Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sources of photographic inspiration and motivation

On the heels of my previous post regarding the desire to find direction and follow a path toward being an "artist", I thought I might share a few of the things that have inspired me and kept me shooting lately. 

First, a bit of a tangential blurb.

I must confess, though I have always loved photography, I never really "shot film" beyond the point-and-shoot/disposables that everyone my age used. I wasn't in the camera club in school (regretfully, I was afraid to join up for fear I would be laughed out of the darkroom for being ignorant of the process). I don't pine for the old days of film nor do I miss my {insert retro camera here}. I am - or my photography is, at least - a product of the digital age.

My story is probably not uncommon. Gadgets and tech are ubiquitous, digital media and computers mean an almost instant cycle for creation and feedback, and so the (perceived) barrier to entry in photography is lower.
This is all well and good, to a point. My personal line in the sand is with the trend in digital "photography" to obsess over details.

The technical aspects of a photo have become more important than the photo itself. 

This quest for psuedo-perfection is somewhat at odds with the photographic pursuit.  Gear is obsessed over and every flaw is exposed, to the point where no one takes any real pictures. On the other end, you have people unable to evaluate their art (and that of others) because all they know about "good" photography is what the masses are pushing.

The #1 place NOT to get inspired by photography is the "popular" page on flickr, 500px, etc.

Those places are great if you want to see the same over sharpened, ultra-wide, 10-shot-bracket HDR, denoised, plugin-ed to death images of the same subject over and over again. Those images are fine for what they are, but I need a little perspective.

An Interruption in Service by Instant Kamera (instantkamera)) on
An Interruption in Service by Instant Kamera

So, to spin this positively, here are some things that have pushed me photographically. Some of them may talk about gear to an extent, but the overall theme is an understanding of the process, not the stifling and removal of it. As I find more great photo/art related stuff that I love, I'll update this blog post.

- BBC's 'The Genius of Photography'

This 6-part documentary series is what really (kick)started it all for me. Before watching this, I was really struggling with photography, and my inability to really see my purpose or place in the grand scheme of things.
Essentially a history of pre-digital photography, this doc covers both the art and science, and introduces many great photographers along the way. It's a must watch (every couple of years).

- Aperture Magazine

This was actually a recommendation from the OTP podcast, mentioned below. I have glanced at, and leafed through this quarterly mag countless times at the newsstand, but never gave it the attention it really deserved. At $25, it seems expensive, but when you consider that this is more a book than anything else, it's really worth it. The quality is high, both in content and materials, even using different paper stocks for parts of the magazine. If you see this locally, give it more than a cursory glance and I'm certain you'll want to take it home with you.

- The Candid Frame w/ Ibarionex Perello

This was the first photography podcast that I found that was not really about which gear someone was using, or if Canikon was coming out with a new camera next week or not. The host, Ibarionex, does 1-on-1 interviews with a wide variety of photographers. They generally talk about how they got into the art/business, what their process is, etc. This is a very enlightening podcast. Though the format seems predictable, it's  always nice to hear each artist's story, and the host is very good at getting the guests to open up.

Recommended episodes: The Joel Meyerowitz interviews (such a gracious guest), and '#178 - Lessons Learned'


Sometimes you do need to read criticism. Other times, you do have to just look at pretty photos. Enter 1X. 1X is, for the lack of better words, an elitist 500px. Pretentious? Sure, but they do have to keep the riff-raff out, right Sybil? Anyway, I don't tend to contribute there (my work isn't good enough) but the tutorials and critiques are great, the work displayed there is varied and highly original, and the forums tend to host discussions beyond what you might find at *ahem* dpreview.

Discarded or accepted? by Instant Kamera (instantkamera)) on
Discarded or accepted? by Instant Kamera

- Bill Cunningham New York

I watched this documentary on Netflix and fell in love with Bill. He is an absolute hero of a human being and his fashion-street fusion photography was an eye opening experience for me. When I read the description, I was honestly a little put off, as I don't care for "fashion" photography in the traditional sense. This really showed me that you have to keep an open mind. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then the hallmark of a great photographer is in sharing their eye with the world.

- Jeff Curto's History of Photography and Camera Position Podcasts

In the same vein as 'Genius...', Jeff records his art/photo history lectures and puts them online.
Camera position is a great podcast for people who don't have time and/or patience for hours of talking. It's usually between 10-15 minutes long and he covers a plethora of topics.

Recommended episodes: Class 13 Fall 2012 – Szarkowski: How To See, Class 11 Spring 2013 – Women in Photography

- Photo Life

It's Canadian, what can I say? There are ads, but generally less than you will find in the typical photo rag. The photos are nice and the articles cover a wide variety of topics (some gear related, some not).

Cash Deserters by Instant Kamera (instantkamera)) on
Cash Deserters by Instant Kamera

- On Taking Pictures

An intimate, ongoing conversation among friends. The following post sums up how I feel about OTP:

Recommended episodes: All of them. Missing any of these, or listening out of order is not advised. Get in on the ground floor and follow the ongoing saga as it unfolds.

- Google+

Last but not least, G+. Specifically 'Communities'. Of ALL the social sites out there, G+ is the place to be to really connect with like-minded photographers. There are many communities, focusing on all genres of photography. The discussions/comments are honest and engaging. If you loathe the "Nice pic. Have a look at mine" bs that takes place on other sites when you share images, this is really the place to be. Don't forget to joing the 'On Taking Pictures' community! ;)

You may note that I don't really cover any specific photographers. That's because I'm planning a future post on my favourites, so stay tuned.

Until then, peace out.

***All images are my own. If you use 500px, feel free to 'vote' on the images there or follow me.***