Hmmm this is probably the hardest question you could ask someone, I suppose it depends on what context you’re suggesting, and to whom that context is appended to. If say for example your context is the creator of photography and its origins than you would begin to think laterally and may suggest William Fox Talbot inventor of the calotype process. Moreover you would cast your mind back to those founding years of photography and its processes and one may even suggest Nicéphore Niépce inventor of the Heliography process.
Thus two processes so far but we could argue that the daguerréotype) was the first commercially successful photographic process, invented around 1837 by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. However it is the process of William Fox Talbot calotype process that evolved into what photography was by the mid nineteenth century. Although photography and its origins can be dated back much farther than that, in fact a lot earlier.
Long before the first photographs were made, Chinese philosopher Mo Ti and Greek mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid described a pinhole camera in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. In the 6th century AD, Byzantine mathematician Anthemius of Tralles used a type of camera obscura in his experiments.
So a lot to consider when coining the phrase 'Influential' and we haven't even hit film yet...So what of film and its discovery and how was it thrust into the photographic process. Well if you have been paying attention and doing a bit of research you will have noticed from an Alchemist perspective that each process does have one common factor they all used silver nitrates or silver salts chemicals in the process, so without chemistry photography would not have been born.
Silver nitrates react to light in far less way than silver halides do, however the silver nitrates react to another chemical which is used in photography ethanol. Ethanol is a chemical which was used in the collodion process of photography. It is an alcohol which is also used today in the process of developing film. In 1846 Louis-Nicolas Ménard devised a mixture of ether (ethoxyethane) as the solvent and ethanol as a diluent that rendered cellulose nitrate into a clear gelatinous liquid. The liquid was dubbed “collodion” (from the Latin collodium meaning glutinous).
See how far we have come? Incredible journey so far, so we can say that these early pioneers of the early nineteenth century were 'influential' in photography and certainly the journey of the photographic process.
But fast forward to the early twentieth century and film was being used to capture moving images, this fact coupled with advances in cameras and here now in the twenty first century, we see that we now combine the two art forms in a single apparatus known as a Digital Single Lens Reflex has the technology and capability to perform both tasks at ease.
So what of the twentieth century photographers and who made history during that time? A whole host of photographers have made their mark be it from a realism perspective (Alfred Stieglitz, Eugène Atget, and Walker Evans) or from a conceptual perspective (Man Ray, Cindy Sherman and Duane Michals).
A look at these photographers and one would suggest 'oh but you missed out someone or other', and I know who you would be referring too, because yes we have mentioned those photographers before. However I am here to enlighten and hopefully educate you in your thought process in photography and its origins. Although admittedly I cannot and will not dismiss those photographers, of whom we know not.
Every photographer at some point in their lives will affect you and your creative process, look at my post history and you will find of whom we speak of. Each and every photographer I have read about as had some influence in my photography at some point, from the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson to Aleksandr Rodchenko; they have all played a part in my photographic journey. Yes admittedly I am an academic but I am foremost a photographer.
Even from my perspective my works have influenced my fellow students be it the landscape shots I have shot or the concept art pieces of work, which clearly have been influenced by 'selfies' with a bent on the conceptual perspective.
At this moment they're two photographers whose work I greatly admire two contemporaries shall we say the first is an extraordinary gentleman named Saul Landell whose work he gives a working title and suggests a perspective of his creations as 'Magical Realism'.
I find his work very inspiring and as the photographer implies "My photographs don't offer answers. At best, they attempt to create more questions." - Saul Landell
So Mexico, Guadalajara-based photographer Saul Landell has created a definitive style of photography that poses questions for the viewer...although I do feel that certain aspects to his melancholy pieces offer answers to those who are versed in the art of illusion. One such photographer of course is Duane Michals, whose work of course is incredible when you think such pieces were created by hand and not using software.
Which brings me to another contemporary photographer and one who inspired myself to get out there and start shooting self-portraiture, much like Saul Landell; David Talley is an extraordinary artist bare in mind that this aspiring young artist / photographer is only twenty years old and very talented too, such an inspiring thought when you consider how young David Bailey was when the young east ender burst on to the British Fashion scene in the early sixties.
David Talley is a self-taught, 20 year old fine art photographer born and based in Los Angeles, California. He began taking pictures in the spring of 2011, starting with a 365-day conceptual self-portrait challenge.
His portrait challenge can be found here on Flickr I myself started a 52 week project, and I have to say it is damn hard to do but an enjoyable experience all the same.
You will as David certainly has begin to develop a style all of your own making and in the process in that short time, David has become recognised for his photographic achievement. Hell, in fifty years’ time he may well go down in history as someone who was the most influential photographer of all time. Who knows?
In the interim we can look back at those in recognition for their contributions to photography, photographers like Elliot Erwitt and Marc Riboud different aspects of photography but both contributed to photojournalism in their own right. Maybe this is where the tangent should take us, into that realm of realism but not magical as Saul Landell puts it, instead the very opposite the dark side of photography and yet it is so beautiful it is a key factor in today’s marketplace.
One a documentary photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings, and the other known for his extensive reports on the East: The Three Banners of China, Face of North Vietnam, Visions of China, and In China.
Though admittedly Marc Riboud' work is not entirely categorised as Elliot Erwitt’s', Riboud has contributed to photography documentary in no other way, his work is incredible and quite remarkable.
I find Black and White photographs really inspiring because notably they are taken with such compositional thought they stand out, on their own merit even if they're part of a larger collection of works, such is the fact with Eugène Atget work and his allegiance to outdated photographic technology, his focus on pre–French Revolutionary architecture and ornamentation, and his utilitarian approach to photography marked him as emphatically old school.
Man Ray actually offered Atget an Rolleiflex he refused it. Yet in documenting France's culture and landscape, Atget explored and expanded photography's possibilities both formally and expressively. Combining careful analysis and poetic intuition, Atget produced images that are strikingly clear and detailed but also deeply personal and somehow ineffable.
Many of Atget's most arresting pictures are suffused with melancholy. He presents Paris not as a bustling modern metropolis but as a city abandoned. Eschewing the prominent 19th-century additions to the city's face—the grand boulevards, the Eiffel Tower, the Opéra—he trained his lens instead on its older, often decaying buildings and parks and, occasionally, its marginalised populations. These understated and elegant photographs make palpable the quietly pernicious effects of the passing of time and suggest the fragility of even the grandest human undertakings.
That statement has a sense of irony to it when considering another French photographer and one who influences myself greatly Robert Doisneau, who during his photo-documenting of Paris thought the city had lost its appeal as Paris makes way for concrete. I emphasise with Doisneau entirely on this, I like architecture yes and I love the geometry of it all, however the materials used are less inspiring.
More so they're as sterile to our surroundings as an infant’s pacifier, they have no character either. One photographer who should be on the list or certainly get a mention is that of Paul Strand, I have spoken of his work before and he clearly influenced a lot more besides. Strand much like Man Ray moved to France as did many other photographers.
Paris was certainly a city post WWII that attracted many artists and many of whom pursued photography as an art form.
But who is the most influential well like I said it depends on what context is it contributory as in inventor (Talbot Fox) or is it contributory as in technique (André Kertész).
Who will influence your work only time will tell, or will you like David Talley develop a style all of your own?