What inspires me as a photographer
This topic was suggested by a fellow photographer, Eric Adeleye. As simple as it may sound, there's no simple way for me to address this one but I'll do my best to compress it in a way that's meaningful.
I was very young when I picked up my first camera but it was purely out of fascination for the tool because I had very little idea how it worked. My strength at the time was drawing and even though I never thought of it as anything special I drew everything around me all the time. I took art as a subject in high school and there I was introduced to scaling and composition. Now at this point I wasn't only drawing, I was painting as well. Around the same time, I was introduced to Photoshop in order to help out with graphic design in a family business and I spent hours daily learning it while keeping up with my art projects and drawing everything for fun. My passions went far beyond visual arts to include martial arts, music listening, performing and production... I think one part of my personality that was responsible for me getting involved with all of this was the fact that I could not sleep unless I learned how to create something or how something worked. This was the part of me that caused me to create a lot and also destroy a lot (some things I was able to repair)...
I remember being in my early teens when my mom was finishing up her masters in psychology and for some reason, the books she kept at home were more interesting to me than any of my own text books. I can admit that I never read one of my own high school text books cover to cover, I'd just skimmed through them in a few minutes to finish a graded book report then I'd grab one of my mom's text books and finish another chapter until I was done reading them. It was in her books that I figured out a great deal about myself and others around me. Topics I found especially interesting were the topics surrounding women. Let's stick a pin here and we'll get back to this later...
Fast-forwarding to 2006, I got my first job in a photo studio for a short period of time. In this time I learned valuable lessons on various aspects of portrait photography to include standard 3 point studio lighting, posing single people and groups, different types of poses to show different relationships between people, working with kids and infants, working with pets and the list goes on.
My career changed paths but I never put down the camera. In 2009, my job moved me upstate NY and the area presented me with the types of scenery and trails that I would have had a significant drive to have previously been able experience. This is when I decided to upgrade from an old Nikon D50 to a Nikon D90 and got myself two kit lenses (a Nikkor 55-200 and a Nikkor 18-105). My primary purpose was to spend my off time hiking (alone) and photographing my new found fascination - landscapes. One thing I learned really quickly was it's always fun and games getting to the location (especially through dangerous terrain after a snow storm) but in some cases, you'll get your best shots after the sun goes down then it's time to pack up and find your way back to civilization. With little experience and preparation, this often proved to be a nightmare but didn't stop me from doing it again and again.
As I kept photographing and taking my camera around with me (everywhere!), opportunities began coming my way for photographing people and this led to me taking on commercial projects to include sports, product, portraiture and fashion, then later on, events ranging from weddings to theater. The first lighting equipment I bought included two inexpensive studio strobes (Aikiphoto N200/s) and two inexpensive Nikon speed lights (SB-600s). I also invested in two very inexpensive Cowboy Studio softboxes, a photex softlighter 36" umbrella, a regular shoot through umbrella, a stand alone reflector and a 22" beauty dish for the speedlights that I would sometimes use on a wireless hot-shoe trigger as a key light (also as a trigger for the strobes that were set in slave mode). Believe it or not, I was able to learn enough to keep the equipment from failing prematurely and most importantly - to get the job done.
In 2011 I moved to Florida and my personal work shifted to the point where it eventually consisted of about 90% portraiture with my subject of choice being the woman 95% of the time. My long history working with Photoshop, my experience in the commercial arena and occasionally the help of a skilled hair/makeup artist allowed me to work with people that have never been professionally photographed or never thought of themselves as "model material". Going back to the topic of psychology, I noticed a pattern developing. I began noticing things that suggested the photo sessions and the results (final images) really did have an impact on people's lives and self esteem. That was a very abbreviated version; there's a lot more to it than I can explain here. Today my work has evolved to the point that it isn't only about impacting the lives of the person in front of the camera; it strives to impact the viewer as well. Most of the photos are taken on film utilizing the available light (artificial lights are used if necessary). The emphasis is placed on building the type of energy on set that can be felt by everyone involved and by the viewer of the final images. This takes me back to the topic - what inspires me as a photographer.
Photography satisfies both my technical side and my crave to create things that are meaningful at the same time. I still have that fascination for the camera as a tool and because of this, I stay up to date with modern advancements in camera technology (technology in general) while learning, acquiring and working with cameras and mediums that far predate me. I enjoy looking at the work of other photographers from all over the world, not to plagiarize but because it keeps me inspired. I also love watching documentaries and reading historical books and articles on different types of artists. In fact, I find that the more I learn about the history of art and photography, the more inspired I get to go out and create knowing that one day others will be looking back at work created in this time period for many reasons. Seeing the psychological effects of photography on the person in front of the camera inspires me even more because beside loving to help people, I enjoy observing what people respond to. Music plays a huge role in my photography but I'll leave that for an entirely different post.
I constantly seek ways to convey messages and emotion through my work; it's as if photography is my silent voice that say the things that I can't in ways that people can perceive and be impacted by, even more than if the words came out of my mouth. The ultimate inspiration for me is walking into a room or looking at photos and seeing my work displayed in physical form because it is validation that I was able to capture a moment that inspired someone enough to display it in their personal space.
Thank you for reading. I hope this provided value and I'm looking forward to reading and responding to any comments and questions.
Special thanks to Eric Adeleye for the topic suggestion. Click here and check out his work!