Where does inspiration come from? In the head or from the heart? The images that I am most proud of tell simple stories with strong emotional impact. Sure, I like my landscapes and some of my creative stuff is fun…but emotion wins every time.
I think my leanings towards emotional photography were influenced by women who presented us with powerful images. Ansel Adams who was as gifted and dedicated a photographer as there ever was, does not strike me has doing much that hits me in the heart. Great landscapes to be certain, but beyond the oohhs and ahhhs there isn’t that much in his work. An exception here to male photographers being un-emotional is with photojournalism work from war zones that move us. But back to the my point. Diane Arbus was perhaps the first photographer to shake me out of my boots.
Diane has a number of collected works where we see a strange world through her unflinching eyes. I think that to the extent that her subjects are acting, they would never have felt free enough to do that if the photographer was a man.
Another woman whose work I admire is Dorthea Lang. Although this is her classic image,
the wise photographer would do well to look at other images of hers. Try to imagine what she was experiencing back in the 30’s while she was documenting the depression. Could you take on that challenge and bring back iconic image? What part of her photographic soul is reaching out to us through those images?
Then there is this image which reminds us of the Chinese curse, ‘may you be born in interesting times’. Seen here are two young German children circa 1938. Can we see the future in their eyes? It was taken by the same woman whom I have quoted often. Margaret Bourke-White reminds us that with “F/8 and be there” our images should be less about technology and more about the story.
So what did I learn from these women?
Not every important story makes a pretty picture.
Great images may require great courage and lots of tears.
Water reflects moon light perfectly without trying,
We should try and do the same.