The Ladder; In Defense Of Imitation Page 2

Over the years I went from travel to lifestyle to portraiture to what I now call world photography, which is a combination of all three. I suppose I sort of combined the influence of the people I admired--Richard Avedon, Bob Krist, Lisl Dennis, Steve McCurry, Eliot Porter, Jay Maisel, Tom Grill, and others--until one day it was not so much them and a lot of me.

Starting to find a few of my favorite things.

If it sounds like I'm defending imitation, I am. It's a way to get started, and in the beginning it's very important because by imitating you're going to take pictures you like and that's going to build your confidence. You're pleased, you've got something you think is good. Don't sell that feeling short. Ideally, you imitate until it's second nature for you to make a picture you think is really cool. And then you start to make changes.

Of course, that's the key part of the climb--to break away, to not get stuck in the imitative stage because it's satisfying or easy. You won't find yourself in there. If you find yourself losing interest in photography, I think it's because you've stayed with imitation too long.

That's it--a Jack picture!

Moving from step to step doesn't mean that I lost my admiration for the photographers who inspired me and who I imitated. I'm still spellbound by the work of Steve McCurry, one of the greatest photojournalists in the world. His work encompasses all the things I admire. I'm most taken by the intimacy of his photos. I've read what he's said about coming face to face with another person, making a momentary, fleeting connection, discovering something about that person and being part of an exchange. That's exactly what I get from his photographs, and that's exactly what I strive for in mine.

My twist on Richard Avedon's influence; a recent photo.

And I'm still inspired by the work of Jay Maisel. His works says: Don't see it? Then look harder. It's there, you'll find it.

One final thing I thought about--actually, a question I asked myself: can inspiration be intimidating? Did I ever think, I can't equal that, I'll never be that good? I honestly don't remember ever feeling that way. It's not in my personality to put a limit like that on myself, but if you should feel it, think about this: the idea is not to be as good as, say, Bob Krist or Steve McCurry; the idea is to be as good as you can be. Please yourself first. That's really the first step up the ladder.

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