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.
Originally Posted by jnanian
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 cliveh; 08-13-2012 at 05:02 PM. Click to view previous post history.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera
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.
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.
Very true. I have a photo of Ansel with two versions of Moonrise Hernandez.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
The sky in the later version is much darker than the earlier version.
“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” - Plato
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I say this about artists in general, especially "fine artists" ;)
Originally Posted by cliveh
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?
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
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.
Last edited by blansky; 08-13-2012 at 09:23 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
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.
Originally Posted by blansky
"Make good art!"
- Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera".
- Yousuf Karsh
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit".
I get that quip, in the sense of "if you think you're hip, you're not."
Originally Posted by cliveh
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.