A few months ago, my students at New York's School of Visual Arts were assigned to make knockoffs of famous nudes from the history of art. They're all studying photography, so it came as no surprise that many of the works they chose to reconstruct were photographs. The school provided figure models of all shapes and sizes to pose for students as they learned lighting and practiced studio techniques. At the very least, restaging these classic images required students to reverse-engineer good pictures and figure out how they might have been made. At most, I think there was something to be understood about the impossibility of true plagiarism in photography. When I was in art school I remember becoming discouraged, believing any worthwhile image had already been made. The goal of this assignment was to teach that even if you try very hard to remake someone else's work, your photographs can only be your own.
Artsy Nudes will be presented as a pop-up exhibition at the School of Visual Arts from March 9–20.
Opening reception: Wednesday, March 11, 6-8pm
School of Visual Arts Photography Building, 214 E 21st St, NYC