Where I find inspiration to plan, produce, and publish photographs on a daily basis.
Light writing. This is the literal interpretation of photography. Photo, meaning light, and graphy, meaning writing. These are the most essential elements of photography… writing with light. Finding good lighting to produce a visually interesting image is only part of the process, though. A photograph must have good composition, and interesting subject matter. All of these elements combined should also produce arresting visual storytelling that connects with the viewer. Of course, all of that is easier said than done.
Producing a good photograph requires much more than a technical mastery of photography fundamentals. The most important thing is to tell a compelling story that emotionally connects with the viewer. To accomplish this, a good photographer not only studies good photographs, but also maintains a healthy interdisciplinary practice while constantly producing photographs with the glossy eyed determination of a drug addict.
To enhance my photographic practice, I make a disciplined effort to photograph, edit, and publish at least once a day. Finding the time to do this is often a difficult task, but I make my photography a priority so that I may continually produce, study, and learn.
As a professional photojournalist focused on conflict photography, it’s an obviously impossible task to perform conflcit photography on a daily basis when I’m not out ‘running and gunning’ to get the shot in a war zone. But, I’ve found that street photography and doing local documentary photojournalism are good mediums to practice my chosen craft. I also make it a priority to study good photographers like Vivian Maier, Sebastiao Salgado, and Jan Gragup, among many others. However, I find my best inspiration not from good photography, but from visual mediums far afield of photography.
My most passionate influences come not from photography, but from the paintings of the so-called ‘old masters’ and cutting edge digital imagery. I’ve always been fascinated by the painting Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt Van Rijn. Completed in 1633, this painting displays a mastery of lighting, movement, and emotion. Though stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18th, 1990 (Vanduffel 2017) and still missing, images of this painting can be readily found online and the mastery of Rembrandt’s work deeply inspires me to discover dramatic lighting, movement, and emotion in my photography in order to make as deep an emotional connection with my viewer as possible.
I also find regular inspiration from digital visual mediums in places like Pinterest and Midjourney. Midjourney “is a new AI-powered tool that can turn any imagination into artwork from text” (vivipic 2022), and is a place where the intersection of art and artificial intelligence meet to create interesting digital creations. Whether it be high concept portraiture, or documentary photojournalism, I am inspired to create visually interesting images that show the expression of human imagination and creativity. Midjourney melds these uniquely human skills with the computing power of machines to create compelling images that speak to the times we now live in, and give a voice to a digital-human hybrid that most people believe to be a science fiction future, but is already very much a reality of our present day. In fact, the Midjourney AI engine can create engaging images that resemble artistic photography simply by typing words like “cabin by the sea landscape photo” into its algorithm.
I’ve also lately been finding quite meaningful visual inspiration from the wide-angle close-ups of Alejandro González Iñárritu in movies like The Revenant, and Wong Kar-wai’s In The Mood for Love. This type of ‘Point of View’ image making helps deepen the emotional connection between photograph and viewer by helping the viewer feel like part of the story.
Whether it be finding inspiration from paintings by the old masters, cutting edge digital imagery, or unconventional movie stills, it is an important part of my photographic practice to seek out compelling visuals that inspire me to keep moving forward, and to plan, produce, and publish. It is my goal to produce images that emotionally connect with my viewer and inspire them to affect direct, meaningful change.
VANDUFFEL, Dirk. 2017. ‘The Missing Rembrandt: Theft at the Gardner Museum’. Art Dependence Magazine 12 September [online]. Available at: https://www.artdependence.com/articles/the-missing-rembrandt-theft-at-the-gardner-museum [accessed 1 July 2022].
VIVIPIC. 2022. ‘MidJourney AI Art Generator from Text’. vivipic June 2022. Available at: https://blog.vivipic.com/us/midjourney/ [accessed 1 July 2022].
List of Figures:
Figure 1. Vivian Maier. ca. 2022. Untitled. Vivian Maier Archive [online]. Available at: http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/street-2/#slide-4 [accessed 3 July 2022].
Figure 2. Jan Grarup. ca. 2022. Untitled. Jan Grarup Website [online]. Available at: https://www.jan-grarup.dk/foredrag/ [accessed 3 July 2022].
Figure 3. Rembrandt Van Rijn. 1633. Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum [online]. Available at: https://www.gardnermuseum.org/experience/collection/10953 [accessed 1 July 2022].
Figure 4. Midjourney Artificial Intelligence Engine. 2022. Untitled. Midjourney [online]. Available at: https://www.midjourney.org/museum [accessed 1 July 2022].
Figure 5. Kimberly French. 2015. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in The Revenant. Camera Operator Magazine [online]. Available at: https://soc.org/project/the-revenant-shooting-in-the-elements/ [accessed 3 July 2022].