FINDING OUR CREATIVE VOICE
The craft of photography undeniably offers us an outlet for increasing our technical skill, but even more than this it offers us an opportunity to refine, develop, and express our creative vision. While very few photographers actually start their careers with a distinctive sense of style, and others merely aspire to a pleasant, mainstream aesthetic, we believe that the true journey of this art form is to uncover something uniquely brilliant in each of us - our voice.
The photographer speaks in images, and so finding our voice means cultivating a definitive, evocative, and original style in our personal work while collectively refining the subtlety and power of our craft. How do we do this? Quite simply, our voice emerges clearly only after years of hard work - of rigorous practice, serious reflection, continuous study, occasional failure, and sometimes periods of heartbreak. While the absolute truth is that there’s no quick or easy way around any of this, it helps to know that with courage and curiosity we’ll also discover enormous pleasures throughout this complex journey of artistic growth.
Ironically though, it seems that many of us begin our careers like roosters strutting about the henhouse - convinced of our superiority and expertise after the flush of an initial success or the positive feedback of friends has gotten to our heads. How quick we are to assume we know everything when we begin! Only after coming up against our own limitations and lack of experience do we realize the magnitude of what we’ve yet to learn, and set ourselves to practicing again. Wincing a bit to think of it, we recall starting our business with the firm belief that our work was utterly amazing. Upon reflecting and studying, however, we realized that in fact our work was merely average. It needed to be refined. Like so many others we had fallen into habits of emulating the latest fads - from over-editing to striving for specific tones - and were left increasingly disappointed with the results of this work as time passed. As in fashion and design, trends in photography fade quickly, leaving images with a dated appearance and stifling their potential to become classics. Seeing this clearly allowed us to get back to basics, experiment more purposefully, and begin pushing our personal and professional limits further than we had ever thought possible.
We understand now that timeless portraiture is most often defined not by artifice or pretense but by simplicity, clarity, and honesty. The very best images evoke a sense of the effortless, while simultaneously reflecting the creative mastery of the artist behind the lens. For example, in Elliott Erwitt’s work we see an exquisite synthesis of the distinctive and the timeless; each image is born out of his intrinsic ability to convey the fleeting grace of life, and each has the capacity to resonate with countless generations. Together they speak to us of who he is and how he sees the world, and remind us that style is so more than a specific capture or habitual editing process. It runs much, much deeper than these details, and humbles us with its integrity.
Over the years of our journey, we’ve come to embrace the process. Trusting our instincts and steering clear of mainstream influences allows us to keep tapping in to new sources of inspiration and excitement about our work, while honing our ability to slog through the tough stuff and uncover the valuable lessons in difficult times keeps us from giving up or drifting off. And while it hasn’t happened overnight, this journey is slowly but surely yielding an astonishing gift - the ability to speak volumes with our work.
Voice Lessons: Draw inspiration from another passion in your life and then translate it into your craft. While looking at the work of peers can cloud your vision and give rise to comparisons and frustration, new muses and brilliant ideas are waiting to be discovered in every direction.
Take time to look through old family albums. Fall in love with the imagery of your childhood and family history.
Create your own unique photo assignments simply to get yourself shooting something different. We love photographing artists and craftspeople - not only is it refreshing, but the chance to capture them doing what they love is so inspiring.
Look back through the history of photography and admire the aspects of images that render them timeless. Stay away from trends and focus on working with the pure elements of the craft in your own individual way.
Develop confidence in your work but lose the attitude! After all, we’re just photographers - not rock stars, not rocket scientists. It’s important to remember that we have an impact on people’s lives as we work with them to capture memories and experiences, but there’s no need to let our sense of self-importance or self-righteousness get in the way of our learning.
Study the work of great artists not to imitate them, but to deepen your understanding of what style is and how it emerges uniquely from an individual’s artistic vision.
Be patient. We’ve been in business for over fifteen years and are still evolving! If we’ve learned anything it’s that finding your creative voice takes time, dedication, and a willingness to change.
ENJOY THE PROCESS. THIS IS WHAT IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT.
- AMY MCDOWELL