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Inspirations

October 5, 2011

I was in conversation with a fellow photographer. Naturally, about photographs. Being much junior to me, he respects my opinion, if not all my work.

The conversation moved onto photographers that we admire and we discovered that we knew some photographers in common. My opinion of some of these photographers has changed from ‘awesome’ to ‘good’ in the past year. That is perhaps a result of me discovering more about photography techniques and some of their work.

As we grow older, and more confident in our field, do we suddenly cease to see what we saw earlier. Perceptions change – that is inevitable. But does success being arrogance with it, and a certain kind of blindness?

One of these photographers had been my inspiration. I loved the photographs he shot – bright, vivid and beautiful. Now, I realise it is a lot to do with his characters and processing. I still admit he is a great photographer, just not as brilliant as I had made him out to be.

So the process began, browsing other photographers, some famous and some on their way. Some extinct but memorable.

Vivian Maier, one of my all time inspirations. Ryan Lobo, Steve McCurry.

And then I wondered where was my real inspiration? For those portraits that I loved to take. The challenge that I need to meet, to capture. Most of my inspirations are from the world of street or photojournalism (thin line between those two, methinks). But portraits… for those ethereal portraits? This is one of my favorite ones… reminds me of the photo of the Afghan girl McCurry shot for NGC.

Apart from these two names, I really cannot recall a single photographer whose work simply inspires me in terms of portraits. An image here, an image there. A collection I make.

There is this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that there was someone’s work I really did admire. A link, an image… but I cannot seem to focus. David Terraza, to an extent.

But when I think about these photographs in the Indian context, I come up with a blank. Indian photographs have always been earthy. Can we aim to shoot a dreamy photograph like Sara’s here? I do not know… I have never really tried to emulate that here either. But the skin tone, the colour of the air, the water and the sky do make a difference.

But does a portrait only mean the face? There are emotions, signals, gestures… there was an article on NYTimes about this photographer who shot faces. Just faces. Blank faces. And yet they held a punch.

It is perhaps easier to take photos of inanimate objects. A row of cupcakes, a lens, a pot. It takes vision… but humans are the eternal challenge. Particularly those just out on the street and not being posed in the studio. Or something midway.

Who is your favorite photographer? In portraits or otherwise?

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