It is often remarked that someone “has a good eye for a picture”. But what does that mean? We all live in the same world and theoretically at least our eyes see the same things, yet some have an uncanny way of creating images in a way that is more appealing than the norm.
The difference is vision - defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as “a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination “
Vision cannot be taught, it is unique to each individual and built from a sum of experiences and emotions. Too often as photographers we tend to reproduce the work of others rather than seek our own style This is fine for learning/practicing techniques but longer term comes at the expense of finding our own voice.
I am reminded of this revisiting the blog of a photographer I admire - Cole Thompson. Cole recalls an encounter where a critic commented that his work looked like Ansel Adams. I believe Cole was pleased with that until the cutting follow up - that Ansel had already done Ansel, and that such work could not be bettered. This resulted in self-reflection, with Cole removing himself from viewing the work of others (he calls it photographic celibacy) to concentrate purely on finding his own style.
Thus the challenge remains to understand and develop your own vision - to experiment rather than mimic and be brave enough to face head on not only critics but your own self-doubt .
A telling moment for me came when I was asked to define my style during an online interview, and how I felt others might view my work . That question forced me to self-reflect on my favorite works and to look for common themes. In doing so I determined that my most treasured images were borne out of a visualization based on the marriage of atmosphere, simple composition and internal emotion I felt at the time of shooting.
This knowledge does not imply that others should view my work any differently, but I feel better prepared moving forward and see personal satisfaction when it all comes together.
That is not to say that every shot will be a winner but I encourage all to reflect on the personal images you most enjoy, experiment, and embrace failure as integral steps on the journey to find your own voice.
I will leave with the following quotes;