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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Considering the Work of Others

“I like to look at pictures, all kinds. And all those things you absorb come out subconsciously one way or another. You’ll be taking photographs and suddenly know that you have resources from having looked at a lot of them before. There is no way you can avoid this. But this kind of subconscious influence is good, and it certainly can work for one. In fact, the more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.”

– Robert Mapplethorpe (The Art of Creative Photography, 2017)

I have always been one who wants to do their very best.  I always want to improve what I do and make it as good as possible.  This applies to my photography as much as every other thing I do. I like to challenge my perceived limitations and push beyond them.  I will happily try new things to see what happens.

One area of inspiration I use is to look at the work of other photographers.  These days, the internet allows us easy access to so much work.  One click of the mouse and we can be exposed to hundreds of images. This can give rise to issues though.  It would be too easy to be really heavily influenced by others that our work looks so much like theirs or that we stop ourselves from being creative in our own right.

In order to make sure that I use the work of others as a springboard for my own development, I firstly collect images in a file on my computer.  Each image is stored with its reference correctly recorded.  When I am preparing to shoot images, I will select between 2-4 images to use as a starting point for the shoot.  In some cases, I may only use the images as inspiration to show my clients and models.  In the early days, I tried to copy the images but found that it was taking up so much time trying to perfect the poses and the lighting, that I found it was a less creative and inspiring experience.

In addition to the work of other photographers, I also take inspiration from the following areas:-

Other Art Forms

I find that looking at the work of painters, sculptors, fashion designers, textile artists, and cinema.  Visual media is a brilliant way for me to be exposed to compelling imagery that can help me.  Being a different medium to my work also has the benefit of removing any competitive element arising from looking at the other person’s work.

The Written Word

Authors create mental images with their words.  Poems are particularly inspiring to me and I do use them within my work.  I aspire to take the images that appear in my mind when reading and to produce a visual representation of my interpretation of the words.


Mythology, fairytales and historical stories all have a place in the inspiration of my work. I find early medical history and photography fascinating and these have been influencing my work recently. Understanding what has happened in the past is helping to inform the development of my work.


At school, I studied the History and Appreciation of Music to ‘O’ level. In lessons, our teacher often had us close our eyes when listening to music.  She asked us what we saw in our heads.  I still use this technique today.  The images in my head are inspired only by the music and are not influenced by words or other people. When working in on a shoot, or on editing, I will listen to music to help my creative side flourish.


The Art of Creative Photography. (2017). Thinking Of Robert Mapplethorpe – Homenage To A Great Portrait Artist. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Oct. 2017].

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