Join a band and you are asked “who are your influences”. But be a photographer, and ask “who are your influences” and most people will just gawp and say “I don’t know, I just like taking pretty pictures.”
Conversely, I know exactly who my influences are. Who inspires me to do what I do. The masters of the craft. These master-light shapers who have created images that has caused me to look at their pictures and say “wow, I wanna do that”.
This is my homage to these people I admire.
The opener of the way was Helmut Newton. I was but a young man, fresh out of college, before the era of the internet, when I stumbled upon Helmut Newton. Newton’s work was, in a word, inspirational. If you’ll excuse the redundancy. There were those that came before him, sure, press photographers and the like of Henri Cartier-Bresson who have awakened the love of photography in me – but it wasn’t until Newton that I wanted to BE a photographer. I took one look at Newton’s work and decided: that’s it – I want to do that. What I loved about Newton was his style,and boy, he had tons of it. His gorgeous women, his mainstream-yet-fetish approach to styling, and his utter love for what he was doing. Its evident in his work that here is a man who loves his art, and while I’ve tried many times to emulate Newton – I’ve failed. One cannot emulate Newton, one can only look upon him in awe.
Newton may have opened the way, but Irving Penn refined it. It’s a regret I have that I only discovered the work of Irving Penn so late in life. To say I fell in love with the work of Mr. Penn is too mild a statement. (Always Mr Penn, never Irving, even to his peers and contemporaries). His sheer elegance. Penn added something to his images that the style of Newton lacked: elegance. I have a belief, rightly or wrongly, that a lady can either be “beautiful and feminine” or she can be “smoking hot”, never both at the same time. Irving Penn is perhaps the one person who have proven me wrong. “He Raised Fashion and Celebrity Photography to High Art” reads one accolade to Penn, and damned if its an accolade that I’d love to see behind my name one day. “I have always stood in awe of the camera. I recognize it for the instrument it is, part Stradivarius, part scalpel.” Wise words, Sir, wise words. I aspire to be the musician and surgeon Irving Penn was. And when I get grumpy and hit a slump and stagnate, I just look at Irving Penn, and I feel inspired again.
The above masters set the tone, but more contemporary people have moulded my ambitions. Firstly, a relatively unknown Polish lady by the name Joanna Drazek. At the risk of being insulting, Joanna is not a technical photographer. She does not have a finely-honed technique and she does not know her kit inside out. Instead, Joanna Drazek shoots from the heart, and what she captures is absolute raw emotion, feeling, passion. One can’t be helped but be moved by what she does, by the sheer beauty of her work.
There is another photographer though, also a lady, who does the same type of work, and another person I’m in awe of. Another person who captures true beauty in her photographs. She uses nothing but natural light. She does not create her work in a studio, instead, she captures it in light. Adjectives fail me when I speak of the work of Lillith Leda. I’ve had the honour of meeting her, and the work she does just makes me sit back in awe and wonder how the heck she did it.
These ladies shoot from the heart, and whenever I get too caught up in the technical aspects of photography, I look at these ladies and I’m reminded to shoot from the heart, not from the head.
Last but not least is the latest addition to my family of inspiring people – Iranian born Ali Mahdavi. Style. Grace. Technique. And style. Did I mention style? Ali has a way with light ferw people has. A master light-shaper who makes his models look not just gorgeous, but truly spectacular. Maybe this is the ultimate – The fetish fashion of Newton. The elegance of Penn. The heart of Drazek and Leda, and all combined with a spectacular talent for lighting and mind-bending way-out conceptualisations. Ali is the photographer I turn to when I feel I need to up my game. He is the person that bends my mind in interesting ways about lighting and presenting your subject.
Without the people above to look to whenever I feel I’m straying off the path, I would probably be an IT technician somewhere installing networks – and where is the fun, the art, the beauty and the heart in that?
Oh – none of the images on this page are used with permission, for which I apologise, to anyone and everyone. I’m honouring these people on this page. I have no desire to rip them off in my work, to cheapen their names or to make money off their images. If you have a problem with these images, which are obviously the copyright of these marvellously talented photographers (and/or their estates), please speak to me and we’ll sort something out.