inspiration or replication?

I have come across posts from a couple of photographers recently which suggest that we should avoid viewing the work of other artists in order to develop our own creativity. That's an interesting concept - this would certainly prevent us from being overly influenced by work we appreciate, but without access to artwork that inspires then I think we are limiting our own growth potential.

I do see cases where photographers have (subconsciously?) fallen into the trap of replicating rather than being inspired by the work of their heroes, but I think there needs to be a balance. My feeling is that we need to appreciate the work of a variety of great artists and draw inspiration from each in order to better evolve our own style. Working in isolation may work for some but I believe this can only work after having already built a solid foundation to build on.

Returning to growth; a second article referred to viewing one's own work over a period of a year. A suggestion is made that if you have grown as an artist in that period there is a good chance that you find your dated work less appealing than when first produced. If this is the benchmark then I certainly feel that I have grown in that period, not only on the technical side but on the style of work I produce . The question in my mind is how did that growth come about? Was natural progression demanding a more discerning viewpoint, did it come from being inspired by the viewing of other great artwork, or was it a bit of both?

What are YOUR thoughts? Would your own creative voice have developed if blind to the work of others, or would it be perhaps more unique?