Find inspiration from the masters of photography, but never become their slave.
New Book: MASTERS by HAPTICPRESS
When I started photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson was my master. I found deep inspiration in his shooting style and zen and life philosophy.
But for several years, all I did was try to imitate his style. Look for an interesting background, and wait for the right person to come into the frame. It soon bored me.
I soon got a little depressed — I got inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, but could I ever become better than him?
Stay true to your own vision
Thus, I started an extremely intense period of scholarship and studying the masters of photography— trying to figure out what their “secret sauce” was.
The result of all my studies:
The true masters of photography had faith in themselves, and stayed focused on their own artistic vision.
The masters killed their masters— just like how Rene Burri killed Henri Cartier-Bresson by defying his “rules” (by using a telephoto lens). Or like Martin Parr when he started to shoot color (also defying Henri Cartier-Bresson, who said only black and white photography was legitimate).
Become your own master
We all need a root, foundation, and apprenticeship in photography. But once we have mastered the fundamentals, we must BREAK LOOSE, and cut the umbilical cord with our master(s).
Be grateful for what the masters have taught you, but learn to KILL YOUR MASTER.
Then, set on your own path. Be brave, have faith in your own vision, and one day— you will become a master in the eyes of your future students. And then you too should hope one day, your students will also kill you, to find their unique voice in photography.