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What inspires us to make art? How do we decide which tools to use? How do we learn?

One of the ways we learn how to be artists is by imitation. Maybe we’re inspired by the way someone works with paint, bronze, fiber, words, paper or light. Maybe we’re taught a certain style in school, or perhaps we want to be as successful as our favorite artist and mimic their style, thinking it will help us become successful as well.

One of the reasons that I began to work with a Diana camera was because of a book that I stumbled across called “Angels at the Arno” by Eric Lindbloom, a portfolio of Diana images shot over an eight year period in Florence, Italy. I had never seen photos with this kind of a timeless, eerie, ghostly mood, so velvety, tactile and lush. I had to try it myself.

After I’d been shooting with Dianas for a couple of years, I took a trip to Florence, but didn’t consult the book before we left, worried that I would find and imitate his shots. The photos in this post are from that trip.

After we returned, I picked up the book again. I was surprised to see that I’d shot some of the same places from the same angles, but he came in much closer to the subjects. I was a bit removed, he was completely comfortable and familiar, shooting details, off on side streets, climbing through gardens. He really knew Florence; the city flowed through him in a special way. I was only visiting.

Instead of feeling discouraged, I learned a couple of things. One, that he had taught me how to see in a new way by using a Diana camera. And two, that it wasn’t enough.

Imitation is easy, and it’s a great way to learn, but it isn’t fulfilling. That spark of excitement, of discovering a place in my own way, was missing.

How to solve this? Shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Shoot pictures wherever I go. And one day, if I’m open and curious, patient and persistent, the places I love will flow through me.

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