My Inspiration

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Traditionally, for inspiration every week, I like to share inspiring photos from the members of the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group.  But I just celebrated another birthday (I’m 33) and I want to do things a little differently.  Birthday’s haven’t been exciting since my 25th, which was a monumental occasion – I was finally of legal age to buy spray paint in the city of Philadelphia (I’m proud to say that I still get carded).  Ever since that 25th year, though, my birthday routine has turned into a time to reflect, a time to ponder and a time to refocus.  One of the things I like to do as part of my annual routine is to go back through my collection of inspirational photos.  So this week, I thought I’d share with you what I have been inspired by.

"Portrait of Tree" by Marcin Stawiarz

“Portrait of Tree” by Marcin Stawiarz

At the top of my list is Marcin Stawiarz’s “Portrait of Tree”.  At first glance, the massive, twisted and texture rich trunk is the dominant element of the photo.  Wander as your eye might, the trunk is the anchor that pulls you back into the center.  But what makes this photo such an inspiration for me is that it isn’t a moment caught in time.  It is a record of the tree’s dance in the wind.  Take a careful look at the tips of the branches or the grassy floor – you are staring deep into the path of the wind.  Stawiarz’s photography inspires me to constantly experiment with techniques, to evolve my own style.  Prior to observing this photo, I never would have though of capturing the movement of a subject that we so traditionally think of as stationary.  This photo, as well as much of Stawiarz’s body of work,   was the reason why I bought myself a Neutral Density Filter.  It is possibly the first time I researched a technique and purchased specific gear as the direct result of viewing someone else’s work.

"The Dark Tree" by David Preissel

“The Dark Tree” by David Preissel

I have long been a fan of David Preissel’s photography, and I am hard pressed to pick a photo of his that inspires me the most.  There’s one word that I would use to describe my favorite photos from Preissel’s portfolio:  Creepy.  He does creepy well, and I am naturally drawn to creepy.  His works, even his portraits, are right out of the pages of film noir.  Though Preissel branches out into other avenues, its his haunting images that inspire me the most.

The recipe for creepy consists of premium ingredients:  awkward subject matter, discomforting perspectives and sharp angles, strong contrast and low-key tonal range.  But even with the same ingredients in the exact same quantities, only the master chef has the finesse to create a phenomenal meal.  This is how I feel about Preissel’s work.  He exhibits such finesse in each of his works.  He has the wisdom and skills (and inspiration, mind) to make take creepy to the next level.  Preissel is capable of creating truly haunting images.  And ever since I stumbled upon his work a few years ago, I have been inspired to find my own path to creepy – not in the same way, mind.  But at the root of works, such as Preissel’s photo, “The Dark Tree”, is a process that is unique to each and every photographer – and I am working to find mine.  I don’t feel I have yet found my own path to creepy, but “The Dark Tree” inspires me to continue working towards that goal.  It inspires me to have goals in the first place.  Now that is inspiring.

"Delicate Hands" by Severin Koller

“Delicate Hands” by Severin Koller

Not every photo has to tell a story.  But there is a story behind every photograph.  When I look upon Severin Koller’s “Delicate Hands”, I am reminded of that fact.  I am also reminded that the best photos tell their story – or at least a story.  In Koller’s photo, we are shown a story of a traveler, anxiously waiting for his station to be called.  The train is heated, but quite drafty – warm enough to take off the gloves, but you wouldn’t want to take off your coat.  But the prospect of seeing ones fiancee after a long and wearing journey is enough to fight off any chill.  Now my story is likely not the same story that Koller intended.  But that doesn’t matter.  My point is that a story – even one with the element of time – can be told from a still frame.  To each viewer, the story may change.  But a photo that tells a story is much more powerful than one that does not.  Koller’s work inspires me to tell stories.

"Waiting" by D. Travis North

“Waiting” by D. Travis North

While it may seem vain to include ones work among their inspirations, it is my belief that one is certainly able to inspire themselves.  As artists, we are faced with ups and downs.  Works completed when we are up can easily inspire us when we’re down – to help us get back to that peak.  We can be inspired by the memory of the time we took one of our proudest achievements.  Our own works will inspire us to do better, to reach higher and to focus deeper.  “Waiting” is now almost a year old.  I took it on my birthday last year – a day I gave to myself, away from work, to just wander about with my camera.  I was in the zone, and my mind was wide open for opportunities such as this one.  I was the topic of conversation as I set my camera up my camera to capture this photo through a safety glass pane.  But my environment didn’t matter – I had envisioned a photo, and I defeat all odds and influences to capture it the way I wanted.  This photo, as well as many of my other completed works, inspire me each and every day.  They remind me that I have and will continue to achieve my goals.  They inspire me to set new goals.  Call it vanity, call it what you will.  But I won’t deny any source of inspiration.

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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