What you can learn from Henri Cartier-Bresson: The great tragedy of Cartier-Bresson’s photography is that he gave up the craft entirely long before he died. In 1975, twenty-nine years before he died, he became bored with photography and turned his attention to painting. He locked his camera in a safe in his home and rarely even took it out. Bottom line–DO NOT let this happen to you! If your goal in photography is to do anything other than enjoy it, then you will likely burn out after time.
What you can learn from Annie Leibovitz: Your portraits will always look lifeless until you begin to take portraits that communicate the life of the model. Get to know your model and say something about her in your photography.
What you can learn from Ansel Adams: While on vacation this summer, my wife and I read a book containing his letters and journal entries. What helped me improve my photography from reading those letters is that Adams felt trapped later in his life because he no longer had the physical strength and stamina to do the photography that he wanted to do. Keep yourself in shape so you can enjoy photography for a lifetime.
What you can learn from Brian Duffy: People are prone to rash decisions when they feel stuck in a rut. Duffy lost a tremendous part of his life by burning his photos, but he came back later and regained his interest for the art. If you find yourself bored with photography, leave all the gear at home and simply go on a few photowalks in places where you have never been. Fall in love with photography again.
What you can learn from Dorothea Lange: Most photographers spend their time taking one random picture here, and another random picture there. Great photographers like Dorothea Lange dedicate their time and talent to fully capturing one theme or person before moving on to the next photography project. Dorothea Lange said, “Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.”
What you can learn from Yousef Karsh: Never take a portrait that doesn’t speak something about the person. Pay attention to the hands as an important part of the story. Be super famous and rich enough to own a 76-room house in Manhattan. Accomplish any of those things (especially the last one, which is true about him) and you’ll be better off for reading about his life.
What you can learn from Brassai: I often hear from photographers that they enjoy photography, but don’t have the money to travel to find great locations. Brassai was born in Hungary, but lived in Paris for most of his life. He did not travel around the world to do photography or have celebrities come to him to have their portraits taken. He did his work in one city and he took captivating photos of ordinary people. Don’t use excuses for your photography!
What you can learn from famous photographer Robert Capa: Capa is frequently quoted as saying, “If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” This was significant because he was a combat photographer! He was known for literally getting down in the trenches with the soldiers to take photos, rather than taking photos from a distance as was the common practice. So, get close to the action and your photos will improve!
What you can learn from Jay Maisel: Ditch the gear and start paying attention to colour, shape, and light. As you go about your day, find little things that have an artistic flair to them. Photography isn’t just about the knock-you-in-the-face obvious shots.
What you can learn from Jerry Uelsman: Don’t let “photography forum” talk convince you that there is anything wrong with creating surrealistic images. Photography is art and you can express yourself in whatever composited, blurred, cloned, dodged, burned, and liquified way that you want.