Influences

I’ve always been attracted to street photography because of its authenticity and the ability to document the small, magical moments in everyday life. Street photography is interesting in that it’s so readily accessible that anyone with a phone or camera can do it, but it’s also so relentlessly difficult due to the fact that everyone is working to capture that one magical moment that both tells a story AND allows for viewers to relate to an image.

For this reason, I wanted to draw attention to talented photographers that have influenced my work. I’m always the first to admit that nothing that I do is remotely unique; I tend to take what I love from each photographer, whether its the style, composition, or subject matter, and mix/remix it into something that hopefully I can call my own. As French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.”

So get inspired and follow these photographers:

1) Paola Franqui (https://www.instagram.com/monaris_) 

New York-based photographer Paola Franqui is the first person I recommend to someone if they are just getting into street photography. Stylistically, I’ve always tried to mimic her, from the cold, almost vintage tones to the way she let her subject matter breathe within the tight confines of the city. The best photographs always get you to relate to the subject at hand, to the point where you feel like you know them and Paola never fails at doing this. Definitely my go-to photographer whenever someone asks me who I look to for inspiration.

2) Martha Cooper (www.instagram.com/marthacoopergram)

Martha Cooper rose to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s by documenting the burgeoning New York City graffiti scene. It was dynamic, it was gritty, and it was dangerous – everything that I’ve associated with New York City since I was a kid. Aside from the obvious fact that I’ve always tried to recreate the bright tones of her photographs, Martha has always taught me to focus on the people. There’s a human quality in all her photographs and that is the true basis of great, impactful street photography.

3) Robert Herman (The New Yorkers, amazon.com $35.75)

I discovered Robert Herman’s The New Yorkers in a bookstore and was immediately captivated by the saturated colors he was able to produce. It was like seeing old black and white photos suddenly colorized; the images leapt off the pages in such vivid detail. And indeed, he captured an era of New York that I’m sad that I was never a part of. Like Martha Cooper, all his images contributed to how I had envisioned NYC in my head. His work ethic is impeccable too, as he literally shot whenever he could. I pack my camera into a backpack wherever I go these days so that someday I can amass a collection of images that rivals Robert Herman. Looking at his photos is like stepping into a time portal back to when New York was less safer but had so much more character.

4) Liam Wong (https://www.instagram.com/liamwon9/)

I don’t think I can ever pull off the dream-like qualities that Liam Wong has mastered so well in his photos, but I often try and recreate the moodiness that weaves itself through his work. His work has a sense of intensity and urgency; there’s always a sense of rapid movement and a palpable sense of uneasiness. My coworkers joke that my Instagram persona is much moodier than my actual persona, and I have Liam to thank for that. For more cinematic-minded folks, Liam’s work is just for you.

5) Jason M. Peterson (https://www.instagram.com/jasonmpeterson/)

Chicago-based photographer Jason Peterson deals in blacks and whites. His laser-focus on black and white photography has shown me how critical it is to get composition and lighting right. It’s hard to develop a distinct style if you can’t get your photos straight or take advantage of the lighting situation. Whenever I’m out in the field, I’ve always asked myself what Jason would look for and that pares the scene unfolding in front of me down to the basics. Getting the basics right frees up more time to focus on the immediate scene and capture that “it” moment.

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So there you go. They certainly aren’t my only influences but they are the photographers that I look to when I need a jolt of inspiration. You can see a lot of their styles in my photography and I try to pay homage to each of them without ripping them off completely. Whatever you do, it’s important to pull from what speaks to you. 

I would argue that originality on its own is non-existent and the much more worthy goal is focusing on authenticity. Authenticity exhibits everything that is genuine about your work and allows for others to see the passion that you have for the subject. It’s what keeps me going and it’s what I keep an eye out for in other photographers as well. So go ahead, embrace everything and everyone that inspires you, and apply your own creativity to the mix.

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