My internet pal Riccardo Mori posted a lovely photo on his Flickr gallery – a window shot with silhouettes and great lighting.
“I’m glad you liked it,” he said. “I thought you might.”
That got me thinking: are my stylistic preferences so obvious? Is it easy to suss what I like? It’s probably pretty simple to know what I like based on the types of photos I post to my own Flickr feed and blog.
While I tend to like lots of styles of photography, I guess there is one that draws my eye more than others. The background on this is my years-long photo book adventure: taking photo books from the masters and studying them to see what moves me.
The first time I really felt the “aha” moment was when I saw Ray Metzker’s work:
That low-key lighting, the deep shadows, the shafts of sunlight illuminating a street scene. It’s dramatic, almost apocalyptic, and I loved it when I saw it.
Metzker’s mentor, Harry Callahan, was an originator of this look:
Ruiz does a lot of black and white work, but his color work seems extra punchy.
So that’s where the deep shadow, punchy color influence comes from. These photographers are doing it on the street, and on a seemingly grander scale.
A more intimate shooter, Patrick la Roque, is another influence.
I called the above shot “the most perfect photo,” because it has everything I look for: dramatic lighting, beautiful colors, and that special glow. Patrick does a great job of capturing his family and home surroundings, and his work is a continual inspiration for me.
And then my all-time favorite is Saul Leiter’s color work from New York:
It’s hard to overstate Saul’s influence on just about everyone. For me, it’s more than the style. It’s his special eye – the way he makes each photo a painting, and uses perspective and zones within the composition to tell a story.
William Eggleston was another influence for me. His work in Los Alamos and William Eggleston’s Guide was fantastic, and he helped me see the beauty in the ordinary.
The trick to all this is to not let style get in the way of substance, or meaning.
I keep seeing photographers using that low-key, high-contrast look to great effect. Maybe my style will change, maybe not. Maybe it will evolve, or maybe I’ll stick with what I like. I don’t know.
But I know what I like, and that’s led me to some fun creative spaces.