Last week I received a comment through Formspring from an anonymous person letting me know that they thought that all of my work has the same look to it; “you doing something in the middle of a bunch of grass against the skyline”. At first I was a little offended and kind of embarrassed but then after I got over it, I started to think about it.
This person hit the nail on the head and brought my attention to something that I had been neglecting in the last few months, trying new things and putting my creativity to the test. It’s no secret that I like to shoot in wide open vistas with lots of space and nice backdrops. I have a favourite field that I visit often for photographs and I kind of rely on it a little too heavily at times. While thinking about this whole topic I was trying to find ways of defending my “sameness”. The field is close (about a 5 minute walk), its nice to shoot in (well, yes but so are other things), it’s familiar (ah yes it is, but when was photography about being familiar?). I tend to want my photos to turn out exactly as I see them in my mind, which I think is a normal desire for any photographer, and typically my mind pictures these images in familiar settings and that’s where I end up shooting them, and returning over and over again.
It’s a balancing act to develop a style without becoming boring and to try new things without losing your own vision. I think in the past few months I’ve become a little complacent with shooting in the same locations. I go to these spots because I know that they work, it’s like a favourite recipe that you make every week because you know that it tastes good. Well, sometimes you need to dust off the cookbooks and try something new, which is what I think I need to start doing in my photography. Granted it’s easier to fall back into the “field” or “bunch of grass” photos, I need to try to let my mind create images that allow me to explore more of my natural surroundings, to develop new areas of my photography and to not get stuck in the same old photo.
I might argue that it’s in my style as a photographer to shoot in wide, grassy spaces with the subject in the centre and while that may be true on some level, I want to be known for more than just that. I want to try to express my ideas or thoughts in new ways that people might not have seen before and that lights a creative spark in themselves and in me. I don’t want my portfolio to look like the same photo over and over, but in that breath I also want to develop a style that people can see as “Joel’s style”. The trick I suppose is learning how to do both. To walk both lines without leaning heavily onto one side.
What are your thoughts about developing your own style versus being too similar?