ORIGINAL CONTENT

11.07.2012



Lately I've been thinking a lot about original content. What is it? How do you create it? Why isn't there more of it? Debaters seem to get hung up on creation vs. curation vs. consumption. A blog can be everything and nothing; it can be sharply edited, wholly original and beautifully designed. Or it can be an unhinged pictorial f*ckfest, a.k.a. the Tumblr of any bored teen, inevitably publishing under the username "nuclearchanukah," or "crackponies" or something. Sometimes the photolog blogs are totally awesome repositories of otherwise easily missed gems (Stuff and Nonsense, Maryam Nassir Zadeh). They are wordless compendiums, purposefully detached from their creators and expressly for the purpose of curating links and images. Other times the blogs that really take off rely solely on sharing their favorite finds from around the web, slickly edited together (Honestly...WTF). A mix is oftentimes nice to find and a nice mix is what I strive for on this blog - hopefully that doesn't come as a surprise to my readers! Said mix is a big sticking point though, as "stolen inspiration" is digital piracy to some and simply sharing to others.

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One of the first talking points that comes to mind in writing this post is the interview in which über-blogger Scott Schuman said of Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson and, I guess, most any other style bloggers: “They are people who write about fashion, but in order to have a visual element they steal pictures from other people.” To this, the interviewers snidely remark, “And the pictures they do take themselves often look terrible…” (charming!) Schuman continues, “for someone like Tavi to take the next step, she is going to have to go out and get a photographer to shoot everything.” To which I have to say, it’s the INtErNET what are you talking about?? Not everyone wants to turn their blog into an enterprise, converting reader pageviews into ad click-through placement metrics (is that a thing? I don’t know; I just made it up.) Maybe sometimes people are just looking for an outlet to share their thoughts and feelings about the media they’re asked to engage with on a daily basis? Maybe fashion is FuN and people just want to talk about it with their internet friends? (Schuman later revised his opinion of Gevinson, but I am assuming his thoughts on using other people's images remain the same.) Even if your intention is to turn a profit from your blog, Schuman’s statement isn't necessarily true. Take, for example, the incompetent fool Lizzie Garrett, whose blog Tomboy Style – which often uses images Garrett didn’t take – was turned into a book. Good luck monetizing that! Oh, wait…

Really, though, I like The Sartorialist. I am totally inspired by the images on that site. They are often beautiful, sometimes surprising and always technically impressive. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I like to shoot full-body portraits, as Schuman does. I don’t like the detail shot thing – and I can’t do it right, regardless, as I don’t have the right lenses. But there are a ton of us who shoot stylish people on the streets in this way (Monsieur Jerome, Stockholm Streetstyle). If we were to shoot the same person, would it look the same? Would it be original? I put some of my shots next to images from other sources to show that, particularly here in NYC, we sometimes do get the same person – but is it the same content? How is it presented to a reader? In what context? See the photos below, with links to their respective posts, and formulate your own thoughts on the matter…
Top: Ben Ferrari for GQ vs. moi; bottom: Monsieur Jerome vs. moi

Beyond that, I constantly use street style images as references for my own ensemble-making. Sometimes I'll look over my Tumblr or Pinterest accounts and see if anything inspires me to wear a piece in a certain way; other times I've had an image in the back of my mind for awhile and have been shopping for pieces to "get the look." Does this make my output less original?

Monsieur Jerome for Fucking Young! vs. Buffalo Check

I post images from other sources, be it a street style blog or a magazine editorial, because I really do get inspired by them. Sharing what inspires one is a crucial element of blogging and having the platform to show how the media you ingest gets processed by your mindgrapes (30 Rock, #ftw) is totally awesome. Posting that outside content here helps me craft a better narrative for my reader, a story about the creative process behind a look, or the styling of an image. And I always go out of my way to find image sources, because I hate it when an image doesn't link back to its source! It leaves us wondering who the hell took it and for what purpose.

One measuring stick I use is how I feel seeing my own images shared. I love for people to share my work – it shows that it’s appreciated and often drives traffic back to my site. Does it get me any money? No, not yet, but hopefully increased exposure will one day result in paying jobs. Of course, sometimes things go wrong. My outfit post Stockholm State of Mind was shared on Tumblr umpteen million times, but the person who shared it with such awesome results found the image via Lookbook.nu. The link lead people who clicked through the image back to my outfit on Lookbook, not to my blog. This was my own fault and is one of the issues I've had using Lookbook. On the other hand, I’m always excited to see that someone has pinned or shared an image of mine when it links directly back to the blog post it came from.

A new trend I've seen is bigger blogs like Garance Doré (Schuman’s girlfriend) and Into the Gloss incorporating elements of inspiration into the content framework of their blogs. Well well well, it would seem old media is indeed the foundation of new media, or rather, that print media is the breeding ground for digital media concepts. Inspiration is constant and being able to share what influences you and drives you to create is always going to involve putting someone else's work in front of people's faces. And that's the beauty of the web! Sharing is caring, that's what I say...

Oh my sweet lord Jesus, have I gotten to a stopping point? I think I'm going to seal this post with a kiss right now and maybe come back next week with a personal anecdote about my experiences with blogging. I have a lot to say and maybe finding a way to serialize it would be a good/digestible idea. Feel free to comment away and if my train of thought became seriously derailed at any point in this post, let me know so I can right it! All the best in blogging~
 

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