Who are You (as a photographer) and Who Has Influenced You

I guess you can say that in some respects, there were influences that drove me to write this article.  Reading what others have said about either confirming or denying they had photographic influences in their life, was the catalyst. With that said, I can assure you I have copied nothing from anybody.

I’ve asked the question (on a post) recently, who are you? I meant it as it pertains to life, but it is worth exploring who you are as a photographer. Do you have influences? Are you a copycat? Does every single technical choice, compositional choice, and selection of subject come entirely from you?

I’ve seen the question answered by several photographers, as to what photographers have influenced them in their image making. I’d like to take a shot at that.

I can honestly say that unless I have stated otherwise, I have never made a picture, or written a word, or claimed a style (adventurer, patience etc.) that has not come directly from me. I am very few things worthy of note, but I am an original. I was born original, and I will surely die that way. With that said, many writers and thinkers, many artists and photographers have influenced me.

Please understand that I am not putting myself on the level with the people I mention below. Their influence is appreciated but I’m not always a great student.

Photographically, the great veteran John Shaw showed me that if you are willing to put in the work, if you are willing to learn and put into practice, the technical expertise needed to make great images, your own personal artistry will show itself naturally. John also proved that a great outdoor photographer, can create wildlife, landscape and macro images with equal zeal and skill. You need not limit yourself. I’ve never understood so-called nature artists (or other genres), who turn on to some subjects, while turning off to others.

The late great Galen Rowell taught me through example, that the spirit of adventure not only belongs in photography, at its best, it is a part of our photography. It is inside the images you make.

Art Wolfe taught me what it means to not only be a great photographer/artist, but how to represent photography. He teaches attitude, and how much a great one means to those who watch you. He teaches that if you love photography, then you look for and pursue the making of images, no matter where you are or how many you made yesterday. It matters not whether you are on the other side of the word, or in your own backyard.

At times I would have been better off if I would have actually copied his attitude and treatment of fellow photographers.

Compositionally, there are many painters who have influenced me including literalists, abstracts artists, Impressionists, minimalists and commercial artists.

I will again admit to sometimes forgetting what Art, and all great photography influences have to teach. After all, as I’ve already said, I have several influences, but I never copy.

My goal in life has always been to watch, listen and learn from those who have something to say, but to always express my own unique sentiments, be it with words or pictures.

John Shawjshaw_120703_nd4_8397

Galen Rowellrowell-1cbuttermilk-road-1971

Art Wolfeartwolfe

Never forget those who came before you. Don’t fear having been influenced by others, just make sure in the end, it is you in those photos, and no one else.


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