This blog post is about inspiration, where it comes from, why it’s important, and how to do it well.
What inspires you to make your photographs? Well for my street photography I get the most inspiration from other photographers the biggest ones being Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, and Fan Ho philosophers, more specifically existential philosophers like Jean Paul-Sartre, Albert Camus, and Martin Heidegger as well as my close friends.
I think having a good understanding of the history of your art and focusing on a sub-genre is one of the most essential steps to take when it comes to improving your creative output. Just like the ancient saying “You need to know where you came from to know where you’re going”. Or as the great blogger Eric Kim writes “Learn from the masters”. I think the reason this is so important is because no matter what kind of art you create there will always be somebody better than you that you can learn from. When you immerse yourself in good work, combined with consistent practice, your abilities are only going to improve. You can try to create in similar ways that they did, lots of artists make works that are an ode to an artist that they admire. The great architect Gaudi was asked about the uniqueness his casa mila, he replied "The Greeks would do it this way today".
I think existential philosophy is the kind of philosophy that describes my photography in the most accurate way. I love life, seeing life, reading about life. It always stuck with me as being the most intriguing when we were learning about various philosophies in my history of philosophy class. maybe it’s because when I was younger I had a lot of time to think to myself, and through this time I ended up thinking about life. My life, others lives, what makes life meaningful, this is the existential bread and butter. It was only natural for me to be attracted to these philosophers. Their writings opened my eyes in a way that no other writers have. it’s the idea that life is the most complex and fascinating thing that we humans know of in the entire universe. All of Life is inherently beautiful and worth remembering, that is what I want people to feel when they see my photographs.
if it wasn’t for some of the friends that I've had over the years then I don't think I would have truly connected existential philosophy with my own life. By getting to really know people and learning about how complex their lives are I gained a new appreciation for life. There’s a great saying which is “The only people that are normal are the ones you don’t know very well.” and I think this is absolutely true. It's easy to see someone doing things that think are cruel, mean, or offensive and think they were always that way, but the truth is that they've probably had a tough time in life. I find it hard to believe that anyone is always a bad person all of the time. another great quote is by John Green "Imagine others complexly"
But back to the topic of inspiration. Inspiration is important because it helps us grow, not only as artists, but as human beings. Inspiration makes the entire creative process more meaningful when you feel as though the work that you are creating is part of a greater history. As a street photographer I'm proud of the idea that one day someone might look at my photographs and see it in relation with and as a part of the history of street photography. Have you ever seen artwork by people that have admitted to not having anybody inspire them? usually it's awful. Occasionally there’s a person who lived sheltered away from the mainstream media of their time and by not following the herd they were able to make work that is truly original. But this is pretty rare.
Now then time for the important part of this blog post, how to be inspired well. My answer? Study broadly, study hard, and study with intention. I heard a great saying about music which is that any musician that only ever creates and listens to one type of music, is bound to be a culmination of all of the worst aspects of that music. I think every great artist has appreciated and learned from multiple genres to create their best work. I truly believe that there is no such thing as a bad genre of artwork, just bad artists. You may need to do a lot of researching to find an artist that used one of your least-favorite genres in a ways that you believe to be good but I think any and every genre has some master of the craft that you can find inspiration from. Secondly study hard, you’re probably not going to find the artist that you hold onto the highest pedestal in your news feed, you may need to search for weeks, months, or even years before you find someone whom you don with the king’s crown of inspiration. But the truth is that they’re out there, if you look hard enough. And lastly study with intention. Take the first person whose work you think is cool, and try to find artists that create similar works, and after a bit of searching you may find somebody whose work just blows your mind. Then you know you’ve hit gold. Once you've found someone you really respect and admire I would recommend trying to find out who inspired them, and from there and so on and so on. Create a tree of inspiration, and once you go back a few generations you can start to see patterns emerge, commonalities between artists, see where the divergences happened, and before you know it you've become a well educated artist with lots of inspiration.