Every creative person whether an artist, author, photographer or otherwise has sources of inspiration. Those sources could be anything and I really do mean anything. Personally I have a collection of sources that I regularly utilise in different ways.
Now I will start by saying I don’t go out and actively copy other photographers but I most certainly do use them for inspiration. There isn’t a photographer on this planet at this moment in time that could be considered unique, nor doing something revolutionary. Every photographer (and artist) will be using, adjusting and developing (excuse the photography pun) various techniques that have been around for years and years and years whilst making them their own.
I haven’t personally undertaken an arts degree, but even at GCSE level the majority of the subject was not on your own personal style and ability, but about history of art knowledge including artists and their techniques, and then how to apply them. I think some photographers get precious about their work, not wanting to be copied or emulated, when intentionally 0r not they are ultimately drawing influence and inspiration from other artists. The phrase ‘Imitation is the greatest form of flattery’ is true in art in my humble opinion, the superior artist will always shine through, and a true emerging talent will adjust and develop the style to become their own. Once upon a time great artists would start as apprentices learning and refining their skills under the guidance of a master in their field. This still happens on occasion, but with so many channels of learning this true one to one relationship is now less common. But I must be thankful to live in the age we do as this is how I have learnt my trade. I have exposed myself to as many of the great photographers and artists, both past and present, as humanly possible, and I’m constantly seeking out new artists. Not every one will be to my tastes, but I can appreciate the reasoning, work and skill that has gone into producing their work. I spend evening upon evening looking at other photographer’s work, only by exposing and comparing myself to others do I feel I can improve my own work. Art is now also a business, a great artist who is a poor businessman will never be successful, so inspiration and influences drawn, are now not just in artistic practices but also in business, in how to provide that best service for a client.
I still find it quite surreal that I have reached the point in my career that others use my own work as inspiration, and I do take it for the positive it is, BUT I will never take it as a suggestion that there is nothing else for me to improve or change. The best artists, photographers included, are those that are constantly evolving and improving their work. Am I a great? No, no where near, not even on the same continent! Would I like to be? Yes, but I’ve got an awful long journey ahead of me to even get close.
In addition to other artists and photographers I also utilise my own work as inspiration. That may seem slightly odd but often I look back at old hard drives to look at photos I had taken a few years ago. I often will have forgotten I had even taken them, but I can look back, be critical and think what can I improve given the level of knowledge I have now. Would a different angle have completely changed and improved the composition? Did it work but just needed some additional finesse? It’s very possible to have had a great idea but not have the technical skills, and by revisiting that idea true justice can be given to it.
Other sources of inspiration include sport, and the natural world. Equestrianism in itself provides so much inspiration, the way horses work and move in partnership with their riders leads my brain to burgeon with ideas. In the same way looking at nature in general, patterns without plants, the shape of clouds, the motion of waves, every single element provides a degree of inspiration. These though are only possible due to our greatest possible influence, our senses. Not just sight, but also smell and hearing. Our senses allow us to absorb everything around us, if we are constantly paying attention we see, hear and sense things others may not. It is so easy to close down in to our own little worlds moving along on autopilot and miss some of the most beautiful sights.
So keep your eyes peeled and your senses pricked, read, explore and expose yourself to as many sources of inspiration as possible. Don’t look to copy an artist but take elements of their style or a particular work and think about how you can adapt it in to your own work.