This year I have decided I want to explore whether I have a style, and if so what is it, and if not, should I have one? I had felt my photography was somehow ‘lacking’ or ‘floundering’ because I didn’t prescribe to a particular genre. I told my Master, Kyle VanEtten, from the Arcanum. However, he gave me a wonderful reframe and asked me if it was really that important to have a style? He suggested I just enjoy the process and the FREEDOM of the photography I was engaging in. I know I don’t want to be constrained in my photography, but somehow I enjoyed being able to recognize the floral layouts of Cristina Colli, the poised petals and paints of Georgie St. Clair, the old washed out still life’s of Kim Klassen, or the children in dark light by Jennifer Mock, or the wispy soft whites of Dana Fox. In fact many are so distinctive, like the HDR work of Trey Ratcliff, that I have named a few styles. For instance, Sue and I have coined a phrase from Trey’s processing – “Is it Trey, or Trey Trey?” This just means, we have equated HDR processing with his work, and if it is light HDR (Trey) or a heavier HDR effect (Trey Trey.) It’s synonymous for me as the unshaven chiseled chin and six pack abs are for Calvin Hollywood. I don’t think of his Freaking Amazing Details technique, but rather, I think of Calvin’s details.
Now more than a style, I wanted to come up with a theme, a purpose and direction each time I picked up the camera to take a shot. Beth Deschamp of beth-a-dilly photography, talks about shooting with honesty. I thought about that. For her it means taking the moment and not poising people. However, it doesn’t mean she can’t move that sock on the hallway floor if it looks bad. I liked that idea. Others call it organic, but somehow that word, honest, means a little more to me. So, I did as she suggested and tried to pick my 10 favourite photos. Well, since the summer of 2015, I have taken over 15,000 photos. It was interesting going through these photos. The ones I really liked six months ago or a year ago were no longer favourites. As my photography has matured, I can see it in the topics, subjects and styles, in which I photograph and process. So, at first selection, I was at 24 favourite photos. Hummm… getting it down to ten was going to be hard. Then I reread the instructions – pick out your favourite five! Yikes. Now that was next to impossible, but I did it and here they are.
The interesting thing for me was the actual photos I selected as my favourites, at least right now at the beginning of this year. You see, none of these are ‘winners’ where they scored well, and most weren’t even submitted to competition, having recognized that they were lacking in greatness. Most of these did well on my social media websites, judging by the likes, thumbs ups, 1+ and ♥’s, but again, these were not among my higher scorers. But it wasn’t the winners in competition, or the shots considered excellent and printable by friends that I loved and adored. It was these five, all flawed in some way and I love each and every one of these as a favourite at this time.
Now when I look at these photos and think about the word honest, it is more than just not being a staged photography. It also meant keeping true to the moment, the feeling and the connection. A friend and fellow photographer Emma said to me “I think of the word honest as being more of a documentary shot, untouched with very little processing.” That’s when I realized, the words and descriptors where individual and unique to each of us. But honest was one word that seemed ‘right’ to me, that seemed to fit.
Then as I looked at each photo, I wrote descriptors for each one. Simple, moody, balanced, symmetry, spontaneous, honest, real, candid, natural, organic, dreamy, soft, and serene, contains emotion and creates emotions. I was also supposed to look at five photos that I didn’t like much and try and see what the differences were. Well I skipped that and instead asked people in my life, what three words would they use to describe these images.
My short list became: honest, emotive, serene, soft, and dreamy. This is five, not three words. And I want to be able to keep them in mind each and every time I set up to take a photo. It’s not about the processing, but rather about how I approach the photograph. The problem is these words still do not resonate with me, except for honest. I am still searching for the right three words. And once these are found, I will know and see my expression and style resonate through my work.
So let me ask you two things. What’s your style? Just pick five photos, five favourites and engage on this journey and discover your own set-up for each photo.
And secondly, can you help me with my words? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!