I’ve been a photographer, a professional photographer, my entire adult life. I spent the better part of 20 years as a newspaper photojournalist and, at that time, my contemporary inspirations were primarily other photojournalists: the Turnley brothers, Salgado, Brian Peterson (Mpls. Star-Tribune…freaking amazing photographer and a really nice guy), etc. Since I left that daily grind and transitioned into the more tranquil, relaxed and fulfilling field of landscape-ish photography, however, I haven’t much thought about them. Not that I still don’t respect their work but . . .
During much of my photojournalism tenure, as well as the next decade working at a university, I photographed landscapes. A casual pastime. A hobby. In that pursuit, I had another set of photographers whom I considered photographic royalty. These were people whose work was, to me, beautiful and intriguing and well beyond my capabilities at the time. But, over time that list has been changed. Rearranged. Some photographers were removed, and some were elevated. Why? Because . . .
I got better.
And smarter. More insightful. More heartfelt. More serious. Less naïve. And as I grew (grow!), the chasm which separated me from some of the aforementioned “royalty” narrowed or, in some case, closed altogether. Of course, there were those who retained their rightful places on their respective pedestals—old master such as Edward Weston, Steiglitz, André Kertész, Sudelka, etc. and those still around like John Sexton, Michael Kenna and Stephen Shore. But others faired not so well.
And that change is good.
Because it means I am still growing as an artist. But it’s not only my work which has improved. My abilities to think critically about art and to analyze and appreciate the work of others has also progressed and matured. I have a better understanding of the history of photography, and a stronger grasp on where I fit into the (pardon the pun) picture. In simple terms, my perspective has changed and my understanding has become more refined.
I’m sure the same can be said of many of you. Try and recall those you greatly admired when you first started in photography. Or, look at the differences between the books and magazines you peruse. Compare those with the ones you admire now. I am sure the differences are many.