Welcome to another DS collective blog post. This time, we are each paying homage to a master of the craft we admire by sending in pictures in which we imitate that person’s style, in one way or another.
Copying has long been a method of learning certain techniques and, while it doesn’t necessarily strengthen your creativity, it will help your eye, your technique and your post-processing tremendously.
As you’ll see, we have some masters in common but have each taken something different from him/her. There’s no right or wrong answer, the only thing that matters is to identify a specific aspect of that master’s work and use that as a target for practise.
With that said, enough from me, on with the copying.
When task master Pascal suggested that we all pick some photographers to imitate, we all seemed to relish the project with glee…
…I can’t speak for my fellow DS’ers, but when it came to actually digging out my own humble images it occurred to me just how mediocre I was about to look. Hey don’t get me wrong, I can manage mediocracy all by myself, but to wheel out the greats &/or the contemporary, then stick my own efforts next these names can only mean that I’m about to look like a dick.
Damn. I’m pretty sure that not looking like a dick on the internet was one of my 2018 resolutions.
So let’s get the most cringe worthy one out-of-the-way first.
Can you believe that three of us (out of nine) immediately said; I’ll do HCB
Of course you can. Why? He’s a legend.
HBC is generally regarded as the father of Modern Street, and if you don’t buy into that (shame on you) then being the one of the fathers of Magnum should say it all.
In much the same way (and this going to be an analogy so woolly you could pin a large set of tusks on it and eat it for your Paleolithic dinner) as Doors singer Jim Morrison came to father the modern era of leather clad, snarling rock screamers, the street style of Henri Cartier-Bresson came to be what street is defined as today.
The visual lexicon of Henri Cartier-Bresson is well-known, the decisive moment, the baroque compositions.
So for my HCB tribute, I’m going to have a small and unfunny joke! HCB visited the city where I live, and took a shot of Mercado do Bolhão (amongst others); do I know where he stood to take that? You bet. Have I taken any shots from that spot myself? Too many to count.
The shot in question features pigeons flying away from a figure.
So from a completely different spot in Porto, I embarrassingly present:
My tribute works (well it doesn’t work at all tbh), not through a faithful reproduction of style, framing, tones, skill, ability, purpose. No sir. It’s a tribute to making a scene from the everyday. Because that to me is the very essence that Henri Cartier-Bresson gave to modern photography.
Of course, HCB wasn’t the only founding father gig in town. Another highly respected, supremely skilled photographer was André Kertész (truth be told, I owned an André Kertész book before I owned a HCB one)
I love André Kertész’s work for the strong tones and seemingly subtle, yet intricate and brilliantly executed compositions. In fact HCB was influenced by AK.
Again, I won’t pretend to do this any justice at all. But for my Kertész homage I’ve selected the following everyday scene.
There’s a cliché from a perfume ad They say romance is back in fashion, but I say it never went out I feel the same way about black and white photography.
So for my final two style imitations, I’ll go with colour.
There’s a lot written about colour photography in the digital age. This raw software is bad, this camera has a colour cast, this picture doesn’t have good colour.
It’s all valid, but sometimes – so what?
This brings me to John Hinde’s postcards series.
Does the colour look real to you? No. Do Hinde’s pictures look good? Yes.
John Hinde is known for shooting beach (and holiday) scenes. I’m really not, but I do spend a lot of time shooting on the beach.
So for this shot, I’m trying to ape that warm, sweet colour that you might find in candy floss or a stick of rock, or a toffee apple basically the colour that Hinde can do and make work and I really can’t.
The legendary names and genre definers should be of interest to us all, but what about someone contemporary?
Keeping with colour, I’ve drawn inspiration from Rodrigue Zahr’s Cuba series for this next shot.
Of course this wasn’t taken in Cuba (which actually makes the car a bit more of a rarity) as I’ve never had the pleasure of a visit. But Rodrigue Zahr’s Cuba series shows (amongst other things) these wonderful old, immaculate cars against the backdrop of the faded Cuban buildings.
I’d like to think my shot does something similar, but then again we’d all like to think a lot of things!
There we are: four photographers, four different styles, and me the pound shop imitator.
Here are few from me for the article. Images in the style of my good friend, Colin Prior (www.colinprior.co.uk ). A poor imitation of his but, hopefully, in his style and with the cameras which made him well-known – in the UK at least.
Well, having volunteered Philippe’s idea, I found it a little hard to follow-up with photographs. With the exception of the homage to Warhol and the Micheal Kenna imitations immediately below, it was often more the case of finding who had inspired some of my photographs than actually doing the conscious work of deliberately copying in the first place. “My” Man Rays are half way there because the post processing was a distinct attempt at capturing his style, even though it wasn’t systematically the case at the moment of taking the photograph.
So here we go with my copying. First up is Michael Kenna, for which the weather was kind enough to throw lovely compositions just as we were discussing the topic with Philippe.
OK. So I had no entry for HCB but all the cool kids were doing it so I tried to find a photograph that might evoke the Master’s spirit and here it is, for me.
There’s a French saying that goes “knowledge is like jam, the less you have, the more you spread it out”. This applies to my knowledge of Man Ray’s work. So what you see here is my reduction of a man’s legacy to “cool solarizations, bro!” The effect is cool and really goes well with the rendering of a certain 85/1.4 lens taken way the heck out of its design zone by huge extension rings 🙂 Sue me, Zeiss !
Considered to be one of the fathers of photojournalism, a section of photography that leaves me stone cold, Kestész impresses me by his compositions and tones. A free-thinker who turned down awards and told prestigious magazines to go suck eggs, he spent his life resenting his lack of recognition and understanding. Well, here’s a minor homage from a major fan!
You say Penn, I see the crazy fashion shoots with feathers, windblown drapes and checkered fabrics. This flower arrangement on a royal yacht in Edinburgh reminded me of those.
I absolutely adore Ernst Haas but really know very little about the photographer. What strikes me in his photographs are the dark, intense colours. The strong contrasts and bold compositions that, by some miracle are always meaningful and balanced rather than over the top gimmicky. After reviewing my own photographs, I realise how timid they are compared to Haas’. If this exercise has taught me something, it’s to avoid dilution, be ever more essential and direct.
Remember that red ceiling photograph ? Others in lonely motels with faded shades of blue and pale neon lights ? Well, the composition is far off, but the play on colours is what remind’s me most of Eggleston here.
To me, Saul Leiter is one of the unsung heroes in photography. Although not as influential for my personal dabbling as Haas, for instance, Leiter is someone who’s ability to see what would pass totally unnoticed to anyone else is astonishing. I love his use of glass as imperfectly transparent or reflective medium, his choice of colours – usually pretty pale with a dab of red or orange – and his compositions which always feel so alive. Mine, below are far too formal to do justice to Leiter but I tried to get some of that bold colour in hiding and the hints of parallel worlds colliding.
Well, barely. Sugimoto’s seascapes figure elemental air and water from all over the world, usually abstracted via long exposures and a mid-frame horizon. Not being a great fan of long exposure photography, I chose the represent the air as the ripples on the water and no horizon but a bar of light in between slices of shadow. It’s not the same and probably wouldn’t fetch the 2-300 large of a Sugimoto seascape, but the intention is there 🙂 Less of an elemental masterpiece, more of a focus on the surface of interaction.
Yeah, I wish …
Disclaimer upfront: During photo shooting, I never try to imitate famous master photographers. But when Pascal pitched his idea, I couldn’t resist to scour my back-catalog and relate some more or less to the many photo books in my shelf.
Let’s start with one of my favorite travel photographers, Steve McCurry. We both share the same passion for the Asian continent, travel photography in general, the variety of people and their places, and color photography. I choose this photo from inside a colorful Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh, Vietnam. In true McCurry style, this photo contains Asia, people, bold colors, pattern, and shows us unusual parts of the world.
The second slot is also dedicated to a all-time favorite of mine: Martin Parr. He’s arguable best known for documenting modern life in all his ordinary and quirky ways, and always with his distinctive British humor. My Parr-contribution in best Life’s a beach style is of course set on a beach in Sardinia, and celebrates life and joy, with an easy composition – and a hidden message.
My third contribution is dedicated to one famous photo series I feel very strong connected: Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes. I love water, I love the sea. I love swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and even boating. And I also love to be at the shore and just look out into the endlessness of the sea, into infinity, where water and horizon meet. It’s a graphically thing, shades of colors, structure, light … and it’s constantly moving and morphing. I’m actually collecting my own set of seascapes, less abstract, dreamy, and surreal but more documentary, in color, and more about variety of the same subject. Here’s a seascape from the Algarve coastline in Carvoeiro, Portugal:
Next up, me as Alex Webb in “Istanbul: City of a hundred names”. This red umbrella is not only also taken in one of my favorite cities Istanbul (though recently not so much), but arguably shares a similar work with color, light, shadows, and a more complex layering of elements (as compared to e.g. McCurry).
… no, Pascal, I’m not finished. What about my take on William Eggleston’s tricycle? Sad, isn’t it? So much untold story, I can’t hold myself …
… and what about William Klein’s Boy With A Gun? I got two!
… stop pushing me, Pascal …
OK, in the spirit of co-operation and experimentation here’s an HCB offering. Hadn’t thought of a b&w rendering of this image but it works quite well I think. This is one of my fave images. I love the way the guy is completely stationary in the pouring rain whilst everyone else is scurrying.
(narrated by Pascal) Paul’s preparing a long trip and suggested something interesting. He sent these photographs along with no attribution to a specific seed master, leaving it to us to discover the influences in his work. What say you?
Riboux, Erwitt, Leiter and HCB come to (my) mind but you’ll probably see others in Paul’s work.
More importantly, what influences do you see in yours ?
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I’ve been regularly accused of channeling Robert Frank. I’d never heard of Robert Frank until a former student of his who belongs to one of my print groups made the first comment that my work looks a lot like his. I’m flattered beyond measure but it’s purely accidental. I did a couple of workshops with a protege of Ernst Haas a few years ago. I’m also a BIG fan of HCB, Peter Turnley, Jane Bown, William Eggleston and Martin Parr’s early work. I’ve also brushed up against Jay Maisel, Freeman Patterson and Marc Kogel (whom you’ve probably never heard of). So there’s lot’s to be influenced by.
Indeed, that’s a very rich list of spectacular photographers. Jane Bown is new to me. Having just looked at the surface of her work via Google images, it’s not surprising, as portrait really is one big black hole in my own practise and inspiration. Thanks for pointing her out.
Having seen your photographs, I’d say you’ve developed a strong style of your own, now. But it’s really interesting to understand the influences behind it !!
Thanks Patrick. Glad you enjoyed it.
Hey. This is a truly interesting article. Glad to see many of my fav made the cut. Ernst Haas, Michael Kenna, Irving Penn, Steve McCurry, Saul Leiter. A few more for consideration? Maybe Bill Brandt or Eliot Porter. Mention of Gregory Crewdson. Wow.
Thanks Georg. Gregory Crewdson is one of my favourite photographers. Unfortunately, my photo gear does not extend to cranes, megawatt lighting and artificial snow-storms. And my inspiration doesn’t reach the same peaks either. So it’s very difficult to present “copies” of his work. Occasionally, a scene does come up that “looks” like a Crewdson. But the photo never does ;D
I hadn’t thought about Eliot Porter, though William Neill did enter my mind. Next time !! Cheers.
Pascal, experience suggests that there are two types of people who contribute to photography groups (of whatever kind). One is photographers – professional, amateur or “wannabe’s” – who are enjoying themselves, sharing their knowledge & experience (or lack of it, in the case of the learners), and everyone is friendly, polite, constructive, interested, interesting and informative. And the other is trolls – ghastly self-opinionated narcissists who might do better looking for a job in America’s White House.
This article is a wonderful example of the positive side of our job – passion – hobby.
You conclude by asking what influences I see in mine. Frankly, none of the masters of photography. For several reasons. One, that my pathetic attempts at imitating people brighter and more artistic than I am centre on great masters of other arts – like Monet and the other french impressionists. Another – that I’ve not seen any books on any of the greats of photography, although I’ve seen a number of photos of the better known ones (hmm – does that make sense, coming off the pen of the village idiot? – “the better known ones”, referring to a catalogue of “the greats of photography”?), so I lack the knowledge necessary to do the work of imitating them, or to “pin the donkey to its tail” by suggesting any similarity between my stuff and theirs. And the ultimate cause of my dismal failure – being a Leo, with all the character traits that go with that (and worse – because in the Chinese horoscope, I’m a horse, and my earth sign is water – which combine to make me the worst possible form of a Leo), I am innately stubborn and always do “my own thing”. The world may have to bend – it is distinctly improbable that I ever will, as I fumble my way towards the inevitable finishing line.
After that twaddle, I was most impressed by everything you guys have all contributed. And not a little envious of your travels 🙂 – although these days I confine my travels to commutes to France.
I’m not going to tell you which photo is my favourite, though – you have to guess!
Thanks Pete. Imitating is daunting and very difficult. More often, it’s just that something in front of your eyes reminds you of a photograph or someone else’s style.
Your grasp of astrology baffles me. It would make an interesting study to look for the zodiacal signs of all those artists we admire and look for similarities. I’m aquarius, how does that bode ?
What the horse & the water sign bring to Leo, is that the horse keeps on going relentlessly, plodding along without ever stopping – and water is much the same, relentlessly going on until it finally reaches its destination and its own level, in the sea, but in the meantime, taking little or no notice of any obstacles in its path, but rather, gradually grinding them down & out of the way. Leo was quite bad enough without a spare pair of superchargers like that!
You, my friend, bring to the table truthfulness, frankness, curiosity and imagination – and a keen interest in making the world a better place. A perfect fit for your role in Dear Susan!
I’m at a loss to understand why you didn’t at least try to guess which photo is my favourite – and that, BTW, is a hint! (Leos enjoy playing games like this 🙂 )
Well, I did try but it’s hard 😉 Possibly one of Dallas’ Parisian delights ?
ROTFLMHAO (once again – blame my evil sense of humour! 🙂 )
Time for the award. I think it was just an attack of “false modesty” on your part, suggesting it was one of Dallas’s. His show real genius – I find it hard to believe that he didn’t rush off to Paris to take them all, after he found out what this article was about – or that he’d already taken all of those photos and was just simply sitting on them, without sharing them earlier.
But sorry Dallas – I know you and I are much the same age, so you should by now be perfectly well aware that life can be cruel, sometimes. Pascal won this one. Well he did put SO much time & effort into this one, so perhaps he deserves the “gong”.
My favourite out of all the photos was Pascal’s “Man Ray by Pascal 4” – for me, it’s “fine art” and way past “mere photography” – it has a timeless ethereal beauty. Pascal. you should have an A1 size print of it, framed and hanging on your wall. Does that earn me the right to guess that the two “after Saul Leiter” photos were taken at Paris-Gare-de-Lyon?
Next up to the plate is Steffen – just as I portrayed la place de la Comédie in Montpellier in the the colours of le tricolore, Steffen has managed to do the same to a flock [?? – dunno the generic name for a massed gathering of them!] of Buddhist priests in the same tasteful colours. It’s OK – they’re Vietnamese, and there’s no ill-feeling in Vietnam about the former colonisation of their country by the French. And to REALLY make my day – what seems to me to be a flock [??] of English tourists, on a beach in Sardegna – simply soaking up the sun – probably been there ever since sunrise, and still there as the sun started to set in the late afternoon – they always seem to react that way to sunshine, whenever they escape from rain-sodden foggy England 🙂
I wish I’d known the competition was for the best shot of umbrellas in the rain – I had one here, that I took 10 yards from my front door, that could have been an acceptable entry. I was most impressed by the umbrella shots, anyway, even if I wasn’t allowed to join in. Once again, it was Steffen’s – his Alex Webb does it, for me.
I could go on like this all day, but you all know that already anyway, and you’d probably kick me if I did. So I’ll reluctantly go back to post processing my shots of Pompeii 🙂
It get’s even crazier. I’m a Gemini and Auditory to boot. I don’t/can’t consciously create images in my mind … its a struggle. So how did I end up a photographer??? Must be one of those multiple personalities roaming around inside us Geminis. Best not argue with it. Just enjoy it.
Maybe you’re one of these geniuses who see landscapes in place of numbers. Maybe you create photographs as if they were music 🙂 🙂
I’m with you Pete. When the idea of this post was mooted I had to fess up to my fellow Susans of never having heard of most of the revered names mentioned never mind identifying their influence on my work. HCB was one name I knew and had actually looked at his images. Hence my sole contribution to the post! I have though enjoyed scouring the net looking at images of folk I’d not heard of previously. I have no idea what being a Cancerous Snake might mean…..
You and me both Steve, except that I didn’t have the time to do the Web trawling.
Oops – Steve, we’re both there!
As someone who used brilliant artists as role models, to open my eyes and my mind, I’ve slipped on a banana skin. I just found out this morning, from my Italian crossword magazine, that Paul Cézanne also did Monet-on-haystacks series of drawings & paintings in his beloved Province (know the area, Pascal?), of Mont Saint-Victoire. Different from Monet’s impressionist approach (Cezanne was a post-impressionist), in that he abandoned realism to deconstruct nature into simplified shapes. Hmm – I wonder if there’s a Lomo lens for that?
Another great artist who has influenced my entire life more than she ever realised** was my mother – not only did her love of music fill my head, my heart & my soul (she learned at the State Conservatorium, alongside various musicians who went on to fame or fortune or both – from the age of three I was demanding to learn to play the piano and many years later I also studied for some years at the Conservatorium) – but also her love of art, finally taking up painting after she turned 60, to become “hippie grannie” at the School of Art. Exposure to her was exposure to art, and artists, from the time I learned to speak – both two dimensional & three-dimensional (drawings or paintings, and sculpture).
**I think she thought of me as a feral and uncontrollable child, for the whole of the rest of her life, after I passed the tender age of 8. “Doing my own thing” was harshly misinterpreted 🙂
PPS – oh dear – all that twaddle and one important comment that I forgot. Adam – I must apologise to you – I thought your John Hinde was brilliant. I am not a fan of John Hinde’s work, but that is totally irrelevant. The point is that your John Hinde is as good as his – and it was very bad of me to forget to say so. Actually I think yours is better than his, but perhaps I should say things like that, since he’s no longer with us. 🙂
Now now, Pete, play nice. There’s room for all sorts in photography. Even super flashy postcards 😀 That said, I agree with your comment. Adam’s Hinde also appeals more to me than the original.
That was a big post! Possibly could be better as two posts, HBC then the rest, to avoid visual overload.
If I may make one criticism of the post is that many of the images would be easier to appreciate with more white space between, particularly with the panoramas from Bob, and also some from Pascal, where you get three images stacked on the screen competing for attention.
Thanks all for the sharing; it was quite entertaining and a little educational as well.
Ha ha, I see what you mean. If we’d realised how much love HBC was going to receive, we might indeed have split this in two halves. As for individual images, you can click on any you like and they will usually open in a separate tab so as to avoid the overcrowded effect of having so many on a single page. Hope this helps.
This is a most excellent and informative posting. Well done all concerned.
Thanks a lot Sean !