Variations on a theme

Anyone that knows me has probably noticed that over the past year-plus, I have gotten into photography in a major way. But as much as I post photos, I spend about as much time ogling the photos of more talented and able photographers. One thing I noticed is that the best photographers tend to have a very specific style – for Randy Martin, it’s a perfectly centered subject in a larger scene; for Michael Goldberg, it’s close-ups on the street using flash to illuminate his subject’s imperfections; for Nguan, it’s warmly-lit subjects lost in a moment of ennui.

I guess this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as variations on a theme are the rule in other forms of art, like music (bands have a sound that cuts across their songs/albums), movies (wes anderson), paintings (dali), etc. I want each photo to stand on its own and be considered in its own right, and I want the ability to take any photo that I think is compelling for whatever reason. But that’s not how it works; your audience (whoever that is and however many people that is) wants something familiar as well as novel and interesting. Perhaps it’s the commonality between your works establishes a common ground with your audience and without a familiar “vocabulary” they would lack the basis to appreciate the work – but I’m just speculating. 

I don’t (yet) have a style. Or at least not one that I’m aware of. Perhaps it takes time to find what you like. Perhaps it takes time to develop the skills that allow you to impose your style on the scene in front of you. I really don’t know! But it’s on my mind this morning.