One thing I learned early in my photography career was that to move forwards efficiently, you can’t look sideways. You have to look forwards and push yourself towards what you see. I made the decision out of a desire to never stop improving, not to worry about what the other photographers in my area or genre were doing, but to look to the photographers whose work takes my breath away, and let them inspire me. This is not done from a place of superiority over those nearby, it is purely so that I dont get caught in the pointless exercise of comparison. The photographer I follow are so much better than me that there is absolutely no space for comparison, it would be like comparing a billy cart to an F1 car. With me being the billy cart… with a piece of frayed rope for steering and mismatched wonky wheels.
The other thing I have discovered over the last few years, is that in the world of social media, and of photo sharing sites, there is so much noise out there. Its overwhelming. Facebook, Instagram, 500px, Flickr etc etc… I had a sudden realisation one day that it was all just noise. There was so much out there that you get lost in the sea of images, the good, the mediocre, the terrible and the amazing.. there is just too much out there. I needed to filter it out and focus on what would really feed my creativity.. I did, and constantly do, an online “Marie Condo” I go through my feeds regularly, and if that photographers work doesn’t “spark joy” I unfollow. Likewise when I do stumble on someone new, I have a look at their feed and do the same decluttering test. I only follow them if it passes.
To that end, I have a handful of photographers whose work I have consistently followed for the last few years, sometimes even ones whose work bears no direct connection to what I do on a day to day basis.
A few of these names have been discovered via the podcast I listen to, others through the time I spent as a member of the AIPP, and others just from random hashtag searches on Instagram.
While I let these photographers work inspire me and challenge me to be more critical of my own images, I always keep it in mind to always speak with my own photographic voice.. I am wowed by their use of light and shadow, by their ability to tell a story, but instead of looking for a technique or technical element I can copy, I look for the why. For the purpose beghind their decisions, to try and make my mind question my own work as I am framing each shot, to ask myself the same questions. I never want to be derivative, I do not want to retake the same photo another has created. I want to make my own unique contributions to the photographic collective, to tell a new story… and never just create “cool” images.
So who are the photographers I follow? Well, in no particular order (other than I will start with the obvious ones first, the wedding photographers) (click on the names to go to their websites)
Jeff Ascough- Blackpool, UK
Jeff is a documentary style wedding photographer based just outside of Blackpool in the UK. Jeffs work has a purity of style that is undeniable. He is the perfect representation of everything that photojournalistic wedding photography represents (to me). His work is always striking, each frame tells a story, their is never anything contrived or staged in his frame. It is rare to see an image from Jeff that doesn’t make me catch my breath.
Bradley Hanson- Minnesota, USA
Another photojournalistic wedding photographer with an eye for striking compositions and beautiful moments. His instinct for light leaves me in awe, with a style bold with contrast and deep rich tones.
Rocco Ancora- Melbourne, Aus
I have followed Roccos work since I began pursuing photography as more than just a hobby. In fact, it was an image by Rocco, in a photography magazine that my wife bought me when I got my first decent DSLR that made me think about wedding photography. That image, with a Cake Cut gone wrong is still burned into my mind as a perfect moment in wedding photography. Rocco is both an amazing wedding photojournalist, but also a master at beautiful classic posed images, and is able to blend both seamlessly into his work so that it becomes nearly impossible to tell where the formally posed photos end and the documentary images begin.
I will be posting more about Rocco later, as his influence on me crosses into more than just me perusing his Instagram feed, I am lucky enough to now count Rocco as a good friend, and one of my greatest allies in this industry.
Nick Ghionis- Melbourne, Aus
I started following Nicks beautiful wedding photography without really knowing it. As a member of the AIPP, I had seen it in the Institute awards, but had been following his team, Xsight photography, for some time. All the guys there do stunning work, but I was immediately drawn to Nicks. At first when I discovered who was who at Xsight, it was, I will admit, a case of “Oh, he’s Jerry Ghionis’ brother”, but as much as I love Jerrys work, Nicks speaks to me personally more. While I haven’t actually met Nick in person, I have been lucky enough to chat to him online and on the phone, and value his guidance and advice in our field greatly.
Salvatore Dimino- Italy
I stumbled across Salvatore’s work when his name popped up as a presenter at a workshop that a friend of mine was promoting. One look at his work and I was in love. His imagery is stunningly beautiful. Lighting and composition that is so expertly applied to create striking, dramatic portraits and photos.
Rosita Lipari- Italy
Rosita’s work came to my attention via Nikons promotional campaign for the D850. Her images are so beautifully composed and packed full of emotion, its hard not to get swept into them and feel like you are there, connected to the day.
Non Wedding Photographers
Not every photographer that Inspires me is a wedding photographer… in fact, the list of other photographers is probably way longer than the list of weddings photographers. When it comes to the other photographers I follow, it is predominantly Portrait photographers, with a few street shooters (real street photographers, ones who do it the hard way and actually make a living shooting on the street) If there is one common thread with all of these, it is that they are each in their own way unique, none imitate the other, each speaking with their own voice, and each using their images to tell a story about their subject matter… its never about just making a cool image that will get likes or win awards.
William Coupon- New Mexico, USA
William is the classic portrait photographer. He has a style that is instantly recognisable and while so many photographer stick the term “signature” agains their lighting styles, William really does have a signature lighting style that while at first glance seems simple, it is his application and understanding of the nuances of it that makes is work stand out from the rest.
Mark de Paola- New York, USA
I discovered Marks work recently while listening to “The Candid Frame” podcast (see my previous post on podcasts). Mark is a fine art portrait and fashion photographer that literally grew up in a photo studio.
Victoria Will- New York, USA
I first saw Victorias work after seeing her class on Creative Live. Victoria is a portrait and lifestyle photographer with an amazing ability to create instant chemistry and connections with her subjects, something that shoes through in the resulting portraits and images.
Another discovery from my favourite podcasts. You have seen FWO3’s work without even knowing it, as he shoots a lot of images used for TV show and Movie promotions (Breaking Bad, AHS, Daredevil, The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, Blade Runner 2043, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter just to name a few).
Dennys Ilic, LA, NY and Melbourne
Dennys is a photographer I stumbled onto on Instagram when ironically he tagged my favourite coffee roasters in a post and it came up in my feed.
Another portrait photographer that does a lot of magazine, TV and movie work, again, one look through his portfolio and you will see a plethora of familiar images.
Sam Abell- USA
A stalwart of the National Geographic pages, I fell in love with his imagery without even knowing it when as a teenager, I was reading one of my Dads Nat Geos from 1984 (June) and had my breath taken away by the images of Hagi in Japan. This article is probably one of the elements that eventually led me to pursue photography as a hobby, and then as a career. A master of telling stories by layering his compositions, his work always pulls you in.
Danny Clinch -USA
THE music photographer. Danny is a musician and photographer and this deep connection to his subjects shows in the iconic portraits that he has created of some of the worlds best know musicians.
Boogie- New York, USA
Boogie is a street photographer, originally from Serbia, but now based in NY. His work is sometimes confronting, but always compelling. Many call themselves street photographers, but one look at Boogies portfolio and you know that he is the real deal.
Mark Seliger- New York, USA
Portrait photographer, probably these days best know for his amazing Oscars Vanity Fair portrait studio/ vignettes, however a look though his work and you will soon discover images that you will instantly recognise, but probably never know who created them.
Joel Meyerowitz- Italy & New York
Joel Meyerowitz is basically the Yoda of the photographic world. Now in his 80’s, Joel was an early pioneer of colour street photography in his home city of New York, he shows his ability to see and capture the quirkiness of NY life, as well as to create beautiful images from what initially appear to be the most uninteresting subjects. If you want to get to the beating heart of what it is to be a photographer, find every interview that you can with Joel and listen.