The art of seeing #29: Imitating master photographers can lead to your own style

Art of seeing: pastiche
(Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)

Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine. 

As we find ourselves in further lockdown, mini projects like this one from my Art of Seeing series can be great boredom breakers and can provide you with ways to hone your skills. 

The sense of excitement and anticipation of finally arriving in the mountains after a long drive never fails to exhilarate me.

I made this image a week or so before lockdown, en route to Snowdonia in Wales, where I was running a workshop for the Royal Photographic Society. It shows one of my favorite stretches of road in one of my favorite parts of the world.

After months in lockdown, I dream of the day I can head for the hills and again drive down this road, invigorate my soul and fuel my creative spirit. For many of us, our initial connection with the landscape will be through the window of a vehicle of sorts, so incorporating the element through which we view it has interesting photographic potential.

Annoyingly, it has been done before! This image is more than a nod to the work of Lee Freidlander, whose book America by Car sees the master photographer use his vehicle’s windows as a framing device as he travels through the States. I simply love Friedlander’s body of work, and for many years resisted taking similar images for fear of being a mere tribute act.

However, more recently I’ve started taking them. Why not? Who cares? I doubt I will progress it into a serious body of work, but the images give me pleasure. As a framing device the allure of the car window, with its curves, angles, mirrors, distortions, refractions and reflections all create a wonderful set of compositional tools. It’s easy to see how Friedlander was seduced by this, and went on to make it into such a magnificent set of pictures.

As I’ve said before, if you never take a photograph because you’ve seen it before, then you might never take another photo; however, if you do make an image, albeit a pastiche, perhaps over time you’ll be able to evolve it into something that’s more ‘yours’ rather than a mere cliché. 

• Other articles in the Art of Seeing series

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Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He graduated with a degree in photography from the Derby School of Art in 1991 (now University of Derby), where he was tutored and inspired by photographers John Blakemore and Olivier Richon, amongst others. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and also sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel.

Until July 2018 Benedict was editor of Britain’s best-selling consumer photography magazine, Digital Camera Magazine. As a journalist he met and interviewed some of the world’s greatest photographers and produced articles on a wide range of photography related topics, presented technique videos, wrote in-depth features, curated and edited best-in-class content for a range of titles including; Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Professional Photography and Practical Photoshop. He currently writes a regular column, The Art of Seeing, for Digital Camera magazine.