The Deep Furrow
When I’m ready to make a photograph, I think I quite obviously see in my minds eye something that is not literally there in the true meaning of the word. I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without. -Ansel Adams
Photographic style is one of the more vexing issues confronting the photographer of ambition and serious intent. Every photographer needs to get his or her work noticed, and the most immediate, therefore most conventional way of achieving this is to formulate an instantly recognizable style, an individual voice. It is, they say, the squeaky wheel that gets oiled, the loudest most obvious voice that gains instant attention, though in the long run, the stentorian clamor might not necessarily be heeded. Nevertheless, every artist must develop some kind of authorial consistency in his or her work, or else it is formless - and form, in one way or another, must always be the artist’s goal. There are, of course, many ways of cultivating this necessary state of affairs, some of which are consciously even artificially grafted on to the corpus of the work, others that emanate from deep within the photographers persona, as ineffable as his or her subconscious. It is safe to say that the style each individual eventually settles upon, their creative calling card, is a complex mélange of conscious and unconscious elements, carefully considered or completely intuitive, imported from the “outside” or dredged up from “within.”
The great problem with style is that it is essentially reductive, a refining of the look of a work so that each single image relates formally to another. Style indeed, might be defined as the formal establishment of constraints by the artist - be they technical, formalist, conceptual, or contextual. Think of almost any major painter or sculptor of the twentieth century (for style is largely, though not exclusively a twentieth-century issue), and you can name a few key works that define the style, all others emanating from or revolving around the keys. Only the very greatest individuals, those with huge artistic personas, and imaginations to match - like Picasso or Duchamp - escape the straitjacket, or the discipline of style, and then sheer force of personality, rather than the more usual stylistic traits becomes the “style.” The rest of us are confined to plowing narrower furrows, although the narrow furrow can, of course, contain great depth.
The Pleasures of Good Photographs
The Passion and Voice
The best photographs come from obsessive photographers”.- Gerry Badger
THE PASSION KEY. Part 2
A logical - and vital - relationship exists between passion and voice. It is very hard to be passionate about what you're doing if you haven't found your voice as an artist. Whether you have been forced by circumstance not to create in your own voice, or whether you've avoided creating in your own voice for psychological reasons, the result will be a tremendous lack of passion for what you're doing. Creating in your authentic voice produces and sustains passion. With that in mind, here are some ideas for finding or reclaiming your voice.
- Allow risk-taking to feel risky. Very often the personal work you want to do feels risky. Intellectually, you may find a way to convince yourself that the risk is worth taking - but when you try to take the risk, you balk because you suddenly feel anxiety welling up. Remember that a risk should feel risky.
- Think at least a little bit about positioning. You may want to develop your voice independent of art trends and say exactly what you want to say in exactly the way you want to say it. On the other hand, it may serve you to take an interest in what's going on and make strategic decisions about how you want to position yourself vis-a-vis the world of galleries, collectors, exhibitions, auctions, movements, and so on. It isn't so much that one way is right and the other is wrong but rather that some marriage of the two, if you can pull it off, may serve you best: a marriage, that is, of marketplace strategizing and of intensely personal work that allows you to speak passionately in your own voice.
- Try to articulate what you're attempting. Artists are often of two minds as to whether they want to describe what they are attempting. Paraphrasing a visual experience into a verbal artist's statement often feels unconvincing and beside the point. On the other hand, it can prove quite useful to announce to yourself what you hope to accomplish with your new work. By trying to put your next efforts into words, you may clarify your intentions and as a consequence more strongly value your efforts. The better you can describe what you are doing, the better you may understand your artistic voice - and the more passionate you can be in talking about your work.
- Revisit your earliest passions. Life has a way of causing us to forget where our genuine passions reside. You may have spent decades in a big city and completely forgotten how much the desert means to you. You may have been so busy painting and parenting that your passion for creating a series of cityscapes fell off the map somewhere along the line. Finding your voice may involve something as simple and straight forward as making a list of your loves and starring the ones that still energize you. This is one of the simplest and smartest ways to discover what you are passionate about and what you want to say.
- Accept never-before-seen results. It can feel odd to speak in your own voice and then not recognize the results. Because what you've created may be genuinely new and completely new to you - it may look like nothing you've ever seen before. That can prove disconcerting! Don't rush to judge it as too odd, a mess or a mistake, or not what you'd intended. Give it some time to grow on you and speak to you. Your voice may sound unfamiliar to you if you’ve never heard it before!
Remember: One of the keys to maintaining passion and enthusiasm for your work is finding your own voice and speaking in it.
Making Your Creative Mark - Nine Keys to Achieving your Artistic Goals