Let Music Influence Your Photography

Photographers enjoy talking about influences. They’ll usually prattle off names, particularly from the apex of the film days. Adams, Cartier-Bresson and Capa and the Magnum Agency by extension. Arbus, McCurry, Maisel, et al…

A few, myself included, will also rattle off filmmakers such as Kubrick and Malick while not forgetting magnificent cinematographers like Storaro.

Others will mention family. Mama in my case, or perhaps even a well-intentioned Uncle Moe or Aunt Sally.

Anyone modern?

I personally use names from past generations because it’s my preference to not even appear sycophantic towards photographers emerging or in their prime.

There are certainly good photographers out there now. I respect many, but I can’t say they’ve influenced me. Share ideas? Sure. Learn a cool little technique? Yeah. Have a drink? Yep, of course. But influence? No.

It’s why I won’t do a Wikipedia for myself, something en vogue among photographers a few years ago – “famous” or not – for cynical pragmatic SEO reasons. Few living today are interesting enough for biographies or encyclopedia entries, including many celebrities.

Anyway, which brings me to the point of the post… music!

I’ve read plenty of photography books and magazines, and will read more. I’ve taken classes and courses, and will always continue learning. I look forward to more good discussions with photographers.

But music is the one art form that influences my photography more than anything or anyone else.

I listen to it all day. From morning coffee to late night unwinding. From wild nights out, to mellow nights in. On the road. And especially while I work. As I type right now, rockabilly guitar is blaring.

Music plays while I shoot photography and when I’m in post. And if it’s not, it’s humming in my head anyway. Like a good song, I seek to get into a rhythm when shooting photos and want the best shots to come from the crescendo. It all depends on the context of the shoot what the groove is.

Please don’t say jazz, please don’t say jazz… (sigh), you said jazz.

I’ll go ahead a be a bit cliché, but no less true, and say that jazz does the most for my work. It’s free and full of all sorts of complicated musical relationships seeking understanding. It embraces imperfect chaos and improvisation. Jazz is not afraid to get artistically dirty, yet maintain its class.

As Allen Toussaint sings in one of his songs, “To get into the good stuff, everything gets roughed up… whew!” Jazz, as with all good music, takes me there and back. The camera is often just an extension of that feeling.


*I would be remiss to not mention that music photographers, past and present, do some outstanding work. Album cover photography, in particular, is some of the coolest shit around. 








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