Process 055 ☼ What Inspires Us Aside from Photography?
GIVEAWAY: Portrait Feature in Shoot Film Magazine!
Today’s letter is about all the best places to find inspiration outside of photography itself. Movies, books, painters, life, and so much more.
This week’s PROCESS GIVEAWAY is a little different. Instead of winning a camera or a photo book, three Process readers will have their photos featured by Shoot Film Magazine and in an upcoming issue of Process.
Note: This issue is long and your email program may cut it off. Read in full here.
This issue of Process is sponsored by my friends at Glass, an ad-free and algorithm-free photo sharing app. More below!
Why Search For Inspiration Outside of Photography
When we get our inspiration only from contemporary photography without balancing it out by investigating great photography done in the past we risk creating work looks too similar to other contemporary work. When we go too narrow with our inputs our output will also be narrow.
But we can do even better than going broader by looking at photography from the past when looking for inspiration. We can go way beyond photography itself and allow ourselves to influenced by other art forms like music, film, and literature.
When I recently asked you, dear Process reader, to share what most inspired you outside of photography, I was not expecting such a big response. So many thoughtful notes filled with books, films, music, and more. Below I share a selection of your favorite sources of inspiration split out over several categories.
To break up the text I’ve included some snaps from a recent photo walk organized by Analog Club Amsterdam. It was a beautiful and inspiring day!
Movies and TV
As expected this was a major category of inspiration. Certain directors were mentioned so often I decided to just list their names here and let you research their work
came up over and over again including Wes Anderson, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino, Wim Wenders, Paul Thomas Anderson, François Truffaut, and my old neighbor Jonas Mekas who is considered the godfather of American avant-garde cinema. Seek out their work!
There were also two film companies that came up a lot and released a bunch of your favorites: Production company A24 known for great films like Moonlight, Ladybird, and Uncut Gems, and animated film giant Studio Ghibli with their Miyazaki-directed masterpieces Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and more.
The black and white movies La Haine and The Lighthouse came up a lot, as did TV show Euphoria. Fun fact, all three of those were at least in part shot on Kodak film.
Some more films and documentaries, and the people who recommended them:
I love the film The Book of Eli. The cinematography is incredible. — Greg Coates
Kim Jee-woon's film The Age of Shadows and the third season of Master of None for its cinematography — Gabriel Petridis DeRossi
Wong Kar-Wai's “In the Mood for Love”. — Andre Hill
British social-realism films like Fish Tank, Sweet Sixteen, and Kes, and Nil by Mouth. — Nico Froehlich
The documentaries In Our Mothers’ Garden and Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. — Dajahnae Jones
Hero is a wuxia film with captivating cinematography. The use of color and framing is incredible and something that awes me to this day —Mimosa Do
One of the most important things to do during a studio shoot is to put on the right kind of music to create the right atmosphere. Artists that were mentioned included Arden Jones, Miles Davis, Otis Redding, Explosions in the Sky, Astrud Gilberto, Beethoven, Led Zeppelin, Bjork, 2Pac, Radiohead, James Blake, Ye, Kendrick Lamar, Maggie Rogers, David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Nils Frahm, and Hania Rani.
Album that came up more than once included Blue by Joni Mitchell, Lesser Matters by The Radio Dept, Born Sinner by J. Cole, and Stevie Wonder’s Innervision.
Even musicals were mentioned, like this one:
My favorite non-photographic inspiration is probably the musical Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim. There’s a line in the final song of the show that has kept me going when I feel like I can’t do it anymore. “Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new.” It just has a beautiful simplicity that has inspired me time and time again. — Carys Stogdil
Books and Poetry
So many book recommendations from y’all! Many mentions for writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, Maya Angelou, Cormac McCarthy, Dave Eggers, Ray Bradbury, Horacio Quiroga, Craig Mod, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires.
Specific books mentioned included Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, Terence McKenna’s True Hallucinations, William Blake’s poetry collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows, Peter Wholleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, Annabel Abbs’ Windswept, Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, Clarissa Pinkola’s Women Who Run With the Wolves, and the works of Iranian poet-artist Sohrab Sepehri.
The work of Patti Smith also came up:
I'm just finishing to read Patti Smith's Just Friends and it's hugely inspiring. She talks about her irregular journey how everything came about slowly, following her gut to create art, while being happy along the way. I feel like I'm at a crossroads in my life, following my gut too. Excited for my next chapter! — Carlos Napoleon
I’m inspired by Raymond Carver and his books Cathedral and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Check out the short story Viewfinder, which points back to photography and the strange encounters it can lead us to. — John Moran
Paintings and other Visual Art
I love that painting was so frequently mentioned as an inspiration. All the familiar names from Manet, Monet, Hieronymus Bosch, Signac, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Hopper, Mondriaan, Kim Cogan, Dalí, Picasso, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Georgia O’Keefe, Sir Oswald Birley, Matisse, Hockney, Paul Klee, and Leonora Carrington.
Levi explains why painting and photography feels and is so connected:
My favorite non-photographic inspiration has to be paintings; both because of the ability to capture light as the artist sees it, and also because the artist has the power to manipulate the final illustration to get their vision across. — Levi Miller
The multidisciplanery artist Yayoi Kusama was mentioned numerous times, as well as the Albrecht Dürer’s engravings, and the tea-related ceramics from Japan and Korea.
As a graphic novel enthusiast I was thrilled that so many of you mentioned Frank Miller’s work, including The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City. Others mentioned included Watchmen by Alan Moore , Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run on Hawkeye, all things Jeff Lemire, Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond, and Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing is Monsters, anything by Moebius, Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
And lastly, a diverse set of inspirations that didn’t fit any of the previous categories:
Meditation, graphic design, gardening, plants, time in nature, the sun, traveling, meeting new people, the lines and shapes of Ogro surfboards, living a vegan lifestyle, museums, people watching, vintage bicyles, traditional Mexican Folklorico dance, the texture of bark and moss, watching athletes achieve, movie posters from the 50/60’s, religious text, drawing, contemporary Jazz dance technique, food, cooking, car design, architecture, Moroccan culture, video games, and ancient wall paintings.
To wrap this up, two particularly inspired and unique answers:
Punk rock music taught me to trust my own instincts, ignore the naysayers, and follow my own path. It also taught me that beauty takes many forms, some of them harsh and difficult and not recognized by many. Most of all, it taught me to do it myself. DIY is at the heart of punk, and everything I do. — Ralph Brandi
Talking to my neighbors about the impact and pain of gentrification. In my area around seven hundred families live in houses that are old, poorly insulated, and a big mess. This causes mental instability for the families. I'm collecting these stories in audio format for a few years and they inspire me a lot. — Fouad Lakbir
We’ve come to the end of this massive list of art and life things that inspire the Process community with our photography. If you ever have a moment where you don’t feel particularly inspired, come back to this issue and just pick one and dive in.
If you’d like to add more inspo tips, leave them in the comments below!
All film was developed and scanned by my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free size upgrade for your scans. I love working with them. Shot on a Contax G2, kindly lent to me by my friends at Fotohandel Delftshaven.
That’s it for this week! Next week I may have something quite exciting to announce…
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
➳ Process Sponsor: Glass
Glass is a photography community and photo sharing app. It's a place where you can share your work, get feedback, experiment, and find inspiration.
Glass co-founder Tom told me that because Glass charges a small subscription fee ($5/month or $30/year) they can stay away from stuff that exploits photographers. No ads, no algorith, no spam, no tracking or info selling. Just pictures and community.
As a thank you to Glass for sponsoring Process this week I’d love for you to try out Glass for free by clicking the button below.
Shoot Film Magazine is a wonderful champion of analog photography and they have returned to partner up for the second ever Process Community Feature.
Work by three photographers from the Process community will be featured on Shoot Film’s popular Instagram account.
Process Giveaways are usually randomly drawn but this time Stu of SFM and myself will on our curatorial hats to select three winners based on the work itself.
To enter please upload five images, a short description, and information on the film and camera used before 11pm EST on April 6th by clicking here:
(Please do NOT email the images, use the upload form.)
Note: All images must be shot on film since that’s what Shoot Film Magazine is about.
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Process is a weekly letter from Wesley Verhoeve.