In the first blog of this series on Storytelling Photography I talked a lot about identifying what and how you like to shoot. Landscapes, Portraits, Macros, Street, Models, Fashion, Food, Weddings, Children, Travel, Candids, abstracts etc, etc,etc. And if you are in that amazing and wonderful period of discovering yourself as a photographer, you should try as many new styles as opportunity presents. But eventually, you will begin to settle on photographing what pleases you. That is the beginning of your identity as a photographer. Which you then begin to prefect into your own style. Your voice.
Here’s my personal identity…”I share the joy I find discovering the gift of God’s creation. I celebrate that gift with a sense of adventure and passion. I love to move my viewer in the same way I am moved by what I see. I live with a sense of thankfulness and gratitude.”
So, based on that identity, here is My Voice…
So, let’s talk a bit about finding your voice in Fine Art Photography:
I have a friend who is a very good photographer with a natural eye. And he has chosen Commercial Photography as a livelihood. Great way to make a living as a photographer for sure! The other day I congratulated him on his success, but he was quick to correct me saying, “My heart lies in Landscapes, commercial photos are to provide a paycheck.”
Smart guy as well as a good photographer, lol. And at this point, if a paycheck for your photography seems appealing to you, Commercial photography is certainly a career path already laid down. Or portrait and wedding photography. Or Real Estate photography. Or journalist photography, paparazzi etc. All these can make you a decent wage if not exactly rich. I even had a chance to be a dog show photographer so the possibilities are endless really. And within the set boundaries of the job, you can still be creative.
Fine Art Photography is a different. Here, like any artist, we are following our hearts. We want to say something and move people. To do that we must know our voice and message. Here is the key.
Fine Art Photography exists for its own sake, and the Photographer’s self identity is at it’s heart. Your message is the goal. Your creative expression removes boundaries and allows complete freedom.
First things first; get rid of any notion that photography is not “Art”. I once was talking to an artist (the paint and brush kind) in a photo gallery where I was featured in an artist reception. He told me he saw photography as a “Mechanical Medium” (read into his comments here the attitude that “Photography is not really art”). I looked him in the eye and answered, (picture me with eyes wide, eyebrows raised, and a bit of spark in my baby blue grays…) “There is nothing mechanical about anything I do when I take a photograph.” (Read into my response “You really don’t know what you are talking about and are something of a paint and brush art snob”).
Now before you paint and brush type artists click away, I just want you to know we are good friends, and his work and passions inspire me to this day. I love the way a great paint and brush artist can impart a new and entirely different sense of reality. But so can the work of a great photographer. I am moved by great paint and brush type art. Even not so great to tell you the truth. Just as I am moved by great photography, and not so great.
In fact what makes both forms of expression artistic is the mindset of the creator. To show the world in a fresh, personal and unique way. To tell a story or share a message.
Let me restate that.
The mindset of the photographer is to show the world in a fresh and personal way.
Which brings us to your style. Just as one can tell a Monet from and Rembrandt, The Beatles from Kelly Clarkson, or Ansel Adams from Trey Ratcliff, your goal is to be seen as who you are. If you are not sure of your voice, try the following.
Start with your immediate sphere. Your friends and social media contacts. Will they recognize a photograph as being one of yours just by seeing it come up on their newsfeed? If you hang in a public gallery does your work look identifiably different forom the gallery next door? If you have a website, does it look pretty much like everyone else’s, just the photos change a bit? Do people stop on your gallery page to browse, buy or follow?
Really, to go to the next level you will need to get personal. In other words know yourself and what moves you. Then follow that inner voice and work become skilled at expressing it with your art. Be fearless in laying it all out for the world to see or judge. Consistently work hard to compose and shoot differently from the hoards of iPhone and point and shoot photographers out there. Finally, strive to become that identifiably unique photographer so your voice becomes loud and clearly effective. A big challenge that! But worth pursuing. Even if you do not achieve absolute identity and uniqueness, I guarantee your photography will get better. Much better.
I love the question Survivor host Jeff Probst asks at the beginning of each reward challenge. “Worth playing for?” And like those poor starving contestants my unequivocal answer is “Yes!”
So, once again let me say what moves and motivates me to when I shoot for Fine Art. This is my heart…
I share the joy I find discovering the gift of God’s creation. I celebrate that gift with a sense of adventure and passion. I love to move my viewer in the same way I am moved by what I see. I live and work with a sense of thankfulness and gratitude.
Notice I my goal is not to become famous or renowned. Or rich (dang!). Oh, that can certainly happen and does, though to achieve recognition like Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lang, Annie Leibovitz, or Jay Maisel, your must carve out an entirely new niche, something no one has done before. But their goal remained the same as yours. Know what you want to say and say it! It is as simple as that.
Don’t worry. I am a work in progress and have a long way to go to be complete as a photographer. And I am sure Ansel Adams felt the same way. As did Henri Cartier-Bresson in his day.
So, by now some ideas should be percolating in your mind. But if you need a bit of assistance, try this the following exercise to jump start your motivation.
I find Peace and Joy in my heart when I__________. My greatest passion(s) in life are__________. I wish I could be__________. I wish the world could be__________.
Restated a bit, ask yourself what brings your Joy, what is your Passion, what do you Desire, and what is your Mission in life. Your answers should laser focus you to find your identity. So my homework assignment for you is:
Take the answers you came up with and chew on them for awhile. Take your time with each of these and don’t make any hasty decisions, but begin to focus your thoughts, distilling them down into a couple of sentences defining your Joy, Passion, Desires, and Mission. Use it as a mantra that you can repeat to yourself whenever and whatever you shoot. If you do that, your photos will not only begin to change, they will begin to sing!
Next week I will share some nuts and bolts on shooting and processing your photos. Simple steps really, so not too technical but very effective.
Until then, Go out and shoot to say something!
Thank you for your kind comments and follows on my blog here. Each time I hear from you or gain a new subscriber it let’s me know that my own “Voice” is being heard. Grateful thanks given…
Oh, and just to let you know, Lightfinder Photography is offering 20% off on any purchase from our galleries here for the month of December. Just as a thank you! Follow the menu at the top of this page to get into the Featured or Collections galleries. Click on the photo you like for a price list, medium and size choices. Then use coupon code Intro20 at checkout. Christmas is coming!
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