Constraints of Imitation
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how much personal style and taste has changed over the years. I’ve found myself really refining and in some cases dialing back the way I process images. When I first entered the field in 2012 I was absolutely blown away by the stuff I would see on 500px, Flickr and Facebook. So much so that I would often try to imitate not only the types of shots but the editing style as well. The problem is no one can REALLY shoot that type of scene like the person who innovated the process or refined their own personal style.
You can nearly always tell when someone has taken a skype lesson or a tutorial from an artist with their own personal flare; as it resonates with the image. The problem is what people fail to realize is that these lessons and learned skills are just tools to your own creative process. Too often I see folks limiting themselves to what they see on 500px or what they’ve been taught.
Something that I wish someone would have told me when I first got my start is to be inspired by others but to also develop your own unique style. Learn from the images you see, but don’t limit yourself to their constraints. Find your own voice and let your photos speak for you. It really comes down to is a simple question; who are you shooting for? Are you shooting for yourself or are you shooting for likes and publicity? What motivates you? To find your own voice through your images you have to dig deep into your creative process.
Don’t strive to be different, but strive to be you. I think too often we push ourselves so hard to nail the shot or to think outside the box that we miss the mark all together. I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating; imitation is a form of flattery, but at what cost to your own creative process?
Personal growth is something that I think never really stops in photography. I look back at my images from even two years ago and cringe. I think we’ve all been there. As much as it hurts my eyes to look back through my work it is rewarding in a lot of ways. It’s fun to see how far you’ve come not only compositionally but also in processing as well. We are constantly learning. As the tools improve our skill sets will shift in an inevitable ebb and flow, but your creativity and innovation will always be your foundation.
The creative process is how we all grow individually as photographers. It’s how we develop the style that sets us apart from the masses and it’s how we breathe life into our images. Know your shortcomings and work to improve in those areas. Is there a particular type of scene in landscape photography that poses a weakness to you? Shoot the hell out of it. Learn the ins and outs of it and improve where improvement is needed, refine where refinement is needed and don’t give in to your self doubts. No one can dictate your success.
One of the things that perplexes me the most about landscape photographers is the sheer volume of arrogance and ego that seemingly go hand in hand with success. Folks seem to forget that at one point in time no one knew their name, their post processing probably needed work and their images lacked interest, yet those same folks stand a top their soap boxes and intimidate the hell out of anyone whom they feel is wrong or may have crossed the line. Let’s face it. In the digital age the lines that define fine art and true photography are blurred. It’s a very, very messy subject and one that I don’t want to get involved with quite frankly. Everyone has an opinion on the matter and every social media thread seems to end up in the exact same place; you do you and I’ll do me. In some cases, yes, things need to be addressed; like when Marc drops a sky and the internet loses their collective minds for instance.
Overall though, I think we owe it to ourselves as photographers to support one another, drop the cliques and help the field progress in a positive manner. So much of what I read on social media is so toxic; people are bashing and belittling each other left and right. Is that really what the field has come to? Instead of spending so much time focusing on negativity how about we work to progress our art and push the field in a positive direction. Forget your egos and pick up a camera, the field will be better for it.