Many people feel a need to compare their photographs to those of others and either lament the fact that their efforts don't come up to scratch, or rest on their laurels if they feel they've achieved a high standard. While it's very important to be aware of the work of others and be inspired by great artists, I think it's far more valuable to your photography education to compare your own work with what you have created in the past.
I look at the pictures I took in Africa way back when I started photography and often think, "if only I knew then what I know now!". I'm sure we've all been there. I certainly created some images that I am proud of to this day but the vast majority, while they encapsulate fond memories, don't really stand up as great photographs.
But rather than comparing those pictures to the work of say Robert Caputo or any of the other wonderful photographers who have documented Africa, I compare them to the images I shoot now and let that be a judge of how far I have come as an image-maker. And to show me how far I still have to go.
This image was taken on a three day pirogue (wooden canoe) trip down the Bani River out of Mopti. Three days of lying back under a straw canopy while guides paddled us leisurely downstream, with the great Malian guitar player Ali Farka Toure serenading us from a tinny, mono tape player. I shot this picture with a wide-angle lens to make the river look as wide and grand as it was. A small aperture gives enough depth of field to see the riverbank in the background. Focussing just on the poler's legs, pole and the stern of the boat turns him into a symbol of his profession. Balanced precariously on the back of the boat as he expertly guides us down the river. The carvings on the side of the boat show that we're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.
In case you hadn't guessed this is one of the pictures I am happy with and would be just as proud to have taken it yesterday as I am to have taken it 14 years ago.