Today I was walking up a track which had about 6 to 8 inches (20cm) of snow on it. Some people had been on the track days previously and had compacted the snow and their footprints now formed ice. I tried walking on the virgin snow but it was hard going so I went on to the footprints of the previous walkers. It was slightly easier but the footprints were not matching up with my stride so I kept slipping and wasn't having a comfortable journey. I was following in their footsteps but doing it to my stride. This situation made think back on a book I had just read.
In Austin Kleon's Steal Like An Artist, (yes, I know, I'm rather late to this party), he suggests, 'don't wait until you know who you are to get started'. You should just get on with being creative. Study and imitate those you admire and want to emulate; look at their motivations and inspirations to help inspire you. When you try to emulate your inspirations you will undoubtedly fail to create another Bresson, Arbus or whoever it is you're trying to emulate. But, and this was the interesting bit, it will be your failure to completely imitate your hero that will eventually help you find your path, your footing, your style, your voice.
Yesterday I went on one of my rural explorations of abandoned crofts - 'croft crawling' as I call it. Just as I was about to enter a ruin, I decided to try and imitate a photographer Rob Hudson who has been creating an interesting and fascinating set called Songs of Travel. I wasn't sure how he creates these images so I just tried 10 multiple exposures and moved forward at each shot. My results were nothing like Rob's but it did make me think about where and how I could use such a technique. Here's one of my efforts:
So I was trying to walk in Rob's footprints but not hitting his stride and failing. However, I was learning, I was having fun and I thought more about the technique for my situation.