Style: A distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed…
(As per Google)
To an artist/photographer, the word “style” is often very important. For me, it’s always been something I was striving toward. Not necessarily something I’d already found.
I vowed that someday someone would look at my work and exclaim: “oh! That’s Lina Forrester!” It was going to be my greatest accomplishment or something. Not the photos themselves, but the fact that they were recognizable.
Then one day I realized that, while working toward developing this “style,” I had actually started to create a theme in my work. My pictures were freelensed, black and white, and showed only tiny details. I would find small white flowers and underexpose until they were all I could see on the display. I would find quiet moments and mute them entirely.
After that, my style began to change. I wanted to try color. My work was often split-toned and full of sunlight.
After that, my work changed again. I wanted to go back to black and white, and this time I had a polarizing filter and a 50mm.
It changed again….I stopped freelensing and started shooting caves and abstract nature.
It changed again…I stopped using digital and switched to black and white film.
Recently, I became so obsessed with this menagerie of photographic identities that I stopped enjoying photography altogether. I tried to focus only on black and white and ignored potential subjects. Instead of going out on a bright sunny day and taking some color photos, I sat and twiddled my thumbs, waiting for a cloudy day to take some eerie shots of Goo in a white dress. Because that was what I wanted my “style” to be. My “theme.”
I gazed at my online portfolios, at my Society6 shop and my Fine Art America shop. They were all in black and white. There was a “theme.” I aimed to keep it that way. So much so that I became even more restrictive.
I let my creativity starve.
Finally, I took a deep breath and decided to look through some of my old color shots. And some of them are pretty decent, if I’m allowed to say so. I realized it was time to knock it off with all of this “style” nonsense and just follow my flow.
I am more than black and white
I am more than freelensing
I am more than Nature
I am more than Nikon and film and FP4 and eerie.
I am a photographer. As long as I have a camera, I have my theme.
Falling into the “style” rut is something I’m sure has plagued us all, but we can’t suffocate ourselves by trying to force ourselves down a path, simply because it seems like the better route. Most of the time the overgrown road leads somewhere brand-new. Who knows where my work might be today if I had never tried freelensing? If I had never held a Rolleiflex? If I had never gone caving for some shots of a rock wall? Who knows where I’d be today if I hadn’t been sitting around waiting…waiting…waiting…(seriously, is it going to rain ever?)
I am more than black and white.
And you are more than __________________.
So go get your medium already and follow your flow.
You feel it? Your rhythm? Your emotions? The initial reason you lifted your camera?
That is your style. It’s been there all along.