Your Story. Your Style.

I recently read an interview with Hazel Blake on Sebastian Michaels Quill & Camera Blog. She is one of the talented students of Photoshop Artistry; Fine Art Grunge Composition course.

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Spring Tulips. Taken at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

In it, she was asked how she defines her style. Her response really resonated with me and got me thinking. She replied that she works within three broad areas; the divine feminine, the darkness within and the playful self. Wow, that was both so cool and so deep when I read it. So I visited her website, with these themes in mind and looked at her work. I could very clearly see those themes throughout all her work. Whether the mood was light, dark and brooding, set in cleanliness or had a grunge finish, her three ‘interests’ as she called it, could be seen.

Besides wanting to steal these ideas and themes cause I thought they were really cool and seemed like something I could bite my teeth into, I started to ask myself what is your style? What are your interests? I really didn’t know and couldn’t answer. I know Sue always says she can see my style in my normal photography, although I am doubtful I have developed any consistent style in such a short time. In fact, I have been all over the place with post –processing as I learn, and find yet another plug-in program. But the question is a good one to explore.

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question or even where to begin. I searched the internet and other than finding a course by Cristina Colli, Visual Storytelling, there was not much else that would help me find my story, my themes in photography. Then that’s when I realized I’m looking in the wrong area. I was looking under photography and instead I needed to look under art. I needed to follow the path of artists who are looking for their muse.

Then sue said, “You need to look inside yourself, dingus.” Well she was always an artist and is still one to me, so she should know. But what does that mean? Journaling! I HATE journaling. But I read somewhere, with one of the fellow teachers I follow, that when they start a ‘class’, so to speak, they start the students off with journaling. But it is not regular, what did you feel, think and do today type of journaling. No, it is about how you saw the light today. He starts training his students by helping them to notice the light, think about the qualities of the light, how it impacts what the viewer is seeing and how it will impact a photo, and then journaling about it.  Of course, photography they say, is the art of mastering light. This might be a place to start for me.

And so, I continued to journal focusing on my journey of trying to determine my style, my interests, my passions. Along the way I have recognized some things that I may have known before, but it didn’t really sink in as much until doing this process. Sunlight feels good. I mean, stop and just bask in it, whether it’s a soft flowing light that falls on you between clouds or a bright streaming light of high noon hitting the top of your head. There’s the soft light that comes through the clouds and is great for photography and great skies, and the harsh light of the afternoon sun. There is the golden hours, around sunrise and sunset where it basks everything in beautiful hues, softly illuminating from the side. And of course there is the rainbow after a storm. Refracted light in all it’s glory, that lasts but such a few moments. I decided that as much as I hate winter, I think the appreciation of the sunlight in spring only comes with having moved through a long, dark winter with a weak sun. For a moment, while basking in the sunlight, I can appreciate how the winter gives me this almost worship feeling towards the sunlight. But I looked and I journaled. I started to see the differences in light and how it lit things and how they appeared. And I journaled. Blah!

Did I say I hate journaling? I choose to study this light in my backyard, looking at the light throughout the different times of days and picking a specific few patches of areas to see the differences from day to day and through different times. In my yard I have a lot of flowers. I do love them and it is that time of year when everything is blooming. Flowers need sunlight, but direct sunlight is too much, too harsh. They need soil and water, attention and time, to develop from bulbs and seeds. Everyday one must pull weeds. leaving a clean area for growth. And you mustn’t forget the manure to nourish the flowers. And then there is practice and patience to go from bulb to flower. One must continually ensure the flowers are getting the right mix of sun, water and soil in order to thrive and bloom to their full potential. Reminds me of the photographic journey, where sun, water and soil are the triangle of exposure, aperture and shutter and that daily attention, otherwise know as practice, yields the best results. And don’t forget to pull out the bad ones, learning from those mistakes and deleting them from the memory card. So, during this exercise, I think I learned more about the connections between flowers and photography than I did about the light lol! But of course, I only had the patience to do it for a week. In the course, the students do it for a year!

So, here we are, four months later, and although I have more of an understanding of light and the journaling process, I am no closer to understanding what my style is. I know many creators of photo artists talk of listening to music while they create. Often the music directs the process. And I remember Sue’s words, of looking within. I know photography is just an outward expression of how we see and feel the world internally. And although months later, I am no closer to answering that questions for myself. I am starting to realize that creation is a journey in and of itself. It is the process of asking the question and just letting the answer flow and come forth in it’s own time. When eventually I get there, and I can see the themes, stories and visions that repeat through my work, I can only hope I can articulate it and realize it so distinctly as Hazel Blake did during her interview.

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