While Kathy Griffin is forced to bear the brunt of the backlash to the now-infamous presidential beheading photo, the photographer who instigated it – Tyler Shields – has remained relatively unscathed. TMZ caught up with Shields in a Gelsen’s parking lot last night and asked him to comment on the hullabaloo he caused.
“I got no comment,” he said. “The thing is: You make art, you gotta stand by it…. Can’t censor myself, man.”
Which of course, begs the question: Is Shields an artist, though? And is what he does art?
You might recall the outrage over his famous Birkin bag burning photos, in which he set fire to a $60,000 purse just because he could. Which is heresy, but whatever.
While there are those who think of him as nothing more than a scandal-mongering wannabe, others, including VICE, have accused him of outright plagiarizing his most famous works from other photographers like Helmet Newton, Ryan McGinley, Irving Penn, Annie Leibovitz and others… without acknowledging it.
His level of success is surprising, given that a glance at his portfolio by anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of photography would reveal that a high number of his images look an awful lot like those of other photographers. And not obscure photographers, either. Many of his shots bear striking resemblances to the work of some of the most famous photographers of all time.
Sure, this could be passed off as “creative inspiration,” a la Richard Prince or Quentin Tarantino, but, as far as I can tell, Shields has never acknowledged that his photography is influenced by the work of others. In fact, in an interview a few years back, when he was asked what inspires him, Shields replied: “I just love to show people the way I see the world. It’s important for me to explore the things that I see and create inspiration from the world around me. I don’t look to other artists, just the world.” In a different interview, Shields was asked if Terry Richardson is an inspiration, and answered: “To be honest I don’t look at other peoples work I only know who Terry is because people have asked me if I like his work.” [sic]
Oh, give me a break.
Check out some of his copycat works below (via VICE).
(Top image: via TMZ video)