Someone asked me recently, “Which photographers inspire you the most?” And I actually had to think about it for a moment. I can quickly rattle off a list of famous photographers whose work has influenced me. But I wanted to share the work I’ve been reflecting on most recently – and, as it turns out, it’s largely created by photographers you’ve probably never heard of.
I’ve written before about how much I hate wedding photography and the incessant need to devour the same images over and over again. But there ARE wedding and portrait photographers whose work moves me and motivates me. Rather than feeling overwhelmed when I look at these photographs, I feel empowered, refreshed, and part of something so much greater than myself.
This list is constantly shifting as I am introduced to new artists and my needs change. But right now, today, at the beginning of 2015, here are 5 un-famous photographers whose work takes my breath away. I hope you love them, too.
Min Mohd, Kuala Lumpur
Min read my recent essay on beauty, and connected with me on Facebook. I hopped over to her page and fell in love with her artistic, unscripted photographs. (You’ll also see her husband Azlan’s work on her website.) I’m feeling more and more connected to photographers who follow their instincts. They aren’t bound by any rules or self-imposed policies regarding post-production or composition. They go with their guts, and their photographs wind up moving me tremendously.
Gareth McGaughey, Ireland
Gareth finds these deliciously odd moments. He has a plethora of lovely, par-for-the-course wedding images, but it’s his off-kilter captures that really draw me in. I love images that make me feel slightly uncomfortable, a little uncertain. For me, Gareth’s work is mysterious and funny and intentional. We’re Instagram friends, and I hope that in a year or so Dan and I will be drinking whiskey with him and his family in Ireland.
Jillian Powers, Chicago
Some may find Jillian’s images NSFW. I just find them heartbreakingly beautiful and honest. Her project, “I Woke Up Like This,” archives stunning, Photoshop-free photographs of women’s bodies. Her storytelling is powerful and her images nudge at a callous in my heart that has long-abhorred traditional boudoir photography. As Jillian states: “This project is dedicated to every girl who doesn’t love her body.” I feel more accepting of my own body just looking at her magical images.
Kyoichi photographs his daily life in a way that made me feel immediately connected to him. When Dan and I met Kyoichi and his family face-to-face, they were exactly who Kyoichi’s photographs promised they would be: warm, creative, beautiful, funny, and kind. It’s not an easy thing to photograph life exactly as you experience it, but Kyoichi, who isn’t even a full-time photographer, seems to do this with very little effort.
Ben & Colleen Massey, Atlanta
I’m lucky to live in a city overflowing with phenomenal photographers. There’s no shortage of gifted visual storytellers for me to connect with whenever I need to vent or share or feel inspired. But I think Ben and Colleen are special. First off, because they’re, like 12. (Okay, they’re grown-ups, but they’re super-young.) And their images feel so much wiser than their age would indicate. Second, they’re special in that way your favorite band is extra-special because they’re relatively unknown. To me, Ben and Colleen are everything that is lovely about wedding photography. They also happen to be everything that’s lovely about being human. One day they’ll hit the Big Time, but right now they’re my (not-so-well-kept) secret.
BONUS: The photos at the top? Of me holding the vintage camera? My beautiful, wild-haired friend Greta made those photographs. The only reason she’s not on this list because I’m going to be talking a lot about Greta later on. It’ll be worth it. You’ll see.
For now, I guess that’s it. There are more. There are always more. I know an outrageous number of insanely creative human beings whose very existence on this planet makes my life better every single day. Maybe, given enough time, I’ll be able to introduce you to all of them. The 5(+) you’ve just met should hold you over in the meantime.