Looking back, looking forward - Inspiration / by Tom Henderix


As the year draws to a close, it's time to look back at the past year and round up some of the lessons learned and share the thoughts that struck a cord. It's been a good year, finally getting settled into our new home this year and becoming baby Sam's godfather. I found some time to unwind and photograph some more.

Patrick of FujiRumors was kind enough to ask me for an interview a few weeks ago. You can still read the article here at FujiRumors. Following the article, I received several e-mails with gear questions and thoughts on technique. I'll round up the questions and my personal remarks in this post.

As I feel that the creative part of photography far outways any technical aspect, I'll start with some inspiration first. Feel free to share your thoughts and remarks in the comments below.


Before 2015, I had only ever read technical photography books, focussing on gear and settings. My inspiration dried up however and I feel I'm no longer limited by the technical side of things, so I felt the need to explore the creative side of photography more.

I'm not good at expressing ideas and expanding on creative concepts, so instead I'll gladly share some of the ideas and thoughts I drew inspiration from this year. A book is always a good place to start if you're in a creative rut. I can hardly recommend the following reading material:

Gregory Heisler - 50 portraits
Stunning book by one of my favourite portrait artists. Nice in depth explanations on how to approach a portrait and the thought proces behind it. If you are interested in portraits and you haven't read it yet, go get it now. Trust me.

Dan Winters - The road to seeing
Highly recommend by the people over at Strobist and I couldn't agree more. An epic biography and a great peek into the mind of a hard-working master.

Magnum - Magnum
Magnum - Contact sheets
Russell Miller - Magnum

Must read books for anyone interested in the history of street photography and photojournalism. Sheds some interesting light on some of the defining characters in photography and the world's most renowned agency, Magnum.

Sophie Howarth & Stephen McLaren - Street Photography Now
Haven't finished it yet, but from what I have read already, it's another must read for lovers of street photography.

Stephan Vanfleteren - Il est claire que le gris est noir
My favourite Belgian photographer, and yet another masterpiece by his hand. Focussing on the city of Charleroi and it's inhabitants. The exhibition is finished sadly, but you can still get the book.

Aperture Foundation - Nazar, photographs from the Arab world
It has been a strange year in many ways, with violence raging across the Arab world and refugees pouring into Europe. It's easy to forget that these refugees and victims are people just like us. Pick up this book and try to imagine yourself in their shoes for a moment.


I only visited the Willy Maywaldt exhibition at the museum of photography in Berlin. Sadly the Helmut Newton exhibit was closed for renovation. I'll definitely have to revisit it next year.

Willy Maywaldt was an unexpected surprise. I was unfamiliar with his work, but his deceptively simple looking avant-garde portraits and fashion work is quite remarkable. His personal, uncommissioned work shows that technical imperfections are never an issue as long as the picture itself is interesting. I often see people making remarks on clipped bodyparts in portraits, or creased clothing, or some small detail that does not comply to their thought of "the perfect image". Meanwhile, the issue should be much more if the image is creative, or interesting, or different,... Never get lost in the search for perfection. Focus on content, light, shadows, drama, or story instead.


I saw a small opinion posted by Ryan Muirhead, a brilliant photographer. Check out his work here. He stated "You'll stop caring about what people think of you, when you realise how little they do". I don't know if the original quote is his, but the idea behind it certainly is worth noting. Don't try to fit into a certain category or please other people, just try to do your own thing, no matter what other people seem to think of it. Dan Winters' book "The road to seeing" expands on this concept even more in depth.

Finding your own creative voice is maybe the single most rewarding goal one could have in any art. A similar approach to finding your own way is beautifully worded in the following article on "The Helsinki Bus Station Theory". It's by far the most interesting article I've read all year. Since I'm by no means a professional, and have no intention of becoming one, I can of course focus more on this than people who actually have to make a living out of photography. This will likely be the thing I will focus on most in the coming year(s).

I'll continue with the more technical side of things in part two of this roundup.