Acknowledging your influences

I'm in Hokkaido, Japan right now. It's lovely to be here.

Acknowledging one's own influences is good for the creative-soul. It's good to give credit where credit is due, and it's also very humbling to recognise that there is no such thing as true originality: we derive our work from what inspires us.

I think that acknowledging your influences is first and foremost a respectful thing to do. But it is also a way of understanding and tapping in to what it is that drives you forward as a photographer. 

 Homage to Michael Kenna, Hokkaido, Japan, December 2015

Homage to Michael Kenna, Hokkaido, Japan, December 2015

I have learned so much by following (literally) in the footsteps of some of my heroes. I first visited Patagonia in 2003 because of Gallen Rowell's images of Torres del Paine national park in Chile. And now I am in Hokkaido, guided there by the inspiring photographs of the island by Michael Kenna.

When we do follow in the footsteps of our heroes, a few things happen. Firstly, we learn why certain locations worked for them, but we also learn a lot about ourselves in the process. I've arrived at a location I know through someone else's work whom I admire, only to find out that the landscape is more urbanised than I had thought. Or maybe I find out that there is simply only one aspect to shooting the location. Either way - I learn. And if I am fortunate enough, I may see other possibilities in the landscape: a view, or a fresh aspect that was not explored by my hero.

Following in someone else's footsteps is a worthy thing to do. But hopefully at some point, we begin to forge our own path. Even if you are visiting the same place as your hero, hopefully you'll begin to find your own voice after a while. I certainly think this is how my time in Patagonia has panned out for me over the last decade: where I initially saw Galen Rowell everywhere, I have moved past this and have found my own aesthetic in the Patagonian landscape. Now that I am here in Hokkaido, I acknowledge that I am at the very beginning of finding my own voice here. At this very moment,  Hokkaido is Michael Kenna and Michael Kenna is Hokkaido.

One thing that I'm acutely aware of, is just how much work MK put into crafting his vision of this island. It is a very personalised one, because on the surface, Hokkaido looks nothing like his images suggest. For one, it is a very populous place. It has as many people living here as there are in my native Scotland (5.5 million), and the landscape is not as pure and empty of people as MK's images suggest: the main source of industry on Hokkaido is that of agriculture and the landscape is littered with farms.