Photographer profile: Eliot Porter

Eliot Porter is one of the few color photographers I look to as an inspiration. There are plenty of beautiful color photos that inspire me, but Eliot Porter is one of the few (if only) color photographers I can point to by name as an inspiration. Both his use of color and his popularization of the idea of intimate landscapes are great boons to my own work.

Porter’s work is quiet. In his work that I’ve seen, nothing is particularly bold or in your face, just very calm, serene scenes. The colors in his work isn’t even particularly surreal, just very literal and direct representations of reality arranged in an artistic manner.

Born in 1901 and educated as a chemist and medical doctor, Porter started out in photography as a hobbyist taking pictures of birds in black and white. Alfred Stieglitz helped give Porter his start as a fine art photographer by giving him a show and encouraging him in the 1939. Porter began shifting his focus to landscape photography and color film, experimenting with Kodachrome in the 1940s. Porter began publishing collections of his work in the 1960s.

To me, porter’s work represents the same sort of landscape work Ansel Adams did except in color. That is not to say his work is similar in composition to Adams’, but rather the strength of Adams’ work because it was in black in white is the same as the strength of Porter’s work because it’s in color. Adams’ work emphasized the form and the texture of the landscape he shot in, Porter’s work excels as a representation of the rich colors and the contrasts therof.

Porter’s work is gentle, beautiful, and sometimes abstract. He was a pioneer of color photography and his work helped bring appreciation to color photography, a medium which was at first written off by so many black and white photographers.

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