I identify with Manuel Alvarez Bravo - a great deal. He wrote this about style:
"It all depends on what you call "style". Many students of photography are so busy searching for their own style that they allow the work of other photographers to influnece them - they want to go out and make photographs like Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Weston, Eugene Smith, or whoever. Why bother? They are missing the point entirely.
Style is not something you go out and search for. Style is something that comes to you. In most cases this takes many years - sometimes a lifetime.
The most impotant thing for a student - or any artist - is perception and nourishment of their souls. ...."
I've giving a great deal of thought - and great deal of introspection - into the "phenomenom" we label "style". I think my style is moderately fluid... constantly changing.... other than that, I'm not at all sure that I *could* describe it. Certainly, the sum of my experience goes into my photography ... and that happens with or without conscious thought.
Possibly ... wasn't there some myth about something - that if it was named, it would cease to exist..?
What about it, gang .... do you think that you could describe your "style"? ... Or do you even think that "style" exists?
There!! My "Gordian Knot" for the day.... or possibly, a lifetime.
There are artists that have style and there are artists that do not have style.
Style comes from experience in one's profession. For example, THE BEATLES. Did the Beatles have style? Yes they did and they became so good that they were able to change their style.
When you hear a Beatles tune do you recognize that it is the Beatles? If you hear early Beatles music you, most likely, will recognize the style of the early Beatles.
What made the Beatles so good is that their style would change as the years changed. If their style never changed, it is quite possible that they would have lost popularity many years ago.
Have you ever read a book by an author then by chance picked up another book by the same author and noticed that the style was the same? Some author's styles change very little. Others change their style as they grow and progress.
It is the same with photographers. You will see a certain style with particular photographers. However, with some photographers you may not see a style change, while others never develop style.
An artist, and I include photographers with the artists, should be able to recognize their own style.
Style is what I prefer to call "voice". It just takes a while and some it takes longer. Everyone is different. And when you find your voice you will have your style. I don't think it can be rushed.
Never trust anyone who can readily define their style....
I think saying that style happens and can not be created is true. In fact it seems to me that anyone who can't (as in they are unable) CHANGE the type of picture they take is a bit stunted. Not that they HAVE to, but being unable to switch from say street shooting to say architecture (or at least make an effort) is not a good thing. We shouldn't even try to lock ourselves in to a certain look because by doing that we limit ourselves.
Once upon a time I did a lot of work for a fledgling model agency. As fedback slowly filtered back to me, I found out that I had a recognizble "style", in that people could tell which photos were mine.
I don't know what I did to get that, so it probably qualifies http://apug.org/forum/html/emoticons/smile.gif
I believe a style is a title that someone gives to you. It is something that is earned. If a person is concerned about their "style", then they are all about ego and not about art or learning.
For most people, who are not genuises or child prodogies, I believe that you start out by copying everything you see. You see something you like, you discover how it is done, and then you copy it. You find all the great photographers and you copy the hell out their work, until you can come close to duplicating it. Then after a few years you keep the techniques that you like and discard the others. Eventually you unconsciously end up with a "style". Although this will probably change and evolve over time, but it will be you that changes it and you will no longer be copying.
I have seen beginners, when being critiqued, and when asked questions about their work will say "well that is my style." WRONG. Lack of technique and expertise is not a style. Incompetence is not a style.
The debatable point perhaps comes when an experienced person turns out the same looking work over and over again. Is this a style or are they caught in a rut.
I guess that I probably believe that when people are relatively inexperienced, they do not have a style. It is something that usually takes years to develop and hone and then someone else has to attach a name to it.
I learn a lot about my style every time I put a photo up for critique. I like to see all the zones or more - I get criticized for not having enough contrast (I am unwilling to lose shadow detail) - I love to use very narrow bands of focus to highlight my point of interest - easy to do with 4x5. People will say - it is blurry - jeepers - I can see the dirt INSIDE his pores! For me, flat lighting makes flat prints (a learning front for me so far) I like more specteral lighting. The worst time of day to shoot ... noon in the sun - turns out to please me for unusual outdoor subjects. I love to shoot into the light - fighting flare and highlight blowout with creative chemistry and darkroom technique. Although each critique is useful for learning, if I changed my ways to match each one, what would I have??? I learned a lot on PhotoSig. (I don't go there much any more) I learned that there are useful tips but ultimatley I must be faithful to the image I see in my mind that is the essence of what I see. Only a few might see what I see and many will see something completely different in a photo I make. Some won't get it at all - most of those that are close to me rarely see what I see in my photos. So my style is the ever- evolving way my photos reflect the spirit of what I see. If my photo reflects this, I succeded. Anything short of that and it is just another snap shot --- or worse.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (fhovie @ May 6 2003, 06:55 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>I learn a lot about my style every time I put a photo up for critique.
... ultimatley I must be faithful to the image I see in my mind that is the essence of what I see. Only a few might see what I see and many will see something completely different in a photo I make. Some won't get it at all - most of those that are close to me rarely see what I see in my photos. So my style is the ever- evolving way my photos reflect the spirit of what I see. If my photo reflects this, I succeded. Anything short of that and it is just another snap shot --- or worse.
I don't think I know much about my "style" - It does not, as near as I can tell -- come from conscious thought. I am not concerned ... it is there ... and that's all there is. I'm trying to conceive of anyone making the statement: "I don't like my style" ....
"Faithful to the image I see...."
I heard this last night on the tele ... a Progenitor of a famous TV series commented on `What makes a TV series successful':
"You do the best you can, in the best way you know how to do it. The rest is a mystery."
That was Steven Spielberg, commenting on ER.
Style is a mysterious thing. I don't see it as a means to "cop out" ... and justify "less than satisfactory" work - but then again, in the frame of "The work is an encoded window into the being of the photographer on the other side" - what could be "unsatisfactory"?
I have two images by Ansel Adams - *color* photographs done near the end of his life - I think they were on Kodachrome - I know they were done with a Hasselblad.
I've shown these to many well-versed photographers with the question, "Who do you think did these?" So far not one has identified them as Ansel Adams'. The public percetion of Adam's work begins with "Black and white", so color is almost immediately "off limits".
Once they know that they are, In fact, the work of Ansel Adams, his "style" is immediately apparent ... "Of course. Why didn't I realize that before?"
The fact that others "see" your work differently is no surprise. Our vision - like our style - is the product of myriad of influences - preconditioned relfexs, social pressures... the work of "black magicians" (see: Carlos Casteneda).
A classic gallery comment, "Oh I LOVE your work - what an eye you have - I never would have seen that flower arrangement in the form of a female nude!!" To which the photographer replies, "Huh? It is??"
I've given up on paranoia in the galleries. I refuse to consider anyone as a charlatain trying to pass off "substandard" work. I am sure that happens, but ... so what?
Van Gogh made a LOT of "substandard" work in eyes of his contemporaries. I read that he only sold *one* of his works in his entire life - to his brother. That idea of "sustandard-ness" holds true for ... how many ? Renoir, Dali, Picasso, Man Ray ...
Interesting comment about "snapshots". What defines a "snapshot"? Aren't the decisive moment works of Cartier-Bresson, or the "line-them-up-against-the-wall works of August Sander, or "V-day", by Alfred Eisenstadt... aren't they all "snapshots"?
I think they are ... but what *marvelous* snapshots!!
Well, yes. A well composed, decisive moment, "snapshot" that connects with the viewer on an emotional or intellectual level is a legitimate piece of Photographic art even if it was taken with an Instamatic by someone that has never given a serious thought to photography. I have certainly seen such Pictures. It is exceedingly rare but I believe that an image must stand on it's own (even if it is digital [...shiver]). On the other hand, a person that devotes decades to studying and practicing the creative and technical aspects of Photography, who lives every day viewing the world with an eye towards illustrating it in a frozen instant and is fully prepared at that instant to capture it and who is constantly refining their results with a critical eye is infinitely more likely to produce such meaningful images.