for this.

I got in touch with a couple of lawyers specializing in copyright who saw an earlier post on Facebook about this issue. They felt strongly that we could at least force the man to remove the images from his website. In the end, we couldn't do anything about it, which was even more frustrating.

Did I quit or not? It hit me hard and I almost lost faith that someone was copying so unrestrainedly and without any consistency. But then I decided to stick with it.

Today

I look at the copyist's homepage from time to time.

He has stopped copying my work. Either because it forced me not to mention where I took the shot (which is sad), or because I'm working more and more for clients and this problem no longer arises.

Anyway, he seems to spend his energy now imitating the work of other photographers. This guy is like a Borg from Star Trek; he assimilates and moves on. Now he's after drone photography and he's pretty darn successful with his method.

Good night!