Inspiration has always been the key to create. We associate its visual representation to a light bulb, muses, mental processes, or traveling, however, its source is much more complex and intriguing than these metaphors.
Today, I’m bringing you a wider land to explore, to do that I contacted 10 different amazing photographers to know how they find inspiration for their photo-narratives. I wanted to know what moves them to shoot and how they get the connections to their series. Are you ready for a creative ride? Come and join me.
The first photographer to give her views on inspiration is Loida Fernández, an artist born in the Canary Islands, Spain. I must confess she has been my favorite photographer from these islands for many years, and she still keeps this place in my heart. After experimenting with various forms of creation, she chose photography because it has the autonomy of literature, the use of images in film, the intimacy of poetry, and the narrativity of all of them. Also called Unbekannten, which means unknown in German, she defines her style as a journey into the twilight of the mind where the limits between terror and beauty merge. Her photography is dazzling, obscure, and intriguing, demanding your attention, the trap of all your senses. In an Instagram era where images seem to be repeated and you are told the same photograph in different ways, this islander can bring something unique, different, and new. About inspiration, she confessed to me: “We live in a hyperstimulated and exhibitionist society in which any question asked gets an immediate answer. We have lost the ability to live with uncertainty, to recognize that we know little or that there are things that happen in the shadows and will never be revealed. My work tries to recover and bring back that beautiful and deep emotion called a mystery. The existence of God, life, or death is great unknowns and mysteries that for me are an inexhaustible source of artistic inspiration and thought. The mystery is closely related to intuition and the world of secrets, but it is also related to curiosity and the power to wonder. Going into the hidden is connecting, at times, with uncomfortable sensations”. Like a Virgin, touched for the very first time, that’s how she makes me feel.
We continue this journey through inspiration with Jelena Pajic, 29 years old multidisciplinary creative that uses photography language as a tool for understanding things about herself that are beyond her conscious control. In the past ten years, she has worked in many creative fields, and besides photography, her main focus is on tattooing. Jelena can show the world with a twist and a vintage look. Her photos emerge with an accent on irony and humor. She is capable to bring surrealism, like in a daydream. She loves the difference and the unexpected. She explores everything that can surprise the viewers. On inspiration, she told me: “I have been actively engaged in creating photography for almost ten years now, and at no time did I discover what it truly means to be inspired. According to its broad definition, inspiration is said to be other-worldly and mantled with the veil of unreachable elements of creation. My urge to take photos comes from no place of mystery but rather – a place of remembrance. This means I constantly fear forgetting, so every time I point my camera, it’s because that urge needs to be satisfied by engraving a particular situation in something else – more permanent – than my memory”. Your cute memories are now saved in our minds Jelena, keep on bringing these warm moments please, like shared souvenirs.
Michael Appelt is our third guest. His portraits are full of energy and leave you wondering about the lives of the people he portrays. Let’s start from his beginnings, during a two months stay in London, Michael Appelt discovered his passion for photography. He decided to enter the two‐year course of lectures for photography in Vienna. Between 1993 and 2006 Michael Appelt was a member of an agency. His photos have been published in multiple international magazines. I must confess that I have tried to write about him many times, and I find it a quite challenging task. He has shared with me the statement of his series We are hell, and I found it as deep as the photographs. His thoughts about life and relationship are ambivalent, happiness has never been closer to breakdown. His stories have not just one reading. His works have many layers of analyses, being rich and powerful, from the personal to the global connotations. He can also be as eye-catching as LaChapelle with all the stage prompts. He wrote me some lines about inspiration: “I get my inspiration exclusively from people I meet, who radiate and live perception, appreciation, and authenticity. People who have the courage not to be afraid of the fear of seeing certain things. People, who put their own sympathy at risk. People, who see despair, doom, and collapse as the source of a new beginning. People, who examine their own destiny and recreate the intensity of their own life. People who try to peel the inner psychic processes out of the outer, visible events. John Cassavetes put it in a nutshell: “Say what you are. Not what you would like to be. Not what you have to be. Just say what you are. And what you are is good enough”. Finally, he added: “one final sentence about photography: Photography gives me strength and takes strength, it sucks me out and fills me up again”. Michael, your words remind me of another Michael, of Michael Gondry the director. Keep on melting the good and bad with sincerity and honesty.
Let’s travel to Ukraine and meet Oleksandr Rupeta, a documentary photographer interested in social anthropology and social conflicts with an emphasis on personality. His brave series focus on realities others ignore. In Peach Margin, he addresses homosexuality in China. He can create absolute beauty, check his Driven series to enjoy its mood. In the Someone in your corner series, he shows the relationship between humans and animals with great tenderness. I won’t tell you more, no spoilers, so you can explore his works. About the topic we are discussing, he told me: “Inspiration comes for me from the desire to create something. When my brain is in “inspiration mode” anything can be a source for inspiration. Any sensations or experiences are immersed in the inner melting pot, mixed with the baggage of past knowledge and experiences, at the output has a new result. The question about what drives me to create is more complicated. I suppose that the artist should have inner tension to create something original, kind of dissatisfaction. And the artist’s task is to sublimate this energy into the act of creativity. Eventually, any creativity is an opportunity to ask yourself what really interests you, and looking inside yourself is always useful”. Oleksandr is one of the best storytellers with a camera, if you join the individual photos of a series, you will find the whole picture. Travel with him.
Linda McPhee is our next train to inspiration, everybody on board now. Her Instagram @loulou_mcphee has been the cause of her name confusion. Loulou is a family nickname, so we better call her Linda McPhee. The visual beauty and strength of her images are well represented in the image she shared with us. It belongs to an ongoing project called Pinky and Myrtle, a series focusing on two industrial suburbs, Pinkenba and Myrtleton that were formally vast market gardens. Linda fully completes the picture, something we sometimes may miss in the minimalist photographs we find on Instagram, she can deliver beautiful compositions and narrative. Linda told me her story: “I picked up a camera after moving on from a career in graphic design as a way to maintain a creative practice. It’s often a simple process of shooting what is compelling on the way to doing something else. There are also ongoing projects where I revisit a location over a long period of time and drop down through the layers of the landscape, uncovering its secrets as I become familiar with it”. In Pinky and Myrtle, she has developed a deep exploration, almost becoming an astronaut in her own planet, fulfilling the difficult task of finding unexpectedly some pleasing landscape in industrial suburbs. She also told me: “Photography is a refuge and antidote, a fascinating journey of receiving and reflection. I’m interested in the place where light, form, and color come together to elevate the commonplace and reveal a subtle mystery. The hallmarks of my work are a minimalist aesthetic with an enduring love of suburban nostalgia and urban emptiness. My ideal shooting environment would be like a scene from a science fiction film where I wake up and find the human population has mysteriously disappeared, leaving just the marks of their existence”. If you wish to direct a science fiction film full of feelings images, message Linda for help, she can transform the texture of the industrial into pastel cake layers.
Chris Hoare is a young Bristolian who completed an MA in Photography at University West of England. He has also worked at the Martin Parr Foundation, a dream come true. He has received great recognition: awards, publications, and exhibitions worldwide. I find his work quite touching, for instance, his series The Worst Poem in the Universe is full of human poetry. Other series like Growing Spaces or his works focused on street cleaners bring magic and majesty. He seems to possess the magnetism to convince people to pose for his camera with sincerity and honesty. His characteristic square format makes you look around his witty compositions. He also enjoys his findings, the curious discoveries, the abandonment, the broken, the coolness, the juxtapositions, and the repetitions. Chris told me about inspiration: “I’m inspired by every day, through the people that I meet and the knowledge that you can’t predict how light might fall on a particular person on a particular day. I’m interested in how accumulating images based on feelings about a place, can then be ordered into sequences to tell stories, which often aren’t really stories at all, more akin to poems. Photographers who have done this successfully inspire me”. Chris can find people who look like coming out of a film and can condense their identity and personality in a photo. Meet this strong artist and know his subjects.
If inspiration were a machine, it would be a blender, at least in Julia Coddington‘s body of work. This Australian street photographer is definitely a master of photography. She is the co-founder of Unexposed Collective, a community of women, non-binary and intersex street-photographers. She is also quite prolific and her images are colorful, powerful, and vibrant. Her style punches and wakes you up. It’s full of energy, it’s even loud in the positive sense. Addicted to action and movement, she is expressive and bold. She also loves to play with dimensions and sizes. About inspiration, she told me: “This year has been difficult to feel inspired to photograph. But fortunately, although travel has been limited I have a project close to home that I have continued to work on. The project is based at the local sea pool close to where I live and this is the place where I feel most inspired. It is a place of peace, as well as a place of joy and it feeds my inspiration”. Have a look at Julia’s joyful images to find light in this hard time we’re living in. I promise you will feel rejoice.
In this inspiration trip, we go back again to the Canary Islands, this time to meet the irreverent world of Daniel, @dan1low on Instagram. He is a versatile and prolific artist, co-creator of the AfriqueDanilow project, and also the illustration of Draw1low. This photographer and chef born in Tenerife shows an obsession with food and Japanese culture. His photographs remind me of Dazed, Wag1mag, and Vice editorials. Danilow’s Instagram is as cool as a feed can be. About his experience with the camera, he told me: “Even if I started shooting 10 years ago only digital, for the last 4 years I have only shot in film. I enjoy looking for originality in my frames making use of flash, colored filters, lenses, and taking advantage of the vast creative ‘world’ that film cameras offer. Like many other photographers, I find inspiration in my trips, especially to Japan where I have been many times, and that it’s still for me a huge source of inspiration in many aspects. Currently, I’m working on a project which looks to combine photography with cookery via still-life photography”. Go and check his works, and understand how he can find humor and irony in the everyday life. Post-modern Danilow is in the house, don’t miss his food porn!
Let’s take a plane from the Canaries to Zaragoza to meet Vicky Méndiz, one of the most interesting photographers and visual artists from Spain in the sweetest moment in her life. She has received great recognition: multiple residencies, scholarships, awards, exhibitions, and publications worldwide. She participated in the exhibition “Female photographers. A story half told” with other eight female Spanish photographers: Lua Ribeira, Ouka Leele, Esther Ferrer, Eva Lootz, Carmen Calvo, Isabel Muñoz, Carla Andrade, and Bego Antón, bringing relevant statements. Through photography and video, Vicky depicts humans’ identity. Her works are full of wisdom and she can connect to the concepts of life and death, daydream, childhood, religion, nature, and others. There is a sensitive and personal approach to deep and global topics. Her series are made of soft observations. In the same mood of her photographs, Vicky told me: “In its deep meaning for me, photography is a search for the essence, close to the Japanese term Shashin used to refer as a reflection of the truth. I am fascinated by its complex questioning of “reality”, its potential to create new worlds and to enter between the visible and the imaginary. Its heterogeneity makes it a meditation, a dialogue or encounter with oneself or with other people, a celebration of the mystery of life and the beauty of the world, a tool within a scientific study, etc”. We need more truthful and passionate creators capable of showing places and lives with delicate love and art, like Vicky.
We end this wonderful trip through the mountains of inspiration with the bright Eva Watkins, an award-winning photographer from Pembrokeshire, Wales, who is currently based
in London, specializing in analog portrait and documentary photography. She seeks to demonstrate the relationship between her subject and their surroundings. Her main inspiration has come from groups of people who pursue a more different approach to life, working collaboratively with them, and building a relationship. Her beautiful series Circus is a statement to escape from reality. Eva’s synchronized swimmers are everywhere! We can find her joyful and colorful photographs in all photography publications bringing smiles and hope. I think we can feel how she enjoys meeting these people and creating graceful compositions. About inspiration, she told me: “My Synchronised Swimming work began after having completed my Circus project where my tutors pushed me out of my comfort zone to work with groups of people I knew very little about. Here is where I found my love for getting to know new people, finding connections, and building a relationship through photography. I dreamt about being a synchronized swimmer, when I woke up I knew this was a creative idea I wanted to pursue. A lot of the ideas and poses for my photography arise during my sleep, I sketch/note them down as soon as I wake up. I also encourage those I’m photographing to voice ideas which often contributes to the creative process”. I’m looking forward to seeing your new portraits Eva, let your curiosity about people and their alternative way of living bring some hope and joy to these complex days.
I hope you have enjoyed this journey as much as I did. Thanks to all the amazing creators who participated in this article for their confessions and trust. I was going to tell you about what inspires me to create, that’s pop, or at least what I consider to be pop, but I’m going to wait for a future chapter on inspiration. Stay tuned!
Seigar is a passionate travel, street, social documentary and conceptual photographer based in Tenerife. He feels obsessed with pop culture that he shows in his series. He is a fetishist for reflections, saturated colors, curious finds and religious icons. He also flirts with journalism and video. His main inspiration is travelling. His aim as an artist is to tell tales with his camera, creating a continuous storyline from his trips. His most ambitious projects so far are his Plastic People, a study on anthropology and sociology that focuses on the humanization of the mannequins he finds in the shop windows all over the world, and his Tales of a City, an ongoing urban photo-narrative project taken in London. He is a philologist and also works as a secondary school teacher. He is a self-taught visual artist, though he has done a two years course in advanced photography and one in cinema and television. He has participated in several exhibitions and his works have been featured in many publications. He has collaborated with different media such as VICE and WAG1. He writes for The Cultural about photography and for Memoir Mixtapes about music. Lately, he has experimented with video forms. His last interest is documenting identity. Recently, he received the Rafael Ramos García International Photography Award.