How does a photographer find their own photographic expression? Have you ever wondered? I often wonder if or when I’ll ever find or be content with mine. I often feel that I’m in search of my own expression, or for the right expression. This search has gotten me to see that there is some advice that I believe has helped me to define my style…
The first advice – consume…
The first one is: “Consume and collect” images. Both images that you like as well as images that you do not like. By looking at, and being inspired by, other photographers work, you will find what you like and dislike. What kind of aesthetic do you like and why. When you’ve found work you like, try to imitate the style of these images. Try to emulate both content and style because through your copies, your work you will sooner or later move beyond inspiration and you will create work that is only yours.
I know that the advice of collecting and consuming sounds fine. But to be honest it’s harder than it sounds. How do I know if and when I will leave my role models work behind?
I haven’t a good answer to this last question; but I know we learn by studing the masters.
The second advice – do what you like
Another piece of advice that will help you to find your own expression or style is to do the work that you like to do. Do work or photos that you have a easy time doing. Do those images that are done without any effort. Those images contain you and your style. You shouldn’t read in this advice that I’m saying that you don’t have to put any thought behind your work, because I think we all need to do that.
My style is connected with the pictures that I like to do, most of them aren’t to difficult to do. I see my style in the images that I do time after time. They are me. Somewhere I read that my style can be found in those images that I think are trivial, not special; they are in short, an expression of me.
I hesitate about my expression
During a photographic workshop I attended, the workshop leader defined my expression, my style, my aesthetic as hazy. To be honest, hazy didn’t feel like a compliment, or something that good photographers ought to be. After the workshop I decided to try to leave that expression, because I wanted to be anything else but hazy. I wanted to fit the convention, to make crystal clear images like most photographers do. No one seems to like the hazy style anyway. But in the process of finding a “better” style and leaving the hazy version behind, I may have lost myself.
My desire to find a style that I can stand by, that is me, is difficult. I hesitate all the time. I have come to realize that somewhere in the hazy expression is ‘I’. It corresponds with my vision of photography as something that doesn’t become complete until it meets the viewer. I like images that leave something for the viewer’s imagination. I want the viewer to be involved in creating the image by filling in the missing pieces.
Let your subject guide you to find an expression
I also believe that a photographer’s expression can be seen in the choice of subjects and in the topics we choose to work with. I think that my style is corresponding with my desire or my need to explore the same stories, again and again. Yes, I’ve tried to find other stories than those dealing with loneliness, searching for a family, love and a need to belong. But no matter how hard I try, I return to these themes. These are the issues that concern me. They’re what I want to process, explain and find answers to.
Your expression will be a reflection of you
I think that in the end, I’ll find that my style as a photographer is only a reflection of me. On a good day I like it and on a bad day I only want to change it… I guess that is part of me too, both as a photographer and as a person.