I was browsing one of the photography Reddits today and I have noticed a lot of topics about personal style. People are asking other people if their style is clearly visible or how do you get to have a style and such. I did a lot of reflecting in the past on what style is and if I should have one or not and if it is important or not to have one well defined. This subject appears to be extremely important for beginners in a certain domain of art, in this particular case, photography.
When it comes to my questions of style back when I was a n00b, I was never able to get a satisfactory answer from anyone, because, really, I think that the accomplished artists are not really interested in spending time dissecting the nature of their own style. Actual expression takes priority. And if they do care a lot of their style, well, probably they are not really accomplished yet or it is a marketing issue (trying to provide a certain type of work for a certain type of clients).
I have a friend who is always processing his photos in exactly the same way because he thinks that is his style and he must maintain it, or else hell will break loose. Unfortunately the only thing that he does is limiting himself from acquiring more knowledge. That is not a style, it is just one single crafting recipe. Following only that is literally the death of his inner artist. And it pains me. Took me 2 years to convince him to try something else, to expand his reach a bit. Hopefully he will continue doing it.
A personal imprint is personal. If you force yourself in any way to have a style, than it is not going to be your style. It is either yours or not. You have to let it come, not force it in. Since it is an expression off the inner self, it requires time and a lot of self exploration. On top of that, in order to get to the point where you have a style, I think you really need to know your art. Your technique and knowledge has to be advanced enough to feel like a second nature. The style is the result of deep exploration, of going beyond the comfort zone trying to discover the true artistic self. You are a “master”. And only a master can truly say – “I have a style (for now)”. Just like in Karate-Do where you can only talk about style after 15 years and the 5th Dan, when you finally feel that you have some sort of understanding of the fighting technique AND the psychology and the philosophy of it.
Style in photography is not only about post-processing. It is about everything from the way you see the subject, the way you see the light, the way you use the camera, the way you use the pen, the way you perceive the world around you, the way you communicate with people to the way you process the photos! That is why style is something usually unique because is nothing else but a reflection of your true personality of your feelings, dreams and aspirations. Your style is inside you, hidden, not outside and it takes a tremendous amount of work and a lot of reflection time to get it to come out to be visible in your work. And when it will, you will know it. Some people are able to go through this process faster, some slower because of all kind of reasons which are rarely genetic.
I don’t care about my style anymore because I think it is unimportant. Working oftentimes as a professional I have learned that providing technically flawless work is much more important than desperately trying to express yourself in a unique way. And if sometime in the future my style will be “something”, it will be great. Until then I only care about acquiring knowledge about the profession, art and my inner self and also enjoy the process altogether as much as I can.
For me it was and it is always about the road, which in itself is usually the reward at the end of the trip.
I have attached a few photos to this post which will hopefully help me prove my point.