I admire and enjoy a number of photographers, both old and modern:
Alfred Stieglitz (1864 – 1946)
André Kertész (1894 – 1985)
George Brassaï (1899 – 1984)
Walker Evans (1903 – 1975)
Willy Ronis (1910 – 2009)
Robert Doisneau (1912 – 1994)
Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971)
Robert Frank (1924 – )
Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009)
Elliott Erwitt (1928 – )
Roger Mayne (1929 – 2014)
Fred Herzog (1930 – )
Josef Koudelka (1938 – )
Saul Leiter (1923 – 2013)
James Ravilious (1939 – 1999)
Stephen Shore (1947 – )
Martin Parr (1952 – )
But the following are the ones who most inspire:
Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget (1857 – 1927). Born Liborne, France.
Atget began his photography at an opportune moment – about the late 1880s – when photography was developing and gaining popularity with keen amateurs whose interest was driven by the rapid expansion of commercial picture taking.
I love his photos of Paris and its environs taken with a wooden large format 18x24cm camera between the years 1897 and 1927. Much of what he recorded is now long gone: the lanes and small courtyards, the formal public buildings, the façades and shopfronts and Seine river scenes. What I like particularly are his wonderful back street scenes of ordinary working people going about their work, leisure and business.
One of my favourites is his photograph, taken in 1912, of a group of people watching the solar eclipse of that year.
Although in the early 1920s Atget sold thousands of his negatives, much of his work was only published after his death, which went pretty much unnoticed, except for a small circle of collectors and museum curators.
Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894 – 1986). Born Courbevoie, France.
Born into a wealthy family, Lartigue was a prolific photographer from the age of 7, producing a vast output of 2¼ inch square, 35mm and stereo formats amounting to well over 100 enormous albums and scores of diaries. Many commentators acknowledge Lartigue’s body of work to be the finest visual autobiography ever produced.
He seems to have photographed anything and everything that came his way: family and friends scenes of kite flying, soap-box racing, swimming, picnics, building gliders and aeroplanes, and sports events such as the French Grand Prix automobile race and the French Open tennis championship.
It was only in later life, in 1963 when he was 69 years-old, that his work was ‘discovered’ when an exhibition of his work opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and he was universally recognised for the brilliance of his vision.
Following this he was much fêted and sort after for photographic commissions.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004). Born Chanteloup, France.
What can be written about HCB that has not been published already?
Aged 14, it was his books of photographs that I first discovered with a sense of wonderment, borrowing them continuously from my local library. It was his books that opened my eyes, showing and inspiring me of the possibilities of the 35mm format for black and white candid picture taking: they remain an inspiration to this day.
Apart from the profound influence of Cartier-Bresson’s inimitable photographs, most of all I admire the sure foundation of geometric symmetry he has for everything he frames, and the way he instinctively pictures a scene as that of an outsider looking in, almost always unobserved. He appeared always to be in the right place at the right time, seemingly without effort, to capture world events that have come to define the 20th century.
A true master.
Bert Hardy (1913 – 1995). Born London, UK.
Self-taught, and an early Leica adopter, Hardy was a skilled documentary photographer. Between 1941 to 1957 he worked for the UK magazine, Picture Post, and founded his own agency, Criterion. His street scenes of Britain’s cities are classics of their genre. Also, he was a war photographer from 1942 to 1946, covering the D-Day landings, the relief of Paris, and the advance across Germany, being one of the first to enter Belsen concentration camp. At the end of the war he became Lord Mountbatten’s personal photographer.
Following WWII he covered the Korean War, afterwards becoming one of the most successful advertising photographers of the 1960s.
A memorial plaque honours him in the journalists’ church, St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London, and in 2008, the London Borough of Southwark placed a Blue Plaque on Bert’s family home in Webber Street, Blackfriars.
Garry Winogrand (1928 – 1984). Born New York City, USA.
Driven and obsessive, Winogrand portrayed American life, and the social issues of the early 1960s. Roaming the streets of New York and across the states with his battered Leica, his frenetic output seemingly driven by the energy of the events he was witnessing.
Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964 and again in 1969 for his work in exploring the media and its effect on the public, his photographs captured the evolution of a 20th century phenomenon: the role of the all-powerful media in shaping attitudes.
His life was cut short by gall bladder cancer, aged 56. Evidence of his manic, frenzied picture taking can by shown by what he left behind: 300,000 unedited images, 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film, 6,500 rolls of developed but not proofed exposures, and contact sheets made from about 3,000 rolls.
The Garry Winogrand Archive at the Center For Creative Photography holds over 20,000 prints, 20,000 contact sheets, 100,000 negatives and 30,500 35mm colour slides, as well as Polaroid prints and several cine films.
William Eggleston (1939 – ). Born Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
Love or hate his work, Eggleston cannot be ignored. He forces strong opinions both ways. For the most part, unless somebody pokes him with a sharp stick by posing a question he thinks ‘stoopid’, he keeps his own council.
Personally I love his colour photographs of the mundane and ordinary, the everyday detritus of modern life. All is treated equally through Eggleston’s democratic lens.
Principally, it was Eggleston that showed me that colour is ‘okay’.