Picture gallery

Same, Same But Different: 50 photographers interpret the same ideas

Max Siedentopf’s latest book challenges the taboo of employing the same idea twice

“A woman bleeds out of her nose. She holds a bottle of ketchup.” “A middle-aged man cried while he strokes a cat.” “A handshake. One of the hands is a foot.” These are just three of the 12 briefs that photographer, designer and publisher Max Siedentopf sent out to 50 photographers worldwide, asking them to, quite literally, create photographic interpretations of exactly the same ideas.

“I started noticing more and more how it sometimes happens that two people have the same idea, and it should not always be negative,” says Siedentopf, who has been curating the project for three years. It works in a similar vein to his magazine project, Ordinary, for which he invites photographers to creatively interpret an “ordinary” theme like air, socks, or tampons.

Referencing, copying, and adaptation are all part of the creative process, yet the pressure to reinvent the wheel has never been more important. What Siedentopf asks is: “If there is a perfectly fine wheel available, why would you put all that time and effort into reinventing it again?”

Same, Same But Different challenges the taboo of using the same idea twice. For each brief — provided to photographers in the form of text or drawings — there are a dozen-or-so photographic interpretations by collaborators including Arielle Bobb-Willis, Trisha Ward, Jan Hoek, Peggy Kuiper, Jp Bonino and Annie Collinge.

In a world where authenticity is valued so highly, it is easy to forget that execution is just as important. In Same, Same But Different, we see how an idea is just the starting point, and the ways in which artists can manipulate composition, styling, and their choice of setting or models, is truly endless.

Same, Same But Different by Max Siedentopf is published by Hyena Editions.

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Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Deputy Commissioning Editor. This was preceded by a degree in English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.