A few months back as I was busy cleaning the house I decided to have the television on as background noise (which is a little crazy since I was running the vacuum cleaner). At one point as I was passing by the television, I happened to catch part of a conversation that made me go back and rewind so I could hear it again (isn’t it lovely we can rewind live television?). I wanted to hear it several times so I could write it down to REALLY remember it. The interview was on the Today show with Chelsea Handler and she said, “I aspire to NOT aspire to be anyone else. I just want to be me.” As photographers and artists we say all the time, “Don’t try to copy, don’t try to be anyone but you” but the truth of the matter is, as artists, we will never be truly satisfied with our art until we KNOW who we are and most importantly, we accept that. Chelsea Handler is at a point in her career where she knows who she is and is comfortable with that. Can you, with confidence, say the same?
A common question I get asked by fellow photographers is, “How do you go about finding your style and how long does it take?” For those that are just starting out in photography, know that finding your style is not something that can be set on a definite timeline because it is a process. The journey will be different for everyone. There seems to be a frustration in this area with so many especially when you read blogs and see such incredible art being put out there. We live in an instant gratification society and we often get impatient when things take a bit longer. Your Facebook feed is filled with amazing art and you want to do the same but just don’t know what you want to ‘say’ with your camera. I know that when I started down my path of learning I was also impatient and wanted to have a defined style immediately but as I look back I know now that there is a progression that needs to take place before you can reach that.
I started studying the piano at age five. At that point, I had NO clue who I was as a musician because I had no knowledge of music whatsoever. I had to learn the notes, how to read music, the intricacies of music theory and those building blocks allowed me to study and play great works of art by various composers. The more I worked on my technique and knowledge of music, the more my ability grew to learn a broader array of music and in that, I was able to find my voice, my niche as a musician. If at my first lesson, after my teacher taught me the notes and keys I had asked, “How to I find my style?” she would have probably said, “One step at a time”. The same principles can be applied to photography. We all get in a hurry when we get our first DSLR cameras to jump in and start a business and establish our style all at once. The more you know about your camera, light, how to shoot to get the best SOOC you possibly can, the more freed up you are to figure out what you want to say. You cannot create the art that inside your heart and head unless you know technicalities of your instrument. When you don’t have to worry about camera settings or if the light is right or not, you can be freed up to concentrate on the art of it. For those of you are just starting out, be patient with yourself and concentrate on learning as much as you can before starting on the path of defining your who you are.
Once you get to the point of knowing how to shoot, you can begin the journey of finding yourself as an artist. Although I have been obsessed with photography since I was in junior high, I did not began a professional career until my early thirties. There are times I feel discouraged when I see so many amazing people way younger than I am who are very established and flourishing and I wonder why I wasn’t led to begin the professional process at a younger age. As I dig deep though, for me to start this a little bit later than others was perfect for me. I had just come out of a period of figuring out who I was personally (and embracing that) and then realizing my voice as a musician. I was VERY impatient when I started and had to step back and realize that it took a while in my musical journey and therefore I had to be patient with my photographic journey as well. I had so many photographers I admired and who I wanted to be like but quickly realized that their voice was not mine. I had to find my own.
Take some time away from away from technology and think about what inspires you. Keep a notebook by your bed and make a list of what you love from art to music to fashion to absolutely anything. Write down every creative idea that starts popping into your head and began to make lists. The more you creatively journal the more ideas will start brewing in your mind. Be patient with yourself as you start to plan shoots from the notes you make. Some might work, some might fail. That’s okay. You will have days you feel on top of the world and that you know what you are doing, and days where you want to close up shop and be done with it all. Push through and don’t give up! Your style is deep inside, just patiently waiting for you to discover it!
Now, I won’t lie and tell you that once you know your voice that it’s all sunshine and roses. The will be times when you have to go back and revisit as life changes and you grow as a person. The beauty is that as you continue to evolve in your art, you will be familiar with the process and know to be patient as you grow. For all my friends who are on this journey right now, if you need to whine a bit or need encouragement, eat some chocolate and then drop me a note! We all need someone to give us a ‘hug’ and motivate us to carry on!