There is a moral difference between ‘influence’ and ‘imitation’. To be inspired by someone enough to want to harness their creative energy and transfer it into your life or work is a gift. If your main interest is merely to adopt someone’s personal style, question your motives. If your work looks like someone else’s ask yourself why and don’t answer right away. Take some time and think about this in depth. Look inward and the answers may suprise you. In doing this, you and your work will become better almost immediately. We all have people, places or events which have influenced our lives in some way. Some we have control over and some we do not. When you encounter someone or something that charges you with creative energy and makes you want to shoot more, this is not the same as wanting to imitate how someone ‘did it’ or copy another style.
A person doesn’t grow if the source is merely copied rather than absorbed. I would not be an author if I merely rewrote a novel by an author I admired. It is in the appreciation of another’s work that we can begin to mature and absorb rather than feeling compelled to duplicate and learn nothing. The latter being the superficial needs of the ego.
To be inspired by an external force that motivates us internally, is a choice we should nurture and not take for granted. It is through these encounters that we are able to develop our own unique works and style different from any one influence that may have registered within us. Because each of us is ‘influenced ‘ by different people and places and events and to a different degree by the same influences. What we take from each encounter and what we do with it will always have a different outcome for every person, an individual style as a result of many influences. We too in this process become an influence, consciously or not, to others as their style develops and nurtures.
Knowing you are going to be an influence on someone is a great responsibility that must not be taken lightly. Your approach can either make or break the outcome for another. To be a good mentor or instructor is to be able to put your own ego away and not influence people on your way of doing things. but rather to try to apply your knowledge and skills in a way that helps another begin developing their own works, although that may be very different from yours. While their are inherent technical skills that must be learned, and struggled with, eventually we will learn them and they will become relatively easy. But these skills alone will not create a masterpiece every time you photograph, they are just the first step. Great photographs are not questions about f/stops, shutter speeds and megapixels but more about a reason for engaging in a passion and maybe bringing some insight for others in doing so. It is here that true photography starts and the personal style evolves. A signature unique to you that can influence others and dispel any need to ‘imitate’ rather than be ‘influenced’.
“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…..”