I spent the better part of Sunday selfishly whiling away the hours in a Taschen bookstore on Lincoln Rd, a store that has become one of my usual haunts. Most of the time was spent poring over the large and glossy pages of a life’s work of Ellen Von Unwerth, Linda McCartney, Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh and Peter Beard – in other words, photographical nirvana.
These artists and others that share the same shelf space have largely been my inspiration to be a photographer and the study of their work my education. I am not alone here. We all have our heroes in different fields, and we use them as motivation, and their styles help shape and influence our own work.
Some of you of a Lord Henry persuasion, a la The Picture Of Dorian Gray, will no doubt find this to be a fault, that, ‘There is no such thing as a good influence.’ Like Lord Henry you may think that, “...to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul,” where he/she, “...becomes an echo of someone else’s music.”
Now, I admire the wit and genius of Lord Henry through the pen of Oscar Wilde, but while I agree there should be true self-development by having the courage to do/shoot what is naturally you, I also don’t think it necessary to always re-invent the wheel. We can stand on the backs of geniuses and move further. Analyzing the work of the greats helps us see things differently and helps us have the confidence to develop our own voice and vision. After all, the technical skill isn’t rare, but it’s having something interesting to say.
But you may not have a Taschen bookstore near you, no formal education in the arts, no photographical history class to make you aware of who the greats are and to study their work. This doesn’t mean you have to do without, and a new site called The Red List wants to be that resource for you. For anyone.
Their manifesto is to be a global showcase for artists of all kinds, and a source of inspiration for the visual arts. It is multidisciplinary sure, but with a huge focus on photographers and their subjects.
Designed as a trend book and a source of inspiration, The Red List offers total immersion in the whole world of visual arts so as to build bridges between historic and contemporary creativity. What would cinema be without photography? Interior design without architecture? Fashion without painting? Image researchers need to see what’s new and innovative, but they also need to train their eye by picking up on the references, echoes and allusions that have nourished (and continue to nourish) artistic creation.
Within its virtual corridors, you can view imagery sorted by pioneers, fashion, landscape, portrait, nude, and more. Then each by photographer and/or subject, and a few words on why they warrant the pixels on your screen. This isn’t a source to find lighting set-ups, but a source to see what has molded the look of generations, and those who set the molds, and those that broke them.
If you pay attention to the details, you’ll grasp a better understanding of composition, posing, lighting, why some subjects are better than others, and also see that your real job as a photographer is to touch the audience. It’s worth a bookmark. It’s worth your time.
If you’re interested in getting a closer look at actual set-ups of some of the photographers and works you’ll see on the site, you can find articles of ours on just that, especially from the series by Sid Vasandani of StyleMyPic which aims to teach you how to emulate some of the iconic imagery of iconic photographers and all with basic gear. So, far there’s Annie Leibovitz, Terry Richardson, Richard Avedon, Patrick Demarchelier, and more to come. Of course too, if you are looking to do this type of work, and you want a primer and to get a handle on the essentials of photography so you can focus less on struggling with your gear and more on artistic expression (and getting the most out of what you have), then might I suggest Photography 101 as the source to get you right up to speed.