Personal style limiting factor

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by FRANOL, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. FRANOL

    FRANOL Member

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    For some time bothering me question whether the personal style of photography can be a limiting factor.Sometimes you don't photograph because of moral or ethical principles and that is OK.Do you sometimes not record a shot because it does not fit your style?What would you choose:a good photograph that doesn't fit your style or not to take photo (assuming that will be published)?
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    THAT goes back to why you picked photography for your hobby/occupation.

    At beginning, most photographers aim to make good photographs. The he or she starts to develop a vision and a "thing" he/she wants to express through your photographs. At that stage, making a good photograph isn't good enough. It has to convey an opinion that's unique to the photographer. Naturally, if the subject cannot convey that opinion, although it may be a good photograph, it is not an interest to that photographer.

    On the other hand, if you want to sell your photograph and it is a good photograph, you might just want to take it and make money out of it.

    It all depends.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I think it has to do with what you're trying to accomplish. Is your intent to make photographs that displays your work as a series, or are you simply interested in something that looks interesting? Do you work based on projects? Or do you take pictures because you think it's so much fun?

    Why do you practice photography?

    I try to work with a few projects of things. So I don't lift my camera unless there's something that fits those projects. But then there's the happy snapshooting part of me where if I see something cool, I feel like I HAVE TO photograph it. The sad truth is, though, that most of those in the latter snapshooting category never get printed. I would wager 99% of them don't. But perhaps it's good practice, I don't know.
    Definitely, however, I do try to work with a purpose, limiting myself to what I take pictures of, in order to be able to give each picture more attention, to fully realize the idea I had at the point of taking the picture, to see it through, all the way to the end of the process with at least a work print to decide whether it's worth pursuing further or not. That way I don't get so backlogged with what I want to print.

    I hope that helps.
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I don't often shoot just because it's interesting, I have a number of ongoing projects some dating back to 1986 and these get priority.

    However if it's something that catches my eye and it sparks something subconscious I may well shoot and after a time a few of these images may become the seeds of a new project.

    Ian
     
  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I agree with Thomas - it's contextual. If I'm shooting a purposeful project, I'm highly unlikely to take a shot of anything that doesn't fit the project. But if for example, I'm on vacation and traveling with my camera, then just about anything I come across that's graphically interesting is fair game. But even then, there's still an internal editing process as to what I will or won't photograph, because I'm looking for certain things. You just get in a certain head-space to look for certain kinds of things to the exclusion of others - abstracts, details, colors, textures, people, events, etc., and anything outside of that you either ignore or it breaks your train of thought. Today I might be looking to shoot color night photos, and tomorrow, I'm shooting people. Or it could be that I'm photographing a place, and then anything in that place that expresses the spirit of the place is fair game.
     
  6. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    IMO - What you choose to photograph IS part of your style. I've also seen that a photographer's style is seen by others more readily than by the photographer themselves (not always, but it seems to be common). What you shoot and how you present it are your style - it obviously has to start with what makes you see something and click that shutter. If you see something that isn't your style, are you even going to notice it? If you're working for pay, you would presumably put your eye/brain connection into the mode of looking for images that fit the contract - not your style because you're working for someone else and sorta borrowing their aesthetic and style.
     
  7. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Assuming that a person's style is somehow immutable and unchanging is a false assumption. Would Edward Weston have photographed his peppers if he had followed this constraint? If a particular subject catches one's eye then there must be a reason that it does. I personally always make a photograph when this cirsumstance occurs. I may not immediately make a print but the image is there for the future. The only exception would be those images that are so cliche that doing them again would be meaningless. So I would say, when in doubt shoot. I periodically review my negatives to find new images. As I have said before I don't think that any photographer at the end of his life says that he regretted taking too many photographs.
     
  8. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    I tend to think more in terms of projects than 'style'. At any particular time I'm usually working on many different projects.

    For example, I currently have open projects on:
    Trains, concentrating on engines (locomotives) rather than complete trains.
    Lighthouses (not many around here).
    Churches (many around here).
    Amusement parks and patrons thereof.
    Bridges (old).
    Urban archaeology/decay.

    If I encounter a good shot that doesn't fall in a current project, I'll still shoot it and file it for future use.

    I would never pass up a good shot unless there was a compelling reason to do so, like some dude's shotgun. :D

    - Leigh
     
  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Style and approach changes with time, as may the way you print the images. Even the masters have that shift over time and Ansel Adams is a good example.

    Ian
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    it is easy to photograph things in your comfort zone.
    when you start doing things that are difficult for you as a person
    that is how you can grow as a photographer and as a person.

    who knows, maybe you will find a project in something that terrifies you ...
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I'm reading (perhaps mis-reading) a slightly different question here. I think (and the OP can correct me if I'm wrong) that it's not a question of "should I step outside my comfort zone" but rather one of randomness vs. deliberateness - "found" images that break from what you were intending to take at the time vs. sticking to your intentions and not taking the "found" image. I agree with John that it's a good exercise for creative growth to sit down and say, "I always photograph trees... I'll push my boundaries and try photographing people/neon lights/buildings/cars/still life". But there's deliberateness in photographing that way, training the eye to look for and see the new subject. There can be benefit to just walking around with a camera to take pictures of whatever, as a form of visual note-taking, but I think it's harder to develop order out of chaos - if you're shooting whatever, you end up with a lot of individual images that don't fit anywhere. Yes, you might catch a few that would make good stock photos and could sell. But having a portfolio of catch-all will make it harder in the long run to sell the stuff that IS your style because people won't look for you and your work. They won't remember you, and you'll have to rely on Google searches delivering your image high enough in the results that buyers will get to it. Not really a good plan in my book.
     
  12. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I would suggest that if you think you have a style, you don't. I don’t mean that about you personally.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 13, 2012
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    scott

    i read the OP's question correctly.
    there is more to 'style' than photographing
    the same subjectmatter over and over again,
    or photographing something within a project.

    one can have the same 'style" whether they are photographing color nudes
    in slot canyon, run down factory buildings or doing bromoils still lives on hand coated paper
    using wet plate negatives, it isn't subject matter but something else.
    it is the way the person with the camera sees the world, and photographs it
    and presents it ... not what is being photographed. it doesn't develop
    over night with the decision for a project, but it happens over a period of time.

    the way style seems to be talked about is as if it is subject matter, or a project, but it isn't.


    i pretty much agree 100% with clive.
     
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  15. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Photography is just a craft. If you broaden your interest, participate more in all areas in your life, your limitations will lessen. If you're just caught up in a small world with narrow interest, you're just playing around with the machinery. Most photographer I admire have interest beyond photography. Deepen your view of the world and practice, practice your craft.
     
  16. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    Very true. I have a photo of Ansel with two versions of Moonrise Hernandez.

    The sky in the later version is much darker than the earlier version.

    - Leigh
     
  17. LJSLATER

    LJSLATER Member

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    I say this about artists in general, especially "fine artists" :wink:

    But I do make a conscience effort to avoid photographic clichés--whether or not I succeed is a different matter! It’s a non-issue for me; if a shot feels cheesy I won’t take it. What I lose sleep over are good shots I miss because I was too slow or too sloppy to do them justice.

    A couple of years ago, I turned down an internship with a local portrait photographer because her work made my eyes bleed. I may not have the best taste in the world, but I definitely think some people are "aesthetically challenged"(that doesn’t mean they’re bad people or anything). She does have a successful business, and I don't, so who can say who's right and who's wrong?
     
  18. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    I agree that style is not subject matter. I always thought that style was an interaction between who I am and the context that sourounds me. This interaction comes through the best, in my opinion, when I'm pushing myself well beyond my confort zone. In terms of randomness vs. deliberateness, photographs deliberately made in a series are more likely to show a "style" or who I am, particularly when the photographs are hard to make physically and/or emotionally. I use to walk out of the house, camera in hand, and just make pictures of anything I found interesting. In my case at least, not many of these were ever printed. Since about 4 years ago I only shoot in "projects", and as it turns out these are always very difficult projects. Either way, random or deliberate, it's all very pleasurable :smile:
     
  19. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I think this whole style thing is merely a marketing tool.

    99% of styles were stolen from someone else anyway.

    Some beginners say their out of focus poorly shot work is their style. It's not. It's a lack of expertise and craft.

    Some people say their highly calculated work is their style. It's not it's their marketing plan.

    Everyone has a way of working and seeing that is unique. Some people are good at it and some aren't. And most are a work in progress.

    Anyone who is any good is evolving, and is, and always will be, excited about photography, and anyone doing the same shit over and over is not maintaining a style but instead stuck in a rut.

    So forget about your style and let other people waste brain cells defining it. Just take pictures and let your mind in that instant take whatever moves you.

    However if you are selling work, and a style is selling, by all means have at it, but don't limit yourself to doing just that.

    Don't read your own press releases, because you know it's all bullshit.
     
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  20. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I agree with you 95%, but will add that I think having a project, or a clearly defined goal, can help people stay focused and motivated. Shooting whatever sort of happenstance comes around is fun, but for someone like me that behavior creates a massive waste of film, and a very large pile of negatives that I never know what to do with. And I do see things of interest, all the time. Sometimes a little bit of organization is a good thing.
     
  21. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I get that quip, in the sense of "if you think you're hip, you're not."

    But there is a style.

    Why do I have a hard time seeing the difference between my vintage shots and my current work? Help me understand why the same thing that appealed to me decades ago, still appeals. I still take landscapes, and the shots taken at Little Sur come out looking like shots I took when I first visited the creek.

    But to the OP, getting back to the topic... My current work (for example the six sheets I developed tonight) departs from the so-called style that keeps drawing me back. I add photojournalism, difficult to take photographs, but the stories must be told (bullying must stop, and photography is the strongest tool I have to strike with). And I added family chronicle photography, illogical if you know me well (I hate gardening and taking family Christmas pictures)... I cringe at cliché but shoot away anyway.

    So don't stop when a shot is not your style... use the opportunity to expand.
     
  22. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I don't see where projects enter into the equation one way or the other.

    The whole style silliness has nothing to do with what you shoot but how you shoot.

    And that should evolve over time.
     
  23. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    John-

    I'd disagree that you read it correctly. That's an incredibly arrogant thing to say, because the question doesn't define 'style' with any degree of precision.



    It alludes to marketing/selling images. In that context, being known for a 'style' is generally a good thing (see Blansky's comment), so long as you don't get so stuck in it you become "the tree guy" (or "the colored gels painting-with-light guy" or "the pink bunny rabbit somewhere in the photo guy"). Which as Blansky pointed out, is just a marketing gimmick anyway. Defined your way, it's impossible to NOT photograph in your 'style', so there was no purpose to the question. Every photo is taken in your own 'style' - I don't think you can take a photo in someone else's style. You can certainly imitate others' techniques, but you can't stop seeing with your own eyes.

    I took my cue in my original answer from the comment about not taking a photo for moral or ethical reasons - i.e. the proverbial "I saw this homeless guy lying in a pool of his own vomit, and it would have been a powerful statement image about the social decline of America today, but I didn't take it because it would be exploitative". But the follow-up I read as something akin to: you're out documenting a protest march and see a really cool antique motorcycle that could make it on the cover of Biker magazine. Do you take the photo of the bike?

    Ultimately the answer to that is - it's up to you. But I wouldn't put it in any kind of ethical/moral context. 'Style' doesn't have morality.
     
  24. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    And I am not catching your point. What should evolve over time, and why?

    Projects are, to me at least, a way to focus my work. I try to show something that I feel is important, or convey a certain emotion. If I don't pay attention to subject matter and am selective, how do you accomplish this with a body of work? It doesn't have to be very complicated either. Example: I like to photograph things of transportation, done the old way. So, old cars, airplanes, and trains. It's fun and it describes a time where certain mechanical and engineering challenges were at a different stage. Another example: The Midwest culture and heritage around the grain industry. There was a time when this was of vital importance to a large portion of the world, supplying food in times it was needed. Etc. This project aspect of my work positively defines how I shoot, what I shoot, how I print it, and how I combine it with other photographs to make them speak as loudly as possible.
     
  25. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Thomas- I think some people here are saying that style isn't WHAT you photograph but rather HOW. For example, you prefer shooting hand-held, up close, with a wide-angle point of view, usually from below looking up. Shooting that way doesn't work for everything all the time. And the way you see the world at age 21 is not the way you see it at 41 or at 61, and if you're still shooting with the 21 year old perspective at 61, your photographic perspective is out of sync with your life perspective.
     
  26. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I don't understand the posts here about people and their project fetish and how that defines style. A project is a project, a style is a look. You can have the same look by photographing barns as you can photographing trains, or people or mountains. Its how your work looks. Not the subject matter.

    Your projects are merely a period of what you shoot and when you are done you move on. They don't necessarily define the style you have.

    As I've said, a style is a marketing tool to sell people what they are used to. But as a photographer you evolve onto something else, even if you continue to produce some work for your style groupies.

    But if a photographer or any artist continues to stick to a style/rut for the sake of sales or ego he will stagnate and be unhappy because talent has to grow or it dies.

    If you are a musician and all you do is play the same songs over and over instead of evolving you become a quaint novelty and artistically wither away. You may get rich but you'll be unhappy artistically.