Discover more from Process by Wesley Verhoeve
Process 109 ☼ Finding Inspiration Outside of Photography
GIVEAWAY: $150 gift certificate for Moment
In this week’s letter, I share my thoughts on the importance of finding inspiration outside of photography to help improve your photography and make it stand out.
I also wanted to say thank you for spreading the word on last week’s issue about still lives around your home. It was shared even more than the previous issue about finding purpose and I really appreciate it. It helps me reach and impact more people.
This week’s PROCESS GIVEAWAY features a generous $150 gift certificate to spend in the Moment shop, on film, accessories, cameras, etc.
Big Shout out to my friends at Squarespace for helping make this issue possible.
I will be in Paris from August 28 til Sept 1 and have one more in-person mentor session slot open. Read more and schedule one here. I also have added one more slot for a portrait shoot. Just hit reply if you’re interested.
Finding Our Visual Voice
Let's talk about finding our elusive, unique voice in your photography. The point of view that sets your work apart from the ocean of visual content flooding our screens.
In a world where Instagram can sometimes feel like an endless scroll of visual déjà vu, finding inspiration solely within photography can inadvertently trap us in an aesthetic sameness. Don't get me wrong, studying the masters is essential. Diving into the evocative worlds of Mary Ellen Mark and Gordon Parks can open our eyes to incredible techniques and visions. Yet, to truly carve out your own path, you've got to go beyond photography and wander off the beaten track.
Let me share a secret: I find my most captivating inspirations far from my camera. It's like stepping into a parallel universe where my brain tingles in new, unexpected ways. Take music, for instance. The melodic transcendence of Keith Jarrett's piano solos or the soul-stirring saxophonic journeys of John Coltrane—they paint from the same set of emotions I hope to capture in my photos.
And literature, perhaps the most imaginative artistic expression. Since I mostly focus on making photos of people in their environments I tend to gravitate to books that paint environmental pictures and interior lives. John Williams' "Stoner" is more than just a novel; it's a masterclass in portraying the complexity of human existence through words. It's a lesson in subtlety, in conveying emotions through the quietest moments. I have shed tears reading this book and mourned finishing it.
In addition to photographing individuals, I love documenting communities and cultural events that bring people together. Every time I attend a great event, whether it’s an epic soul/funk dance night (see Process 099) or a secret comedy shot (see Process 062) I walk away buzzing and inspired.
An event that has a very special place in my heart is Creative Mornings, which happens in over 250 cities around the world. My friend Tina Roth Eisenberg started it in 2008 out of a desire for an ongoing, accessible event for New York's creative community. I have attended more than 100 of these, from Amsterdam to San Francisco and even Tokyo. It's a space where diverse minds collide, inspiring ideas that dance between the rational and the whimsical.
Sometimes I go all the way to the other side of the spectrum to find inspiration. Rather than events where many people gather in vibrant cities, I love reading the diaries of Dick Proeneke, a man who built his own cabin by hand in the middle of nowhere in Alaska and lived there for decades. These diaries read like a love letter to solitude and the beauty of the natural world.
As a child of the past, music videos have been a massive influence on my visual choices. There are so many classics ranging from surrealist to documentarian. One worth highlighting is LL Cool J's "Who Shot Ya" video.
The deep shadows, the grainy feel, the blurry motion. I have been trying to recreate that feeling for years. Here’s an example of when I have gotten close with model Tino.
As the grandson of a painter (see Process 104), I have been inspired by paintings for longer than I can remember. I am lucky to have lived in two cities filled with museums featuring all of the past greats, but also find inspiration in the interplay of colors and texture from current-day painters like my friend Katherine Sandoz whose work I have in my home. Her works remind me that not everything has to be in focus to be clear.
Remember Mr. Rogers? His gentle demeanor and kind spirit remind me that photography is about connecting with souls, not just capturing moments. I keep a small trading card featuring his face on the side of my home desk. It serves as a reminder of the compassionate way he interacted with others.
As a kid growing up on comic books, I was obsessed with the work of Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Barry Windsor-Smith, and my love for the medium continues to this day as I draw inspiration from artists like Dustin Nguyen and Mike Mignola. Their work screams narrative without getting granular, a reminder that every image can carry a story.
There are so many other places where I find inspiration. Architects like Tadao Ando and Ryue Nishizawa—show me that form and function can dance in breathtaking harmony. Below is an iPhone snap I took of Nishizawa’s Teshima Art Museum design.
The craftsmanship of L.L. Bean? It tells tales of quality and dedication. The lessons I learned from doing improv comedy? To let go of a rigid idea in my mind and just flow and “yes and” what comes on my path.
Anthony Bourdain's journalism—raw, real, and immersive—ignites my storytelling fire. If you haven’t read his classic book Kitchen Confidential or seen his show No Reservations you are missing out.
So, my friends, while photography is my muse, I make a concerted effort to not take in too much modern-day work and find inspiration everywhere else in life. I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Let the rhythm of music, the depth of literature, the pulse of a city, and the spirit of humanity infuse your work. True inspiration? It comes from living.
That’s it for this week! If you enjoyed this issue I’d love for you to share it with friends.
Next Week: What happened when I spent time with the UK rock and roll band His Lordship during their two days performing in Amsterdam?
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others. <3
Gear & Tools Used
Camera: All images included in this issue of Process were shot on the Hasselblad 500cm with a Zeiss Distagon 50mm f/4 C lens.
Lab: All my analog work is developed and scanned by my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. They’re my favorite lab in the world. Use code “PROCESS” to get a free upgrade.
Portfolio Site: Big shout out to Squarespace for helping make this issue of Process possible. If you need a website, I can’t recommend using Squarespace more. I have been a paying customer for more than 10 years (!!?) and it’s been so easy to build and maintain a beautiful and professional portfolio. I even added a webshop to it recently.
Check out Squarespace and use the code PROCESS10 for 10% off your first order.
The best way to support my work is to buy my photo book NOTICE.
My pals over at Moment are back for a wonderful giveaway! One winner will receive a $150 gift card so you can buy whatever you wish whether it is film, bags, an online course, or anything else from the Moment store.
To enter this week’s Process Giveaway answer the question below in the comment section for this issue:
QUESTION: What non-photographic item, experience, or artform has inspired your photography?
ENTER THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY before 11 am EST on September 9th.
The winner will be randomly drawn. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only.