The word amateur comes to us from the Latin, meaning one who loves, or lover. It implies a complex relationship: If I am an amateur photographer, I love images as objects, as well as the subject of what I see through my lens, so I snap a picture. The picture marries subject to object, and becomes mine. Appreciation, appropriation, creation. The distinctions collapse into unity.
But in common usage, the amateur stops short. The amateur is imitative, derivative, simplistic.
The Japanese are, famously, lovers of whisky. For nearly a century Japanese distillers made whisky that roughly imitated the objects of their affection, namely single malt Scotch. To the world at large, they were amateurs--in both sense of the word--and nothing more. But in the last decade or so Japan has emerged as a global contender with a distinctive, singular style. An often quoted adage comes to mind: Good artists borrow, great artists steal.Read More