My Photography Heroes
Recently I was scrolling through my Pinterest boards and stumbled on an older board I had created years ago titled : Photography Inspiration. Within I had pinned images from Vogue, film and other sources. I had also pinned images from some of my photography heroes. I sat engrossed in this board and the images it held for hours, remembering the feelings these images and their creators had stirred up in me from a very young age.
For almost as long as I can remember I wanted to be a photographer. I loved a good story and I loved how photography could be used as a powerful tool in story telling. As a wedding photographer it can be so EASY to simply look to the wedding industry. Where are the trends, what are other photographers doing, what should I be photographing, often forgetting there is a world completely outside of the wedding photography industry where people are changing the world through the images they create. As a photographer it is vital to inner creative to see the images of photographers who are pushing, stretching and changing the world through their craft. Taking that back to my wedding work, telling a beautiful story and hopefully pushing, stretching and changing the world through my lens.
I'm not sure any of these photographers ever photographed a wedding (maybe they did!) But what I do know is that they changed the course of my life. They unknowingly have stretched me in ways I could never have imagined. These are the photographers who have inspired me daily and who, through their powerful bodies of work, keep me ever striving to tell a powerful story through photographs.
As a young girl, as young as 8 or 9, I remember seeing the works of Dorothea Lange and being transfixed. She was able to depict an entire epidemic in her Migrant Mother portrait and through a singular frame, helped to change the course of life for thousands. There are several other frames that Lange took of this iconic Migrant Mother and yet only a single frame was selected, becoming her iconic work. Just a powerful example of how one image can encompass all.
(above, Dorothea Lange)
Mary Ellen Mark
By the time I was in middle school, through the encouragement of my parents I signed up for a photography class. During this class we took a field trip to view an exhibition of Mary Ellen Mark. It was an image from her Indian Circus, though I can't remember which one, that changed my life forever. This trip and Mark's work, soldified in my being the importance of photography as a tool to document stories while honoring the lives of others through my camera. It was a fundemental moment in my life. While my work is nothing like Mark's, her influence in how and why I became a photographer was paramount.
(above, Mary Ellen Mark)
The work of Richard Avedon was first presented to me during my early days of college. As an art major I was lucky to attend university directly across the street from one of the best art museums in the world, the Museum of Fine Art. On a daily basis I could stroll the halls of this historic museum free of charge. Vincent Van Gogh was regular stop on my visits, but there were others who sparked my inner creative, one being fashion photographer Richard Avedon. I've always had a love for the iconic portrait, and Avedon is known for his creative and sometimes outrageous portraits of celebrities, models and every day people alike. His work challenges me, makes me feel uneasy and inspires me to push my craft further, always.
(above, Richard Avedon)
James Nachtwey is my favorite photographer. To this day I cannot look at his images for less than several minutes, often becoming entranced in the subjects and stories told within a singular frame. I remember being introduced to Nachtwey's body of work during a VII presentation while at college. It was his body of work that solidified my desire to become a news photographer and tell stories with my camera. And while my life has taken a much different turn photographically, his imagery still holds this truth for me : photography is vital. photography is important. photography can change the world. I will forever be grateful to Nachtwey for using his gifts as a photographer to share the stories of others, for helping to shape my world perspective and to remind me to always honor those who are placed in front of my camera.
(above, James Nachtwey)
It might sound like much of who I am as a photographer was shaped by my education and it was. But I don't believe that you need to be trained as a photographer to understand the importance of inspiration in your own work. It is so easy as a business owners to be swept up in running a business that we can often forget that taking time to be inspired in our own photographic work is equally as important. It can be as simple as starting a board on Pinterest, cutting out pictures from a magazine or heading to your local Barnes & Noble and browsing through the art books. Taking the time to be inspired by the work of others, outside of the wedding world, is paramount in stretching and challenging ourselves in our craft.
How do you find your inspiration? What fires you up? Who or what has sparked your own photographic journey? I love to know!