Learn and forget

Some people argue that in order to be a good photographer, you have to know other photographers, look at their photos and learn from them. I’m not one of those people. I’m all for inspiration, don’t get me wrong, but I’m kind of scared of ‘having to know the heritage in order to do a good job yourself’. If you know what’s out there, what’s been done before, there’s a big chance you’re just going to copy it and lose your originality. Of course, everything’s been done before, but if you know and continue to keep in mind what’s been done before, it will just stand in the way of how you would do it yourself. With me, for example, I can see it clearly in my music. I listen to music a lot, but I can just tell that certain songs I’ve written are very heavily influenced by something I had been listening to. And had been listening to too much, that’s why it was stuck in my mind and interfered with my originality. So yes, knowing what’s out there is great and inspiring, but the biggest trick is to let go and forget it completely so you can go your own way.

Having said that, I love books on photography. Books with tips and tricks, with lots of practical  information, but also books on a certain photographer (like The Brown Sisters by Nicholas Nixon), or based on themes (like one I have on polaroids). A book on my wishlist is by one of my favorite photographers, Joost van den Broek. If only he had a website, but he doesn’t (although here you can see some of his work), so I’ll just have to get his book. I love his work, it’s so strong! I’m a big admirer. He doesn’t just take photographs of people, he actually tells stories with his portraits (and shows us that you don’t need an hour and 100 pictures to get it right: he takes a couple of photos and is out of there in less than half an hour!). Without wanting to imitate his work, it’s something I really, really want to learn to do more, the telling stories-part. So the trick is to look at his work closely, learn from it and then forget it all to make my own original work. Sigh, I’ve still a long, long way to go…

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