In such a competitive industry photographers are invariably categorised into specific genres such as landscape photographer, fashion photographer, still life photographer, sports photographer (the list goes on). The division goes further and they will subsequently be defined by their style, way of lighting or their specific viewpoint.
This helps to differentiate them from other photographers in their genre making it easier for agents to sell their talents and art buyers to make quick decisions when looking to commission work. Standing out from the crowd becomes imperative and photographers will consciously look to refine their style to give them an edge. This process eventually becomes symbiotic as the commissions feed back into the style and vice versa.
For most photographers this process happens subconsciously over a long period of time and highlights the fact that we all see and look at things differently. For me personally, I have always tended to look at things as a passive observer, drawing back from the scene so there’s a detachment from the action, giving way to space and introspection. This is true of my landscape work and surprisingly to some, even my portrait work. Invariably I like to watch a scene unfold and try not to dictate events happening in front of the camera.
The style I have become best known for is my work from elevated positions (normally cherry pickers) looking down on scenes evolving below. Last year I worked extensively in Europe shooting from this viewpoint. https://michaelblann.wpengine.com/portfolio/places/
For me it’s a great way of shooting – the crew is small with an AD, assistant, producer and cherry picker operator. It’s a very pure way of shooting as it comes down to just “looking and seeing”. The results tend to be very graphic too, which I’ve always favoured, and also very adaptable – I’ve shot overlooking beaches, inside large engineering factories and most impressively at the quarries in Carrara where Michelangelo bought his marble. Next stop is a trip to Morocco in March.
The only time things haven’t gone according to plan was last year in the French city of Marseilles. After a successful day’s shooting around the city we set up for the last shot of the day by the busy waterfront. Unfortunately the cherry picker broke down leaving me stranded in the bucket 20m high. Soon it became obvious to a few onlookers that there was a problem and once all efforts to revive the cherry picker had failed, the fire brigade was called. The first locomotive arrived but was too small, so a second, larger engine was summoned. By now there was a sizeable crowd plus a few gendarmerie to watch my rescue. After a successful transfer to the fireman’s bucket I was lowered to safety and great applause. Apparently some of the crowd had wrongly assumed I had a death wish and was going to jump!