I didn’t know I had any. Influences, that is, until I had been taking pictures for a long, long time. It took me many years of shooting and saving thousands of images before I was able to notice any uniformity, or, dare I say it, style, anywhere.
I guess I just didn’t think about it. In the past, taking pictures was, for the most part, just about getting things right; capturing the moment, or framing things in what I thought was the best possible light, and angle.
But somewhere along the way, I went from being the guy with the camera, to the guy who takes pictures. Like the difference between a guy who carries around brushes and pencils, and the guy who paints pictures.
Oddly enough, even though I like a lot of photographers, there haven’t been many that I can honestly say have influenced me, but there’s one or two that to me, are worth mentioning.
Kevin Mullins is one. Surprisingly enough, he’s a wedding photographer, but he also happens to do a lot of street/documentary photography as well. He’s got a fantastic eye for capturing the little things that make a great shot, but more than that, his processing, and exposure are the things that initially drew me in. This is a man who’s not afraid of deep shadows. I admire that.
Richard Billingham is another. Artist with a camera. His first, and perhaps still the biggest thing he is known for, are his series of ‘family photos’ that he took back in the ’90s. Fucked up subjects photographed by a person who didn’t really know what he was doing, taken with a shitty point and shoot camera.
James Nachtwey came to my attention as the events of 9/11 unfolded. He just happened to find himself in Lower Manhattan when it all went down, and started banging off shots. It’s one thing to have the event ‘come to you,’ but you’ve gotta know what to do when it arrives. He did, turning extreme conditions into respectful art. (Stupidly, it seems that TIME owns the rights to most of his images, so when you google his 9/11 pictures, mostly what you get is his shot of a tumbling building behind a giant cross. Fuck TIME!)
And then there’s Caravaggio. Perhaps the grandfather of shadows and light. I’ve always liked his stuff -right from the get go. The images caught my eye, and then the stories behind them drew me in deeper. Painting Christ as a peasant. Bribing authorities with gifted paintings. (The story behind this one, ‘David with the Head of Goliath,’ is that it was a gift to the local Cardinal in exchange for a holy pardon for murdering someone! Pretty fucking cheeky when you consider that he used his own likeness for David, who thrusts the head of Goliath into the foreground.) I’ve never tried -I’d be far too timid/respectful to even attempt being bold enough to try and emulate him, but I guess that enjoying his works, and doing a fair amount of studying it, it just crept into me.
There are plenty more; some with complete styles, some just for a single image that have influenced me, that are always running around somewhere in the back of my brain. Isaac Newton claimed that he was able to accomplish what he did because he was able to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants.’ Well, I certainly pose no threat at ever reaching those kinds of heights, but perhaps because of those who influenced me, I’m no longer staring at the soles of their shoes.