All of my pictures look the same. And that’s not a bad thing.
Fair enough, they don’t look exactly the same, not always. But, like many great artists, I have developed a specific visual language which helps me explore a litany of recurring themes within my work. That’s fancy/schmancy art-speak for “I have a certain schtick that’s my go-to composition.” Basically.
It’s usually a profile of cars, trucks or other vehicles in front of buildings or other objects. You can see it in this previous blog post, and you can really see it in this set I created on my flickr page.
Again, this isn’t a bad thing. As I have said many times before, I come from a Fine Art background. I repeat that often because it is how I view most of what I do here. When I was a kid, I started drawing cars. I did this for two reasons. First, there was a magazine at the time called CARtoons, which was just that; cartoons about cars, motorcycles, vans, and other cool stuff. Artists like George Trosley, Shawn Kerri, Dave Deal and others really sparked my imagination and inspired me to take up drawing. The other reason was, if I gave cool drawings of cars to bullies, they would leave me alone. Basically.
So, I spent my childhood drawing cars, motorcycles, vans and other cool stuff. In high school, I expanded out to people. In college, I expanded out to Fine Art. And, after many years of dedication, I started to develop a style. Which is cool. You can usually tell an artists work by their style. I know my Picasso from my Pissaro, my Caravaggio from my Cassatt, even my Manet from my Monet. I can tell a Franz Klein from a Clyfford Still from a dozen paces. Why? Because they all have their own certain style.
Photographers, like artists, often develop their own style as well, but it simply isn’t as widely discussed like it is in Fine Art circles. We talk about gear more than style. We often obsess with how to get that “perfect” exposure, without thinking that sometimes “perfect” isn’t actually the right choice. Too often a photographers goal is to get all the technical details right, without capturing the substance. Or the heart.
If photographers do develop their own style, it is more often the result of circumstance rather than any artistic forethought. Maybe they only use a certain camera/lens combo that gets a specific result. Maybe they can only afford old school lenses, which often have miles more character than much newer lens, which might be razor sharp but totally lacking in soul. Maybe they only take macro pictures of summer fruit. Maybe they are just stuck on a specific Lightroom Preset that they just can’t get out of. Who knows. The point is, I don’t believe there are many photographers out there who consciously pursue their own style.
I know I have a style. My style. I do have recurring themes in my work. I do have a visual vocabulary I work from. I have ideas in my head that I want to bring into being. I see issues that I want to try to make people think about in a different way. It’s why I went into the Fine Arts instead of the Graphic Arts. I could have made a living as a Graphic Artists, I know it. But I didn’t want to make a living simply making catsup bottles look good. Yes, that’s an oversimplification of the job, but not by much.
And that’s why, partly, I think it is going to be difficult for me to ever make any money from this photography lark. I still don’t want to make catsup bottles look good.
But, if you need a picture of the profile of a car against a building, you’re damn right I’m your go to guy.