Annie and the army
LaChapelle’s family photos
Avedon and fashion
Ansel Adams, the pianist
Vivian Maier’s boxes
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Photography has its icons much like every other form of creative endevour. Like music, it has its rockstars that we all look up to , that enjoy success we have trouble imagining at its full capacity. It has its underdogs, its genre specialists and countless aspiring and talented shooters.
It takes a lot more than just being a good photographer to make it to the top. It used to have a lot to do with geography, and although it’s not our master anymore, where you live and work is still pretty important. It also takes a certain amount of luck, to be fair, but don’t go thinking that the good stuff happens only when the stars align.
The lives of the people that have shaped photography into what we love today are sometimes as inspiring as their work. The way they went through their professional lives, the way they taught themselves and how they viewed their own work has a lot to do with their early years, sometimes as early as their childhood. These are some of the curious things from the biographies of a few photography “rock stars” that caught my eye and I thought were worth sharing. They might not all be inspirational, but some of them most interesting parts in their biographies.
Annie Leibovitz had a lot to benefit from her father being a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force. Of course she probably didn’t realize it until years later. Her family was in a constant transition from one air force base to another, according to where her father was stationed, and she would find herself spending a lot of time looking at life through the frame of the family’s station wagon. What might appear as a boring way to look at things was actually something that helped her create that unique, universally recognized style.
See more of her iconic works in this book.
La Chappelle’s amazing staged photographs benefited from the early influence of his mother. Way back in his childhood, she used to set up scenes for the family photos. That, coupled with the fact that he was discovered by Andy Warhol might be part of what makes him one of the most famous photographers alive.
See more of LaChapelle’s fine art work in this book.
Richard Avedon influence in photography is hard to measure, as his work continues to inspire generations of portrait and fashion photographers. His mother’s family worked in the dress manufacturing business and she was the one who encouraged his interest for fashion. Things took a dramatic turn when Avedon, aged twelve, joined a camera club for young men and started taking photographs with his family’s Kodak Brownie.
See more of Avedon’s incredible fashion photographs in this book.
Although being arguably the father of landscape photography, it took Adams a while to finally make photography his life’s work. For the better part of his youth, music was everything to him, specifically playing the piano. His youth was said to have been rather erratic and undisciplined and that’s where the piano lessons helped. After giving up music for photography, the experience and discipline gained from playing an instrument helped him as a photographer and influenced the development of his artistic vision.
See more of Ansell Adams’ legendary work in this book.
Maier is probably the latest, spectacular “find” in the world of classic photography. She truly belongs up there with the giants, although pretty much her whole career was a secret. She was a nanny for over 40 years, and she lived with multiple families. Each time she would move in with a new one, there would be more and more boxes full of negatives, photographed mostly on the streets of Chicago and New York. The children she once took care of describe her as a feminist, wearing mostly men’s clothing, photographing all the time in her free time and never showing anyone the photos.
Find out more about Vivian Maier and enjoy here photographs with this book.