The power of influences on your photographic style
This is the final in a four-part series about taking extraordinary photographs. Read the full series at postindependent.com.
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How is that each of us sees the world from such different perspectives? Some might consider it style, others a complete lack of one or, for those exceptional few, having been blessed with a real eye for photography. Each of us walks through the world on a different path. Understanding where we’ve come from, how we came here and what interests us along the way is actually quite remarkable. Even more amazing is how those experiences, places, meetings and events influence what we choose to engage with and how we see it.
One way of developing a photographic style is to begin recognizing what you like to do and are drawn to when you make photographs. Next is to use the “subject vortex” as a process to find interesting perspectives of a specific subject, place, scene or event when photographing.
Imagine spiraling down around an inverted or upside down cone with the ability to stop anyplace along the way to take a picture. You might find yourself frequenting the subject from a similar angle, with the similar lighting effect, color range and camera settings. As you photograph, you recognize you are duplicating, replicating and perfecting the image of the subject and your style along the way. When you pause after working at it for some time, you may find you have created a collection of images that define a subject, scene and moment. This is a wonderful way to study how your style evolves along the way.
Wallace Stegner wrote, “More often we like what we know than we know what we like.” Once you realize what you are drawn to, you can begin to explore what influences you and why you are attracted to these places, events, people and moments. Do not forget your intuitive sense of being and how it affects your interactions, worldview and experiences. These influences are the basis of how we orient ourselves in life. They are the early imprints that lead us forward in how we engage with the world around and ahead of us. These imprints influence our visual relationship with how we see and make photographs, too.
I encourage you to explore where you’ve been and come from, as well as experiences that have affected you as an adult.
Influences may change a lot, especially as your interests and people you meet expand. Study them carefully to see how they shape your photography — how you set up, compose and make the image. Some photographers who have influenced my approach to making photographs are Vivian Maier, Erst Haas, Sam Abell and Annie Lebowitz. Who are yours?
Here’s where you can take a deep dive and explore them. Observe how these imprints and influences affect your photographs. You might feel like you’ve found a new friend that encourages you to walk through a new and different door. Suddenly, you find a greater sense of awareness in your pursuit of the extraordinary in the ordinary. Your field of vision expands to new opportunities and adventure making photographs appear. You can let it unfold or press into it however you are compelled. What an exciting challenge to have!
Robert Castellino is the author of the photo book “Colorado: Life and Light on the Land.” It’s available locally at Book Train, in Aspen at Explorer Booksellers and at The Bookworm of Edwards. Learn more at robertcastellino.com.