Style has no formula, but it has a secret key. It is the extension of your personality. Ernst Haas.
People think that I can teach them style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style. Mathew Arnold.
As you grow older, it dawns on you that you are yourself – that your job is not to force yourself into a style but to do what you want. Beth van Hoesen.
In photography, like in any other art media, the concept of personal style or finding your own voice is often discussed as a key process in the progression of an artist. Perhaps it is this concept of personal style what causes more anxiety to photographers, both amateur and professionals, at one point in their careers.
One of the misconceptions about personal style, and a source of angst, is assuming that personal style means that your have to create art that is significantly different from what any other artist has done before. I think this misconception is paralyzing to many artists.
How can you do something in photography that is so different from what other photographers have already created?
I think this is the wrong question to be asked.
The question we should ask ourselves is:
How can I create the photography that I like, how can I do the work that fulfills my feelings as an artist?
One of the most amazing aspects of human kind is that despite that we share more than 99.9% of our genes, our education, our interactions, our environment, allows for an infinity number of phenotypic outcomes, an infinite number of personalities, an infinite number of ways of thinking and interacting with the world. You should thank for that to the amazing plasticity of our nervous system and the prefrontal cortex, these are the biological bases for our individuality. And this is our advantage as artists, we don’t need to pretend to be different we all are already different, we all are already unique.
So here it goes my advise. Forget about being different in art, you are already different. Just focus on being you, use art and photography to express what you like, to tell what you want and do it for you, you are the audience of your work. Do photography in any way you like, in any way that pleases you, don’t do it to please the taste of others, but to satisfy your creative thinking.
Don’t focus on being different, focus on being you and you will be different.
Yes, we like to make rules in art and photography and classify visual expression with aesthetic concepts that please most of the viewers. These rules are clearly useful, in a similar way that knowing the technical basis and tricks of the craft will open possibilities for creative thinking. But remember, that the ultimate viewer of your art, the person you have to satisfy it is you. Working with the main purpose to please an audience rarely will lead to work that satisfies you and rarely will lead to work that has a significant impact in the field.
Have you ever wonder why all the covers in magazines look so similar to each other? Yes, most of these photographers are masters of the craft but the work is done to satisfy a client, and attract consumers, so at large it looks the same: technically perfect and aesthetically boring. Only the commercial photographers that are able to shoot using their own artistic preferences are the ones that raise above the crowd, the ones that become recognized as distinct, the ones that end up defining new paths in commercial photography. They achieve that status because they are focused in being themselves and their art is just an extension of their personality.
Like in any other creative activity in life (e.g. science) only very few highly talented individuals will be able to change the status quo, will be able to provide a vision and perspective that is so different from what others have created that is recognized as a breakthrough, and the artist will be identified as influencer in the field. Very few photographers have achieved that status in the history of the media. Don’t get paralyzed with this idea because there is plenty of great work that is done by the rest of 99.9% of photographers and artists, and this includes you and me.
So the challenge is not about being different but about being you. How can you do the photography that most satisfies your personal aesthetic preferences and creative feelings? I will write more about that in a future post.
(from Alain Briot)
The achievement of a personal style means following your inspiration and vision, being creative, trusting your own instincts, leaving your comfort zone and not being afraid to take chances and make your own rules.Your personal style is an extension of your personality. As such your personal style is as unique as your handwriting for example.
The mistake that many people make when it comes to personal style is thinking that they have to have a model and that this model will help them find the right way and the wrong of making art. Such a model does not exist because art has no rules. Art is whatever you want it to be.- Alain Briot
[I followed up this post with additional comments here]