Many photographers study the works of other photographers. I do that too, but in addition and more often for the matter, I study the work of some of my favorite painters for inspiration. These painters are not the usual suspects either. I appreciate the works of painters like Monet, but I am not drawn to a more realist approach to painting the way I am drawn to the works of the abstract masters. Painters like Jackson Pollock and Picasso just bring my whole life to a stand still. They literally hit my pause button and bring me in to stare, contemplate, analyze, and wonder. Viewing their works inspires the creativity.
Whenever I am in the field shooting I keep the images of their paintings tucked in the back of my mind. This allows me to pull from that memory bank when I stumble upon a scene that has more to offer in the way of the abstract than the literal. I love to use my camera for the abstract interpretation of “real” life. It keeps my viewer wondering who, what, when, and where. And that keeps them looking for a moment longer. Sometimes these images are super simple and sometimes they are super complex like an image I took last spring in Colorado.
I don’t head out to shoot thinking that I am only going to look for and photograph abstracts, I try to keep an open mind regardless of where I am and what my subject matter could be. Again, all of the work I have seen is filed back in the cobweb-filled upstairs between my ears. But when I see it, I definitely capitalize on it. I remember photographing a couple of years ago in Bosque del Apache before a NANPA summit. When all of the friends I was with decided we needed a break, we headed to Sante Fe, NM for a day of visiting the galleries. We experienced over two dozen of the galleries there and only a few of them were photography galleries. The very next day we went out an captured wildly abstract images all fueled by the priors day’s inspiration.
If you haven’t taken some time to visit a local art gallery or museum take a day and then head out to see how different your viewfinder looks fueled on the work of other painters. I would obviously suggest Pollock and Picasso, but you may find Monet holding your path to enlightenment.