Monday, August 30, 2010

Why is your style?

I've been thinking a lot lately on style in photography. I've seen images I really like, others I think really suck, and noticed that there are a lot of popular trends that seem to be way more style than substance. This has led me to wonder, rather than what is your style, a better question might be why is your style?

I'll start with one of the styles I don't particularly like. HDR. For many people it's a love it or hate it thing. Beyond the really crappy examples where it's really overdone, where it has this awful crackly texture, even the well done leaves me wondering what the point is? While our eyes may be able to see 3 or 4 times the dynamic range our medium may be able to capture, do we really see it when we look at a scene? I tend to find pretty much all HDR to look rather unreal. So when you choose this as a style, what do you want people to get from it? If your images look unrealistic, are you saying an attempt at capturing reality is unimportant? Is it just a creative exercise, something artistic? Is it better than reality, the way a picture should be by capturing all it possibly can, in your ideal world? Something to think about. As is the question, why did you choose it?

Another style I am seeing a lot of is desaturated images with a look of old polaroids or old colour snaps. Some of it is really lovely, but isn't different enough, at least not anymore, to be a very unique style. Lots of people have jumped on the bandwagon. At what point does a style become a trend, and then become meaningless as it really isn't individual anymore? Now, you can argue that how you use it brings that individuality to those images, and yes, that's completely true, but they still tend to get lost in the sea of images that look so similar in the end. It's not enough just to tweak a bit here and there, you really need to get into what makes a style unique.

So the popularity of a style or look brings me to ask, why are you choosing that style? What is it you want to say with it? Because in the end, your style says something, whether you consciously choose it or not. Styles evolve, develop not always by plan and have a lot to do with how your view the world, rather than necessarily the equipment you use. There are exceptions, as there are to everything, such as Holga images, where the gear does dictate a lot. In many cases, styles are chosen, directly emulating something seen in image galleries, something popular, something that can even be a fad, outright copying in many cases, and a reason is often a desire to achieve the same success of the person they copy. But in the end, what are you saying when you do that? If you don't transform what you desire to emulate into something that is uniquely your own, you can't say much besides you haven't put the effort into your own creativity. Sure, coming up with something original is hard, but by choosing to have your style show that originality, and being conscious of what else it says, you come up with what is uniquely yours. 

My own style is still developing, but even now I can see trends. My fine art images tend to be about nature, beauty, light. They have a stillness to them others remark upon. This relates not so much to something I wished to communicate as it does about how I see things. Nature for me is soothing and peaceful and the images show that, as they show my viewpoint. The images may be disparate in actual subject matter, but processing treatment, framing, composition, shallow depth of field, all impart an indelible stamp on the images that make them identifiable as mine, especially viewed together and in the end that is a style.

When it comes to portraiture, I am still working on what I want for a style, but I am turning to things people don't necessarily use much anymore, processes, equipment etc to get a look that will be unique and uniquely my own. I may go well out of my way to avoid looking like the masses of photographers out there but as I work things out, I am consciously looking at developing that style and considering what it will say. In the terms of high end and fine art portraiture, presenting a unique look, one off images, hand worked portraits, all these should communicate the unique value of such portraits. In addition, people who choose this for their portraits are also saying something in what they value in an image, in art and about themselves. And in the end, this is what your style says about you.

No comments:

Post a Comment