branches composite

I always find it interesting to see how different artists treat the same subject. Browsing the web, I’ve come across a number of images from several photographers that are close to some of mine in subject matter. Not only that, but they appear close in spirit as well. That evokes two reactions in me: disappointment that I’m not the first and only one to see the world in this unique and compelling way, and pleasure in finding others who seem to see the world in this unique and compelling way.

These are photographers I can learn from. Not only because I enjoy and respect their larger bodies of work, but because by comparing similar images I think I can learn more about my own work. I want to understand what distinguishes my own vision or style, which is not something I derive from principles, but have to discover by making images and looking at them.

I know that some would not care to analyze this way, and might also be leery of looking at art that could influence them. But I actively seek out influences: if artists have something to say, I want to listen as much as possible. I want richness of vicarious experience as well as richness of direct experience. Although I’m in my own world when I photograph, I want the me that photographs to have been formed by all the things I’ve seen and thought about — especially the good things. I have no anxiety about influence and if my work ever feels derivative, I’ll consider it a temporary stage of my own journey.

Below are four images. All three guest photographers kindly consented to the use of their images in this context. Do you think you can identify my image? Be sure to check back later today, when all will be revealed. I will identify the creators and link to their web sites, where you will be able to appreciate the single images as part of significant projects. By the way, I could have chosen images that resembled each other so closely it’s almost eerie, but here I tried to get a bit of variety. I also could have added a number of other photographers I admire, but four is enough for now.





I would like to hear your thoughts on these different photos, from any and all perspectives. What do you notice about them? Do they, in fact, seem distinctive? What’s the same, what’s different? Can you describe how the differences affect your impressions? Feel free to indulge a preference, if you have one, but I’m mostly interested in trying to understand the reasons for your reactions. The point is not to judge better or worse — which doesn’t really make sense to me in this context — but to try to discern elements of style.

I’m also interested in hearing of similar exercises you may have engaged in. Or, in your case, does such an effort seem pointless or detrimental?

UPDATE: The curtain is lifted and the photographers stand revealed.

#1 – Doug Plummer, from the Pacific Northwest, is a contributor to this blog, has personal project galleries including “Sticks”, and blogs at dispatches.

#2 – Mark Hobson, from the Adirondacks, has a select gallery from which #2 was taken. Note that the original is in color, but Mark gamely permitted the makeover for the purposes of this exercise. Mark blogs at the landscapist.

#3 – Tim Atherton is a Canadian photographer whose Bethicketted project is black-and-white, but he has also posted a color version of #3 on his blog Muse-ings.

#4 – Yours truly. Photo #4 is from the Sourdough Trail project, of which I hope to post a couple dozen more images in the nearish future.