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Monday, 10 April 2017


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David Hemmings in Blow Up

I don't if they have to be living but I have two: Larry Burrows and Sam Abell.

For me it just has to be André Kertész. I find myself drawn to the same kind of things, form, perspective, shadows, steps and stairs, with the subject matter mattering much less than the shapes and patterns.

Garry Winogrand on a daily basis, with occasional weekends as Lewis Baltz. Yes, the two are disparate, but such is the curse of my mixed influences.

While on paper I like the idea of beeing one of the 'star photographers', at the end of the day I prefer to stick to the audience side.
For years I day dreamed about what it would be like to be Steven Spielberg. That is, until I heard him telling the story about how he is sick of Close encounters of the third kind because it reminds him all the time he spend dealing with accountants.
In any case, Spielberg wants to be me: a kid born in the early eighties who got to grow up wrapped in science fiction masterpieces like Close encounters.

I would like to be someone paid to take photos for guidebooks to interesting places, as used to be the case 20+ years ago. Sadly these days guidebook publishers are a threatened species and don't pay much, if anything, for photos anyway.

As to named photographers, I had a distant relative whose professional name was 'Vivienne' - she took studio photos in the 40s and 50s of political, showbiz and other celebrities. Lots of her stuff in the National Portrait Gallery in London. I think I would quite like to have been her - she had quite a good time. Mutatis mutandis - she was female and I am not.

Brett Weston


It's an interesting question. Many artists, and their art, are driven by demons, pain and trauma, and there are many shoes I'd be loathe to walk in, no matter how much I admire the person or the art. Many of those footsteps run through landscapes of privation, sacrifice, danger or illness. It's possible that the art would not have happened at all, or would not be as great, without the ugliness.

So, I could name many artists I feel an aesthetic kinship with or admiration for, but--at least in the cowardly mood I seem to be in today--there are few among them whose formative journeys I'd want to emulate. William Eggleston, perhaps, or Irving Penn.

Otherwise, give me the unsung heroes of science and nature photography, theater, music, professional sports tours, tourist destinations... those folks who get paid to sit in the best seats in the house. At least for a season or two.

In the past couple weeks I watched the Saul Leiter documentary and another one on Robert Frank (In No Great Hurry and Don't Blink). I like the work of both men but of the two I'd think I'd want to be Saul. I just like the way he laughed after a every few sentences.


Sebastian Salgado. He has seen and created harsh and beautiful realities.

André Kertész.
For me he is the van Gogh of photographers.

Off the top of my head, Doisneau or Lartigue.

Bizarrely, I find it easier to think of lots of photographers I'm glad I wasn't. For instance, Louis Faurer seemed to have a tough life that ended in relative obscurity and bitterness.

If I could be any photographer, I would be Eric Clapton: http://leicaphilia.com/eric-clapton-forgets-to-take-the-lens-cap-off-his-leica/

A combination of Peter and David Turnley.

I'd go with W. Eugene Smith. I love his essay on Pittsburgh, my hometown.
And his environmental work from Minimata.

Richard Avedon. Saw a show of his work and the prints were gigantic and was stunned by how truly great he was.

Salgado. I admire his work, from the early projects centred around people, to the recent Genesis one. I share his overarching concern about the Earth as a system we all share, and how we need to preserve it.

Edward S. Curtis for many reasons.

David Doubilet

Such a hard call. Part of me says Eliot Porter, part of me says Outerbridge, another Atget....

Kertesz immediately came to mind, but after thinking about it a while, I have to go with David Plowden. He was in love.

I reckon it’s more a matter of quality rather than emulation, whereby I would like to have the visual creativity of a Henri Cartier-Bresson (surprise), Daido Moriyama, Robert Frank, Lewis Baltz, or William Eggleston. Philosophically, I approach things more along the lines of Garry Winogrand, in that I’m not out to ‘tell stories’ but instead to see how things look photographed, hoping that the overall photographic aesthetic transcends the face value of the subject matter.

Cinematographer Gregg Toland http://www.cinematographers.nl/GreatDoPh/toland.htm I dislike bokeh, and love deep depth-of-field—f/16 and be there 8-)

Motion picture production sound mixer Bruce Bisenz http://www.local695.com/Quarterly/7-1/7-1-bruce-bisenz/ I prefer sound to images, but have suffered from tinnitus for most of my life.

BTW, I'm an aficionado of Dada and Surrealism ...

Easy for me. Lee Friedlander. Such varied, wonderful work. Such an eye. And his insatiable curiosity.

Edward Weston. That man could get the girls!

Any of the greats or FSA photogs - not for the fame or impacts they had, rather they all seemed to live very long lives. Jim

Lee Friedlander. Playful, sees everything, independent, incredible wife, always experimenting and advancing the art. And by all accounts, a superbly nice guy.

I have not wanted to be in someone else's shoes since I was a teen (and then it was an architect). So nope, I don't wish I was any photographer.

But of the many photographers that I've studied and/or met personally one stands as most admirable to me: Bruce Davidson. My list of photographers whose work I admire equally is very long. And there are photographers who have made much greater headway into the star-studded art world. But I can think of no other photographer who has been so well-grounded professionally and personally as Davidson. He's very much a "real" person in-person yet he has a remarkably healthy practical perspective on the roles of photography. And he has a very midwestern-USA work ethic. He sees an objective and he sets about to achieve it. And he has a stunning body or serious work to prove it.

Nope, I had not really considered this until you posed the question, Mike. But Bruce Davidson would definitely top my list of nominees for my most admired photographer.

W. Eugene Smith. While not the first to do so, I think of him first and foremost for bringing the words "photography" and "conscience" together. That said, when I think of my own personal style, I most closely identify with Robert Frank.

Robert Cameron, combining flying and photography two of my favorite activities. His book series Above SF, LA, Wash DC and others are, while not exactly high art, would be great fun to have created. And the income would not have been a problem either :-)

David Muench, with his 4x5 camera and color transparency film, traveling to wilderness areas in the US.

I would be me but with an agent to handle selling my photos. I love what I do except for marketing. I'm lousy at selling my work.

My one and only fan letter was to Wright Morris telling him that I was a photographer and that his work had touched me deeply. I told him that his work had awakened me to my surroundings and would keep me in the Midwest, probably for the rest of my life.
He answered thanking me for the greeting and wrote that I would tell my own stories in my own time. Given that I am going to say I am happy being myself with all the limitations and there are plenty.
All the wonderful work out there, it's just a joy to look at it and perhaps take on a little inspiration along the way but at the end of the day I'll just be me.
Look at that,got all serious and was originally going to be a wiseguy and just say Bunny Yeager.

I'd like to be Jack Dykinga, minus the serious lung disease and subsequent transplant. I've done workshops with him and am now reading about his career in his extraordinarily good book, "A Photographer's Life." His career mirrors what I would have wanted mine to be, had I become a professional photographer. He had the courage to be a photojournalist in its heyday and earned a Pulitzer for his work at a "hospital" for the developmentally delayed. He subsequently became a large format landscape photographer and earned his chops with an Arca 4x5. Now he is a top notch digital photographer, taking advantage of the tools available to make striking conservation images in an attempt to save what is best in America. I'd sell my soul :-) to have made some of his best images.

Jay Maisel. There are plenty of photographers I admire, but in order to take the kinds of pictures they take, I'd have to be a different person; have a different personality. I wouldn't say my personality is like Jay's (from what I've seen of video interviews) but my style is not too dissimilar. I guess the most concise way to say it is - if I were a successful photographer, I envision my portfolio looking more like his than anyone else's.

A few days ago I was at my local coffee house when a women with a camera sat down across the table. We started talking. It turned out that she is a local photographer who had managed the photography department at Powell's book store for fifteen years.

In talking about our work, I said that I was mostly doing color street and cityscapes these days. She looked at my website and said, you probably appreciate Alex Webb. I had to confess that that I didn't know who Alex Webb was, embarrassing myself more than little.

Since then, I've been looking at as much of his work as I can find on the internet. I only wish I could shoot like him--much still to appreciate and learn from.

Gregory Crewdson maybe.

Wasn't there a guy who took black and white landscape pictures once? Adam Anselson or something like that? Slightly interesting that no on picked him. I was thinking I'd like to be Peter Lik. You get to use a lot of obscene language and make a lot of money. The downside is that you'd be Peter Lik. So... NO!

Saul Leiter would be a much better choice. Very well regarded and didn't take himself too seriously. Or maybe Ernst Haas. Or Jay Maisel. Or the British landscape guy, David Ward (simplicity, mystery, beauty, not bad things to strive for).

Then again, I heard some good advice somewhere, but I don't remember who said it or where I heard it. It the sort of quote one might pick up from this site, which I mean as a compliment: Just be yourself; everyone else is taken. I should learn to live with myself. It's only fair. My wife had to live with me for all these years.

Graham Watson. Retired last year. He photographed all the big European bicycle races from the back of a motorbike.


I'll say Christopher May. The longer I'm at this photography thing, the more I realize that St. Ansel was correct when he said, "You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved." I want my photography to be a product of who I am and what I'm trying to say.

That's not to say that I don't admire the work of others. I've been inspired by many photographers in many genres. The landscapes of Ansel. The slices of disappearing America of David Plowden. The human interest of David Alan Harvey. The railroad photographs of Mel Patrick. Etc. etc. But I don't want to be any one of them. I just want to be me and contribute my own voice (little though it may be) to the art of photography.

At the risk of being boring... I'm happy being me.

Why would I want to re-tread previously covered ground? I would rather go where I get the urge to go and take the pictures I want to take.

If they come out similar to someone else's fine, great minds and all that :-), but they will be my pictures and that's what matters.

David Plowden capturing a disappearing America. Steam trains, steam ships, old barns, ghost towns and small towns and all the like in some of the most glorious black & white tones. Throw in some elements of Capa & Adams & that's what I like and what I try to do. Usually I fail because I end up too much like one of the above but at least I have fun doing it.

Garo; portraiture, Boston, and a salon

Yousuf Karsh

Thanks to my wife, who still works, I've got the luxury to pursue photography full time in the way I want to, so I'm being the photographer I want to be. I'd sell more if I took the pictures people want to buy, but what would be the point in that?
However, I still think it's important to keep variety in your shooting style and methods, just to make sure the types of photograph you generally take really are the ones you want to be taking.

Another vote for 'myself'. For more than 50 years I've been trying to develop my photographic strengths and to overcome my photographic inadequacies —a bit of a metaphor for life, really— and it's been a fine, rewarding trip. The list of photographers I admire is a long one; every one of them is a more accomplished photographer than I shall ever be. However I'm finally getting to be good at being me, and I have no desire to switch horses part way through the ride.

Now if I were absolutely forbidden to go on as myself, I suppose I would choose to be Eliot Porter, the person whose photographs most consistently inspire me to murmur, "Damn, I wish I'd made that!"

Edward Weston.

I'm taking this as whose photographs do you wish were yours rather than which photographer I'd rather be as I have no idea about the private lives of photographers and am happy in my own skin.
First place: Uta Barth
Runner up: Daido Moriyama

Galen Rowell.

Adventurer. Photographer. Adventure photographer.

Working hard at trying to be myself as a photographer. Otherwise I'd like to be Micheal Kenna.

I won't get past the letter A.... Avedon.

The photographers who inspired me and shaped the way I see the world were Fritz Henle, Errwitt, Doisneau, and B.A.(Tony)King, yet my photographs do not resemble theirs at all.

My photographs most resemble those of Sam Abell and Richard W. Brown with a touch of Jay Maisel, and mostly, of course, at a much lower level.

Geoff Wittig, thank you for bringing up the name of Richard W. Brown. I love his work and have most of his books. His web site has been down for at least two years now. Do you have any information about that?

Tim Auger, the opportunity to photograph guidebooks still exists if you can write as well. I recently completed "Backroads and Byways of Georgia" for Countryman Press. Check their web site and get in touch with them if you're interested. It doesn't pay a lot, but it's fascinating work. Here's a link to my book, which will be available June 6th. http://tinyurl.com/n3k45z6

Possibly Iwan Baan, maybe Michael Wolff.

Nat Geo photographer Sam Abel. 30 years after discovering his work it is still my "bar". Favourite quote also, "I believe in the staying power of the quiet image".

I split that particular fantasy into two camps when allowed the privilege: the "heroic" fantasy, and the more everyday, every man version.

The first (heroic) version would be someone like James Nachtwey or Matt Black who make great (and sometimes dangerous)images for the common good.

For the every man version of my better self I too would pick someone like the honorable Henry Wessel, or Andrew Borowiec (people who can transform the mundane into the meaningful-


David Plowden comes to mind.

I have had what I consider to be an odd reaction to your question. When I saw it this morning, I bristled with near outrage at the mere thought that I, or anyone else, would want to be another photographer and not my own person. There are many photographers whom I admire, and many more photographs that when I see them I think, "Damn, I wish I'd taken that". But, to be another photographer or even considered to be like another photographer? Nope.

Hours later when I read the question again, I still bristle. There is no reasoning going on here, it is a visceral rejection of the idea of wanting to not be myself. An aside, I would love to have Bill Gates' money, but I would not want to be him. I don't like him. I could do a hell of a lot more good with his dough than he is doing.

[Hi John, I suspect you're reading the question too deeply. I mean what kind of life would you choose if you could step more or less into someone else's shoes is all. Not asking you to give up your own identity, naturally. Don't you ever wish you could be more of a photographer than you are? If not, then it's just not a question that pertains to you is all! Feel free to skip it. --Mike]

"Don't you ever wish you could be more of a photographer than you are?"

Yes, I do envy the fine balance Elliott Erwitt maintained between his personal snaps and commercial assignments.

As Oasis sang, "I wanna be myself/I can't be no one else."
If I could, though, my ready answer would be W. Eugene Smith, whom I rank above all other photographers past and present.
However, there was a shift in my tastes. I simply got tired of black and white and am rediscovering colour. So, although Smith is still the greatest of all times, the answer would be Harry Gruyaert. Or William Albert Allard, if Gruyaert wasn't available. Or Fred Herzog.

The photographers who's work I really admire tend to have lives that I am glad are not mine. Diane Arbus comes to mind. Or are kind of jerks, Eadweard Muybridge even got an opera about how much of a jerk.

On the other hand Peter Gowland seemed to have a nice life.

Bill Brandt. I've always loved his stark black and white style, and the exquisite geometry of his compositions. Ansel Adams held him in very high regard. Look at Brandt's photos at Top Withens, and you will gain an insight into the works of the Brontës. And for a German-born photographer to wander round London during the blackout in the Blitz, taking photos by moonlight (a condition that will never be replicated) took guts. His portraits of the great and the good artists of the mid-20th century are excellent: I defy anyone to avoid (at the very least) a smile at his portrait of René Magritte, for example:


Paraphrasing Hugh Crawford, I really admire what Dorothea Lange did with her gift but wouldn't want to trade lives with her.

I feel like I should say me, because if I wanted to be another photographer, I would just take photos like they do. But some people just have better eyes than we regular folks do. So, a guy who takes photos I'd like to take but just does it better is Jim Brandenburg. Marc Adamus is another.

Mike, I work every day, whether or not I photograph, to be more of a photographer. I am obsessed with it in a joyous way. I meant no criticism by reacting as I did. I value your website above all other photography websites. Your years of crafting words, ideas and photos make your commentary sometimes illuminating, always interesting (your off topic forays, too). Alas, in order to skip a topic that doesn't apply, one must understand that it doesn't apply. I slipt and slid past understanding.

Eugene Atget...for his depiction of place. Bill

I greatly admire Walker Evans' work, and mine is certainly influenced by his,but I wouldn't want to have lived his life. So I'll say Paul Caponigro, who has also influenced me... although I doubt that you could see that in my pictures.

Elliot Erwitt because his ability to find humor illuminates our humanity.

Saul Leiter. When I first saw his Early Color book I knew what I was aspiring to. Except with a slightly cleaner house and studio.


Brett Weston

Weegee. It's such a cool name.

As a person, I am happy to be me. As a photographer, I'd love to have done the work that Nick Nichols did. He is a great photographer and, based on having briefly met him once, seems like a hell of a nice guy too. Beyond him, Paul Nicklen, Frans Lanting and the late Galen Rowell have done some amazing work too.

Mike Disfarmer, for his courage to be what he believed. Probably not the truth. Still, he was one hell of a photographer.

A difficult question. I too like David Ward, who says this on his website: "Rather than having a specific goal in mind I travel in expectation and with a receptive outlook. My aim is to connect to my subject rather than to acquire images. I aspire to my wise friend Kyriakos Kalorkoti’s desire to work with my subject not make images of my subject. I wish to see with the naivety and wonder of a child in order to see things afresh."

But naivety and wonder are not enough, methinks. So also someone like Tom Wood, for his immersion in community. I was a community worker without a camera, so I'd need to have lived another life to do this.

Others, like Ian Berry, I could only admire from afar for their brave photojournalism. I don't think I have the kind of constitution needed to keep pointing a camera when bullets are flying ...

Man Ray

An artist and photographer, or better, an artist, which is what the great photographers tend to be.

Landscape painters have influenced me more than have landscape photographers. I like Gillis van Coninxloo, for example.

But I'd like to be myself 5 years from now. By then, with some luck, my landscape photography might really be on to something.

Peter Gowland
A classy photographer of the human figure, an innovative camera designer and maker, and a very nice guy as well. 25 years ago I purchased a 6x9 Pocket View camera from him and at the time inquired if he made a bag bellows for it. Unfortunately he did not.

Eight months later, the phone in my office rang. It was Peter Gowland. He said, "John, it's Peter Gowland. Do you still want that bag bellows for your Pocket View?" I asserted that I did and made arrangements for payment.

We then spent the next twenty minutes on the phone talking about (in order) the camera, photography, and life philosophies. He was quite a guy!

Whatever the intersection of the axis of André Kertész, William Eggelston and Catherine Leroy is, that's who I'd like to be.

[The axis of André Kertész, William Eggelston and Catherine Leroy? Sounds like Marc Riboud maybe. --Mike]

Lee Friedlander

This was not a hard one. I would like to be Daido Moriyama....Point and shoot mentality, combined with spectacular judgement.

Even looking at what I just typed, it makes little sense to me. But then, I think that may be connected with what I like about Moriyama.

Absolutely Michael Kenna. That's easy. He's sustained a long career making his own style of work and presentation while traveling the world continuously. Sounds good to me!

Galen Rowell...inspired me to shoot landscape and love the outdoors!

I didn't know of Marc Riboud, but wow! Thanks for turning me on to another great photographer.

This is too easy. While there are countless photographers I admire and love, there's only one I would trade places with without any hesitation and that's Ansel Adams. He was an icon whose work is beloved by damn near everyone, but perhaps more importantly, he got to spend his working days hanging out in the national parks. I don't even do much landscape photography myself, but I would absolutely KILL to get paid to take the pictures he took.

André Kertész gets another vote here... I want his eye connected to his fingers. He has the amazing ability to look at a crowd of people randomly moving and hit the moment when there is tension and calm among them. I also admire his reflections and through steamy windows shots that are there for all of us but he got both the color and the effect.. As for his life, probably not....

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