I thought I’d share some thoughts on who and what inspires me to make photographs. There are some photographers out there I really like and I would like to give them a shout out. However, there are not only photographers but also other personalities who I draw inspiration from and I will talk about who they are as well.
Firstly though, I need to clarify what I understand inspiration to actually be. There seems to be a common misconception based on my experience of talking to other photographers and having attended certain events that provided “inspired by” challenges that if you make a photograph “inspired by” it has to look exactly the same.
For example: If you are asked to make a photograph inspired by Martin Parr, the expectation would be to use a flash and highly saturated colours as well as people in funny or awkward poses or situations. Now, this is not wrong per se and I would say that if you are inspired by Martin Parr then you would most like use the same or similar tools as him.
However, I fundamentally disagree with that.
Of course, as a photographer, you steal a lot but that doesn’t meant that if you are inspired by someone or something that it has to look exactly the same. Thinking otherwise, I feel is too shallow and not thinking about your own work enough.
My appreciation and inspiration for Bruce Gilden’s work for example goes much deeper than just his photographic style and tools he uses. When I am inspired by his work, it is also the way he interacts with his environment and the people he photographs that inspires me. Most people know him as someone who comes across harsh and rude but that is not always the case. Of course this behaviour is the most attention grabbing and most people gasp at his manners. However, if you look at his work more closely and observe what he actually does and listen to what he has to say then there is so much more to it. I strongly believe that he is a fantastic story teller. Just look at his work from when he went to Japan. Stunning documentary photography. Or Haiti… I could go on.
So when I say I am inspired by Bruce Gilden, then I want to tell a strong story in my own style without anybody telling me how things should be done. His technique and tools are only secondary to that (I wouldn’t really consider using a flash on the street to be honest…)
It is also about finding your own voice. You can emulate others to see what resonates with you but in the end, I think you need to find your own style and you own stories to tell.
Having said all that, who else inspires me?
That’s always quite a difficult thing to talk about as that requires a lot of thinking but will drop some names here in no particular order:
Footballer Ian Wright – Why? I think he is a great guy and has a fantastic work ethic. I recently read his autobiography which is quite an entertaining read in itself. However, what really stuck with me was his relentless dedication and hard work he put in to be the best he could be. This is the key: Work hard, get good at what you do and eventually reap the benefits. Keep trying (quote: “No one will ever be remembered for not trying”) and don’t get distracted. The big prize, whatever that is for you, has to always be in sight. I find that very inspiring.
Apple founder Steve Jobs – Why? Many people think he was awful to people and that is quite true. I read the Walter Isaacson biography and there were quite a few things for me to take away. Whilst reading it, I felt like I understood why he was the way he was. I truly believe that he wanted the best out of himself and the people around him. I think that, sometimes, people get too hung up on how they want to be treated and act shocked when someone is actually honest with them. I am no exception to this, especially when it is unfounded and not constructive then, I will most likely not be interested in what you have to say to me. Steve Jobs was a very direct man and would not sugarcoat anything. I find that approach quite refreshing albeit it was probably quite a nightmare to work with him and I know the feeling when nothing ever seems good enough and I can see why people took offense to that. Look at Apple nowadays though and you see how that approach helped make it to be the most valuable and richest tech company in world. I believe that you have to be very honest with yourself and others to be able to succeed. Being in denial and getting hung up on formalities does not work. Sometimes you need to get over yourself and just get the job done. I say that now… Hehehe. The bottom line is: Be clear what you want and don’t compromise just because others say so. If you have an idea and you are confident in it, run with it and don’t let social convention or others dictate how you have to behave to make it happen. There is too much walking on eggshells going on.
I should probably list more photographers here and I am doing so in naming Eric Kim. He is a street photographer, educator and motivator and far too wise for his age (he isn’t even 30 year old!). His work is very strong but also his motivational skills which resonate with me quite a lot (check him out here: http://www.erickim.com). I wanted to attend a workshop with him which was unfortunately cancelled but I hope that I can make it at some point. He is worth listening to or reading his blog as he digs very deep into the psyche of photography and genuinely wants to help you get better. Like me, he comes from a 9-5 office job. He built his photography business from scratch and is now the number 1 if you search for street photography on Google. He recently moved to Vietnam and just lives there with his wife. I recommend you read his day in the life of story to understand what he is doing. It is worth it.
Who else is there? Hmm, I would have to say professional chefs. I am a fan of the TV competition MasterChef – The Professionals here in the UK. What a great program. I just love watching people who know their stuff at work. That not only relates to chefs but pretty much all professions that require skill and expertise to get a job done to the highest standards. This is very inspiring to me and whenever I go to a restaurant and there either a glimpse or either a fully open kitchen, I just can’t keep my eyes of the are and I would always watch what the chefs are doing. I love it.
The last inspiration I am going to mention today is Stoicism. I know I have touched on this topic in a previous blog post but I have come to learn about Stoicism and it’s ancient teachings this year in particular and it really struck a chord with me so it has become quite important to me. The teachings of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius may be really old but are still relevant if you translate them into modern life. Basically, if something doesn’t go as expected, don’t panic and examine what can be done to solve the problem or get past the difficult situation. This is my main takeaway of Stoicism and I am still learning this philosophy as I write this. There is a book by author Ryan Holiday, “The Daily Stoic” which takes these ancient wisdoms and translates them into more manageable pieces of information. I can highly recommend it.
I hope this gives you a little bit of insight into what inspires and also drives me. As you can see, there are not only photographers and photography in general which have an influence but other disciplines as well. Taking a holistic approach is quite important to me, especially as otherwise you would just miss out on a lot.
What inspires you and drives you? Feel invited to share your thoughts with me and let’s start a conversation. I would be very happy to hear from you!
You can either comment on this blog or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to share your thoughts (with your permission of course)
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All the best