Most artists are sooner or later asked about their influences, especially if they are not obvious in their work.
And those asking would usually expect the response to be others in the same artistic field.
So a photographer might list their favourite three photographers, or a singer the top vocalists that inspired them.
But I don’t think my most important influences have been photographers at all.
Now I don’t want to start to sound all pretentious and aloof, I don’t consider myself an amazing photographer, but I do think it’s interesting for any of us to consider what has shaped us so far in what we choose to make ourselves.
So here, in no particular order, are five of my biggest, and perhaps unlikely, photographic influences.
I’m no Kubrick connoisseur, and haven’t seen many of his films, but two I have both had a very strong impact on me.
The Shining, and 2001: A Space Odyssey and both very powerful visually, especially particular scenes, like the snapshots of the twins in the corridor before the river of blood starts to flow in slow motion in The Shining, or the bone thrown into the air then becoming a satellite in space, in 2001.
Both films have a series of images within them that are unforgettable, and made me want to make images that are striking and memorable too.
Despite many of his films having quite a dark and nasty side, and me generally wanting to avoiding anything like that, Lynch probably remains my second favourite film maker.
(George Lucas of course, since you asked).
Like Kubrick, his films feature very visual and striking scenes, and my favourite, Mulholland Drive, is masterful in this.
It just looks so amazing, so, well, visual, and not in the sense of any computer trickery, just strong colours and compositions and subjects.
It’s the kind of film you could extract dozens of stills from and them be fantastic photographs in themselves.
Again, it made me wish I could create photographs even a fraction as visceral and unforgettable.
Probably the most direct and literal influence here, Rothko is famous for his colour field paintings of large almost floating blocks of colour.
Again it showed me how minimal arrangements can still be resonant and emotive.
When I first saw a Rothko original in person, I was amazed at the textures of the paint up close too.
Which is another core pillar of my own photography, how sometimes texture is more interesting and beautiful than overall colour or composition.
This one could have been a number of artists, and nearly all of them go back to Brian Eno and his Ambient 1 record.
But Labradford managed to take that clean minimalism and give it more edge, more mystery and more emotion, and never better than on their Mi Media Naranja record.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, I’ve always thought of this as the soundtrack to a David Lynch movie not yet made, so a thread runs through here.
I’ve longed to make images that have this much originality and presence, whilst remaining pretty stripped down and simple.
It’s still one of the records I feel I can be completely lost in, more physical and encompassing than just sound, and similarly I’d like my photographs to transcend their primary sense, ie be more than just a pretty visual.
My Bloody Valentine
I don’t quite remember how I first discovered My Bloody Valentine, but I know it was their Loveless album (and stand out track I Only Said) that utterly mesmerised me. I’d heard nothing quite so euphoric, joyous, immersive and layered before, and yet with barely any lyrics.
This was something of a revolution to someone who was a pretty prolific poet at the time and endlessly pored over and analysed song lyrics.
As with any great art, it’s almost impossible to adequately to describe with words, but I knew (and still know) that I would love to be able to make something as intoxicating in any art form.
It strongly influenced my early painting experiments (again, quite an artistic departure for a devoted wordsmith), and naturally that flowed on to my photography further down the road.
I think it can be explained best as using simple minimal hypnotic layers to create something greater than its parts.
Loveless also showed me how blissful the blurred edges can be, and again this distinctly informs my photographs with their often heavy reliance on the beautiful out of focus areas, instead of clean, sharp, clinical images.
How about you? What are your (unlikely or otherwise) major photography influences?
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