In the 10 plus years that I have been involved in photography, I have read and owned only 1 book that contained the technical bit of photography (e.g. Exposure, ISO, Lenses, etc). The book was titled “National Geographic : Photography Field Guide“. It was simple enough for me to understand and I immediately put the techniques I learned from the book into practice and started on my journey of ‘learning how to see‘ from many teachers that have come along since then.
“All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.” ~ Elliot Erwitt
I have counted many photographers whom I have never met in real life as my teachers. Some are famous, some are not so famous. Some are alive, some have passed on. I got to know them and learn from them through photography books. Much to the amusement of my wife, at any one time I always seem to have a large stack of photography books that I am slowly going through. Most of the books feature the work of an individual photographer. Some of my favorite teachers are Elliot Erwitt, Sam Abell, Eugene Richards, Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb, Larry Towell, Daido Moriyama, and Garry Winogrand. For instance, I can say “Elliot Erwitt taught me the effective use of juxtaposition in photography“, “Sam Abell taught me layering and to compose my picture first and then wait for the correct moment“, “Alex Webb taught me framing and the effective use of lines and shapes in my composition“, and “Daido Moriyama taught me to loosen up my shooting style and to always try and see the world with fresh eyes.”
The learning process for me has remained much the same. While going through a photographer’s work, I would ask myself some of the following questions: “Why does this particular photograph resonate or not resonate with me? Is it the lighting? Is it the subject’s expressions? Is it the particular moment captured? Is it the composition? Is it something I want to try and emulate?” The process is very similar to what I do when I edit my own work.
I believe that each teacher that comes along gets infused into my own photographic style; some more than others but all of them, I count as influences and sources of inspiration. The photo above is my current ‘stack’ of ‘teachers’. Who are yours?