What Inspired or Inspires you to do Photography     

Inspiring Viewpoint 2

Palouse river canyon 2




A member of a photography site I frequented some time ago posed the question, “What inspired you?”

I took that to mean what inspired you as a photographer?

One would think that a question on a photographer’s website page would be a great opportunity for photographers to talk about those that encouraged, influenced, or affected their development in this exciting medium.

Anticipating discussions on celebrated photographers who had inspired others on that forum to get into photography I looked forward to reading members replies. However, I was surprised and disappointed with how few took the time to respond, and those that did seemed silly by only naming long gone painters like Rembrandt. Rembrandt? Not one member on that photographer’s forum mentioned another photographer.

Unable to contain myself I wrote, “I was inspired to do photography by photographers not painters. Those I admired and inspired me at different times include Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Arnold Neuman, Gregory Heisler, Sarah Moon, Sheila Metzner and Annie Leibovitz. I must also mention scenic photographers like Elliott Porter, Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen and Edward Weston.”

Today I sent a friend a picture I had taken of him and several other friends in the early 1970s. I remembered at that time I was rarely without a camera, and how frustrating that was to some that just got tired of my constant picture taking. That’s when I recalled the preceding post on inspiration and my response.

I suppose there are painters and sculptors I like, but do they inspire my photography? No not really – I look to photographers for that. The first photographer and artist that inspired me all those years ago was Man Ray. It was after viewing his fascinating pictures that I began to study photography.

However, it is the second photographer on my inspiration list, Richard Avedon that I’ll quote here, “I think many photographers create in order to survive, both emotionally as well as financially. For a photographer, taking a photo is just as important as breathing”.

Sometimes when I see a photograph that I like I get excited. I might not be able to go to the location or find the subject of that picture, but it still makes me want to grab my camera and begin searching for something. I could say that photograph inspired me to create one of my own in my own personal way.

In my list to that forum I forgot to include the famous Canadian nature photographer and author, Freeman Patterson. I think any photographer interested in photographing gardens or landscapes will find inspiration in his photographs and his writing. Patterson wrote,  “Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you.”

There are many things and people that inspire me, too many to write down here, but the original post was on a photographer’s forum, so it’s photographers not painters that I thought about. There are many photographers past and present whose images are worth searching for, looking at, learning from, and of course, gaining inspiration from that will surely affect one’s own photography.

I always enjoy everyone’s comments. Please don’t hesitate if you have a moment.

Thanks, John

7 responses to “What Inspired or Inspires you to do Photography     

  1. Hi John

    I can’t really point to individual photographers who have inspired me. Instead, it is their collective work which has shown me their different visions of the world, people and events. That has triggered in me the desire to photograph the world around me, creating images that, like theirs, shows me my surroundings in ways I don’t ordinarily see when walking around.

    Photographs stretch my world beyond what I can physically see, they slow down or speed up time, lighten or darken scenes, enhance or remove colour, emphasize small details which often elude my eye, and so on. I am driven to capture some of that.

    I have been visiting galleries and art museums for much of my life and in many different places around the world, observing what artist of different cultures and different times have created. In a sense, I am now inspired to create my vision of the world around us, just like them (although with significantly less skill!).


    • I only added those photographers that I actually studied Derek. However, I like your statement, “it is their collective work which has shown me their different visions of the world”. That is more realistic when one looks at different interpretations of a subject and is as you also wrote, “inspired to create my vision of the world around us, just like them”. Thanks


    • I have a signed copy of one of Mr. Patterson’s books that I got while attending his lecture sometime back in gosh, the 1980s. I also have most of his books. I am glad you plan on using him for renewal Ferne.


  2. I’m not really inspired by either photographers or painters; I’m inspired by Nature and People. Of course I have some knowledge of photographers and painters but I’m not really referential in that sense.

    When I got seriously into Photography in the early 80s I had too main releases. I would go out to the Budawangs Range in Moreton National Park (NSW) and photograph the wilderness. Photography helped me appreciate Nature and Nature helped me appreciate landscape photography.

    Also, a friend asked me to photograph the band he was in, which started me into live music photography. It has to be bands that I appreciate because essentially I’m photographing the music as expressed by the performers rather than the other way around. I’m barely even aware of other live music photographers.

    In general, I think I’m not referential because my aim is to create a new reality.This is largely inevitable in any case, but I tend not to care much what others are doing as long as I’m pursuing and hopefully achieving originality in my own terms.


  3. I’m enjoying your writing on the subject of photography. Lots of great teachers out there in the rest of the world, but it is so cool to have discovered one knowledgeable in the field and so relatively close to home.


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