Inspiration from the Masters – Alvin Langdon Coburn

Inspiration for my photography has many different sources, including the work of other photographers.  Although most of the photographers I follow are contemporary, I also maintain a list of “masters”.  Alvin Langdon Coburn is one such master photographer whose work I have been studying on and off throughout my career.

Although he subscribed to the Secessionist movement, Coburn never used his photography as a representational medium.  He was a great innovator and, to me was unprecedented in his use of photography as symbol and abstraction.  His dreamy cityscapes and landscapes reflected the many forms of art he witnessed during his travels around the world at the turn of the 20th century, all of which influenced him in his lifelong quest for spiritual values.

His work influenced future generations of master photographers; for example, it is difficult to believe that Ansel Adams could not have been influenced by Coburn’s circa 1911 image of Half Dome in his own interpretation of this iconic feature taken almost 20 years later.

But it is the dream like quality of his images that pulls me into to Coburn’s work.  His images were not mere visual representations of what he saw but were symbolic of what these scenes meant and felt like to him.  Maybe I am drawn to his work because I also often try to use photography as visual metaphor.  It isn’t always what the image is but rather what it means.

The following images are examples I have created that have been inspired by the work of Alvin Langdon Coburn.



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