When I was first introduced to impressionist photography I also discovered pictorialism. I was familiar with impressionism and always admired work by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro and Vincent van Gogh, but I had never heard of Heinrich Kühn, Robert Demachy, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Steichen, or Alfred Stieglitz. I have always been hungry for information, so over the years, I have read countless books, articles and essays about pictorialism. I not only wanted to develop my own impressionist techniques but also develop an understanding of the genre.
It is amazing to me that many photographers I meet have very little knowledge about the great master pictorialist photographers of the past. Anyone involved in impressionist photography should not only know about these artists but also immerse themselves in their work.
The problem with most photographers who are starting off with impressionist photography is not that they don’t know how to use different in-camera techniques; it is that they don’t know how to see or think in an artistic manner when creating impressionist photographs.
The act of creating images itself does not require any great skills. All you really need to know in order to do successful work is to learn how to translate what you are seeing before you realise the shutter.
All of us learn by copying others, but eventually, all of us develop our own style. One of the best ways to develop your own voice is to know as much as you can about the Great Masters and how they achieved their goals. Every great singer, writer, musician, actor or poet has learned by emulating the artists who have touched them. If you are trying to be different, you are already acknowledging previous work.
Therefore, the way to find your own voice is to collect knowledge from the photographers who move you and ask yourself, “Why?” As you continue to delve into this question, you’ll find a theme developing in terms of the work you’re attracted to. From there you’ll be armed with the knowledge about why you like certain things and, as a result, you’ll be on your way to developing your own personal version of it.
I encourage you to take a risk when you are creating your images. Learn to photograph with expression.
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, because you will, just like every great master before you. No one starts out at the top.
The journey of an artist can be a lonely experience. If you do it right, every day will bring you joy as you get closer and closer to your goal. Just continue to learn, continue to grow and continue your pursuits to capture the beauty around you.