Photo Referencing 101
In the article, Immonen writes about how photo reference is just another tool for artists to use, and makes a case that it is up to the artist to decide how to use it. It's not my craft, so it is unfair for me to decide what constitutes fair use of any tool that artists use, but he makes an excellent point AND shows that you can use photo reference without harming the art in any way. The problem arises when you use a crutch so much, that your artistic muscles can't work without them. I believe that this is the problem with Greg Land.
I have several issues of his work in Nightwing from years ago, and it is in a complete different style. By the same token, Kirk mentioned him in his post about CrossGen and also noted how different his style was from the current one. It wasn't particularly noteworthy or interesting, but the characters looked like they were supposed to look panel after panel and the flow in action was rather smooth. In other words, his storytelling was effective. Somewhere along the way, he started using more and more photo references in his art, and his style evolved into an hyper realistic one, which at points looks like photos that have been put through a Photoshop filter (an accusation that Land himself has claimed to be false).
And the same poses were used in other covers! Take a look at this gif image, courtesy of 4thletter, which has a comparison of how the poses are used in other covers, most notably from Ultimate Power.
(Something I hadn't noticed before making this post is that Pixie's facial expression was changed from the original sketch to the actual finished cover. Pixie's face also happens to be one of the most blatant use of the same photo reference for different characters of different covers.)
You will also notice something else: there's two dozen characters in this image, but the number of feet in this cover can be counted with just one of your hands.
Beyond the Covers
Of course, if it was just his cover work that is photo referenced beyond any recognition, I would probably be able to look past it, but everything I mentioned above also applies to the interior work that Greg Land provides. Take for example this page from a recent issue of Uncanny X-Men...
To be fair, there's three characters that lend themselves extremely well to Greg Land's heavy use of photo reference and repetitive use of the same models. I am of course talking of the Stepford Cuckoos...
You will notice that in all three panels, it is the exact same image of ONE character that looks to be cut and pasted. (This is without even mentioning that these characters are supposed to be teenage girls, as opposed to late-20's or early 30's porn stars.) No other artist, to my knowledge, has done this with the Stepford Cuckoos, so it's not like it is some kind of weird tradition to draw them all of them doing the same thing at once.
I could buy that these three characters looked the same (they are triplets, in case you don't know), I could even buy that they do things in unison (they do have psychic powers after all) but having them blatantly be in the same pose in not one, not two, but THREE CONTINUOUS panels in the same page looks like an eye-sore.
*eats grilled cheeses*