Should I stay or should I go…
The Clash had the right question but no real answers.
I'm editing my on-line galleries. Not because I want to but because it seems a necessary evil, dictated by the gatekeepers and know-it-alls of artistic merit. It is an evil designed to cull the herd of lesser beings; the weak, wounded and woeful. Very Darwinian.
It's all because of this damn vision thing...
Every time I see a blog post or article about "finding your vision" I just become more confused about where my vision lies and whether I even have a vision. Often I think that vision and style are used interchangeably which adds to the confusion. Maybe they really are the same thing or just so nuanced that I can't see one from the other.
Robin Walker has a vision article on PetaPixel that includes the following:
#4: Pick five words that describe your favorite images
These should be pictures you’ve already taken. I often ask my clients for three words that describe the image they want me to create; that way I know what I’m working towards. This is the same principle. Now go into your image library and pick 10 of your favorite images. Do they fulfill your five words? Do you need to pick new ones?
#5: Pick three words you don’t want people to use when describing your images
That sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: They should be positive words. They can’t be “boring,” or “plastic.” They have to be three words that someone might say they want in their picture. Is “fun” a word you don’t want attributed to your work? Bright? You can’t use gloomy (that’s a negative word), but what about dark or moody? These three “not-words” should guide you as firmly as your five positive words. And remember, you don’t have to never create images that have those attributes — you’re pointing your feet in a direction, not cementing them to a spot.
Problem is, if I pick 5, 10, 15 images they'll all be so different that I'd need a dictionary of words to encompass the range of "styles" included in my selection. I shoot what I like, what catches my eye. I've photographed boats, rocks, cars, mountains, trees, lakes, kids, clouds, field hockey games and track meets. I could probably select 1 from every subject matter that I really, really like and then sit there like a confused mystic trying to see the link between them. I realize that subject matter and style/vision are different and perhaps after many hours of contemplative study I'd discover I just like highly textured monochrome images and suddenly that comic strip light bulb goes off above my head and "Voila!" I have a style. But then I'll page through Michael Kenna's book and think that I'd really like to do simple low contrast landscapes.
I know, I can do whatever type of photography I want, don't listen to the "experts," do what you like. Do what satisfies your artistic center. Yadda, yadda, yadda. But, what if what I would like is a recognizable style?
I used to see Joe McNally as a refuge. He has a very eclectic range of subject matter and I would convince myself that if McNally can shoot everything from rock stars to ballerinas he has as wide a range of subjects as I do. He shoots everything! But, you'll never see a McNally image that isn't perfectly lit; with strobes. Style.
The search continues...