I havent read fully the last posts, only the start of the difference so maybe what I say has been said, in this case I apologize.
What Dalethorn and what RSL said is equally right, I dont see any contradiction.
Obviously I can learn from other masters, and thats a very good thing to do. Obviously I also could hinder myself by e.g. sticking to something or loosing myself into ideas of others. It just depends on my particular position and mindset. I dont always have to do/act like this or like that, or ONLY like that.
But beside this, this thread, esp. the first posts I liked very much. Was astounded that others seem to have these judgement-problems too
Christian, The difference Dale and I have been dealing with is the difference between photography as art, and routine photography -- what I'll call tourist photography. Dale’s convinced he can’t learn anything from the masters, and after exchanging posts with him for a while I tend to agree that he can’t. But if you’re willing to look at and learn from the work of people like Eugene Atget what you learn is that a really fine photograph conveys something more than information. Conveying information is what the "pros" do. When you shoot a wedding, what you're conveying in your best pictures is information for the bride and groom and the rest of the family about "the way we were at our wedding."
Conveying information is necessary and very useful. But when a photograph is a work of art it has an effect on you that goes beyond the information in it. Most novices think that if they shoot something beautiful, say a sunset or a pretty flower, they’ve produced a work of art. After all, these things are colorful and the sunset is the kind of thing you’d step out of your house to see. But the feeling you get when you step out of your house and look at the sunset doesn’t necessarily translate into a photograph – especially a photograph made by the kind of novice who’s refused to learn from the masters. If it does translate, it’s art, but that rarely happens. What I’m talking about is what Walker Evans meant when he looked at one of his student’s sunset pictures and said, “It’s a beautiful sunset… So what?” If you want examples, take a look at the User Critiques section in this forum. Occasionally you’ll run across something that gives you the kind of transcendental jolt I’m talking about, but that’s a very rare thing. Most of what’s there is routine – pretty flowers, pretty sunsets, sitting birds, rivers flowing through the woods, etc. A lot of it is quite competent in a technical sense, and any good artist has to master technique, but raw technique isn’t what produces art.
You, and Dale, seem to feel that if you look at the pictures of the masters, somehow their ideas will overcome and supplant your own, or, as you put it, you’re liable to “lose yourself in the ideas of others.” That’s not what happens at all. I guarantee that if you actually try to reproduce the work of a master photographer, you’ll fail. But it doesn’t hurt to try to copy the subject matter of someone like Robert Frank or Helen Levitt or Ansel Adams. When you do that you begin to understand the difficulties involved in producing the kind of work they produced. Once you’ve grasped the problems and tried a variety of approaches and, I think, developed a certain amount of humility before the task you’ve set for yourself, you’ll find your own vision. But if you want to be a photographer and you’re not willing to learn what the masters can teach you, you’ll almost certainly go through life as a shooter of tourist pictures – the kind who’s always ready to bore his neighbors with his shots from his last trip to Yellowstone.