If you gain too much inspiration from the past, will that mean you will never find your own style?
1. Their work is better than modern photographers.
The work of the masters (if it still exists today) is probably still around for a reason.
99% of modern photography is just noise.
If you want a more potent filter:
Don’t look at any photos from the past 10 years.
That means less time on Instagram, and more time looking at photo books.
2. Fewer excuses.
In the 1920s, there was so much innovation in photography.
Photographers were limited with huge, heavy cameras. Yet they made amazing street photos.
Today we complain that our cameras aren’t good enough. We complain that they aren’t “full frame”, that we cannot shoot at ISO 12,800 (without noise), or that our camera is too heavy, or doesn’t have good “bokeh.”
Nowadays most of us are keyboard photographers. We stand on the sidelines, and waste time on gear forums and websites. We fantasize about buying a new camera, instead of just going and shooting photos.
For myself, I often feel I am held back by my lack of gear. But in fact that is just an excuse.
Now, I look at the old cameras of the Masters and think:
If they can make phenomenal photos on their old school, cumbersome cameras, on film… Why can’t I just make good photos on my phone?
3. No envy / jealousy
All the master photographers are dead. We don’t feel envy or jealousy with dead people. Kind of how I’m not envious of the success of Henry Ford, but I might be envious of the success of my friend (who is richer than me) who is still alive today.
If you’re inspired by a master photographer from the past, you’re not competing against them. Rather, imagine them from the grave… Pushing you forward to make better photos.
For me, the dead masters are like my guides, who want me to become better photographers than them.
He without a past has no future.
Study the history of street photography, to find more appreciation of the Masters who paved the path for us today.
But don’t get discouraged. Rather, build upon their legacy, and seek to innovate in your photography.
Share your best photos in ERIC KIM FORUM.
STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF,
“He without a past has no future.”
- Cheat Sheet of the Masters of Photography
- 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
- Beginner’s Guide to the Masters of Street Photography
The Masters of Photography
- Alfred Stieglitz
- Alec Soth
- Alex Webb
- Anders Petersen
- Andre Kertesz
- Ansel Adams
- Blake Andrews
- Bruce Davidson
- Bruce Gilden
- Constantine Manos
- Daido Moriyama
- Dan Winters
- David Alan Harvey
- David Hurn
- Diane Arbus
- Dorothea Lange
- Elliott Erwitt
- Eugene Atget
- Eugene Smith
- Fan Ho
- Garry Winogrand
- Helen Levitt
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Irving Penn
- Jacob Aue Sobol
- Jeff Mermelstein
- Joel Meyerowitz
- Joel Sternfeld
- Josef Koudelka / Part 2
- Josh White
- Lee Friedlander
- Magnum Contact Sheets
- Magnum Photographers
- Mark Cohen
- Martin Parr
- Mary Ellen Mark
- Rene Burri
- Richard Avedon
- Richard Kalvar
- Robert Capa
- Robert Frank
- Saul Leiter
- Sergio Larrain
- Sebastião Salgado
- Shomei Tomatsu
- Stephen Shore
- The History of Street Photography
- Todd Hido
- Tony Ray-Jones
- Trent Parke
- Vivian Maier
- Walker Evans
- William Eggleston
- William Klein
- Zoe Strauss
Unleash your creative potential:
- November 7th, 2020: ERIC KIM BLOGGING MASTER CLASS (Online, via Zoom). [Register Intent Here]
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.