There's often talk in artistic circles, especially in photographic ones, about people finding 'inspiration' in other people's work. Some people call that stealing, but unless it's a blatant rip-off of a contemporary of yours whom you're taking money away from, I think it's just the way art has always worked.
A couple of weeks ago I was doing some research into Irving Penn's portraiture and stumbled upon a two photos which made me have a serious case of deja vu. Both had inspired, Annie Leibovitz to make two of my favorite images of hers. The first a lovely portrait of Christy Turlington, with a lighting look that I'm still trying to effectively replicate, and the second in her series of group portraits for the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair.
The point being that looking at older work can sometimes inspire you to take the idea and create something new and modern, and that's not a bad thing. Lately I've gotten a number of emails from people showing me work seemingly 'inspired' by my Motion series. I think they expect me to get mad, but hey, I was inspired by a Marvin Newman boxing photo. Renaissance artists stole from the Romans, and they just stole it all from the Greeks, who stole it from the Egyptians, who stole it from...
Just extend the idea to make it your own and it's all good.