Recently, a good friend gave me a photography book titled "Paris Mon Amour." It is a photographic homage to a place that has been called the world's most beautiful city. The book contains black and white images from photographers across two centuries. It shows everyday life in Paris captured by the eyes of greats such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brasai, Robert Doisneau and André Kertész. Needless to say, I have enjoyed pawing over all the wonderful photographs and reading the history of the Parisian photography scene.
But, this book has done more than simply entertain me. It reminded me of all the photographers who pioneered new techniques and new ways of story telling that I used to study all the time. Some of my all time favorites include William Albert Allard, Robert Doisneau, Mary Ellen Mark, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Cartier-Bresson, Paolo Pellegrin, Robert Frank and many, many more. It's been a while since I've looked at the work of legendary photographers in depth. Sure we see their images scattered across the globe, but how often do we really look at their larger bodies of work. These are photographers who have shaped the way we see the world. Some of them are still shaping it.
I look to them for inspiration and for motivation. These are photographers who relentlessly create new work. They have a story to tell and they do everything in their power to make photographs that engage the viewer. On Magnum's website, Paolo Pellegrin says, "I'm more interested in a photography that is 'unfinished' - a photography that is suggestive and can trigger a conversation or dialogue. There are pictures that are closed, finished, to which there is no way in."
By studying the work of these photographers and understanding their process of making pictures, I can more easily comprehend my own motives for making pictures. Their work also inspires me to return to methods of shooting that I haven't explored in years. For instance, looking through Paris Mon Amour I had a strong urge to create more documentary pictures. I wanted to return to the most basic form of photography which simply put, is about telling a story. I don't need any bells and whistles. I just need a camera. It doesn't have to be the latest, most expensive gadget on the market, it just has to take pictures. This realization and desire is what has spurred my most recent project. I still don't have a name for this project and am still narrowing in on the theme, but the heart of it is based solely on the idea of documentation and story telling.
I think of Allard's strong use of color in his series Out West. I think of how influential to my own career The Decisive Moment has been. I think about Steichen's groundbreaking exhibit, Family of Man. I think about Robert Franks, The Americans and how it's one of the most important photography books of the last century. I think about all these things and more when I look at the work of legendary photographers. Let us not forget those pioneers who have come before us.
Who are your favorite photographers, past and present?