Looking for my voice!

When considering a visit to view and analyse Pablo Ruiz Picasso’s work in the Museo Picasso in Malaga City, it struck me that I would find it a struggle to describe the essence of ‘my photography’ to someone, never mind thinking about dissecting Picasso’s art! I decided therefore to articulate some ideas and thoughts about developing a distinctive photographic voice or style. Becoming a photographer with a distinctive ‘voice’ is certainly an important personal goal.

With that in mind I have started to read around to help clarify my thoughts about the meaning of the term ‘personal voice’. I found an interesting web article from 2008 (http://www.naturephotographers.net/articles1208/mg1208-1.html) which discusses ‘Developing a Personal Style’. I relate to the term ‘style’ more easily than ‘voice’ because it seems more tangible to me but I do like the way the term ‘voice’ suggests that in addition to the style there is a substance – a message that says, “This is my work and this is what I am trying to say by creating it”.

I also found a book that helped me to clarify some of the ways I might become clearer about developing ‘my voice’ (Barnbaum, B. 2010, The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression Rocky Nook Inc, Santa Barbara, California). One thing that stood out for me from the book was the issue of enthusiasm when trying to understand the drivers behind developing a personal photographic ‘voice’. Barnbaum says that by understanding the types of photographs that you are enthusiastic to capture and see, you start to understand the distinctive subject areas your ‘photographic voice’ wants to talk about through your images. He says enthusiasm for a subject is an important part of your photographic ‘kit’, it also helps you to go the extra mile when searching for the best images. It is the sort of enthusiasm that makes you want to see something even if you don’t have a camera with you. An experience I have felt for example when seeing the giant redwood trees or the majesty of Yosemite Valley in California. These are places I would visit again and again, with or without a camera, just to experience them. They ‘speak’ to something in my soul in a way that I hope my photographs can one day reflect.

This idea of enthusiasm for a subject shaping your photographic ‘voice’ has helped me to start consciously noting the subjects that make me feel enthusiastic, subjects that I want to be a distinctive feature of my photographs. At this stage, there are three ideas/concepts that grab my attention; ‘Nature’, ‘Abstracts’ and ‘Relics’. This blog intends to concentrate on those three areas.

‘Nature’ signifies to me a state of harmony, variety, beauty and the interdependency of different forms of life. It could include the contradiction and emotional ugliness of the continuing life of one species being dependent upon the death of another. Landscapes and flora have a particular interest for me. So in a sense, the images in this area would cover the interplay between harmony, natural beauty and the potential harshness of the natural world.

I would label the second area as ‘Abstracts’. Images that include the different geometrical aspects of design or the impact of colours to evoke a question, an associated thought process or memory. Particularly subjects that have contrasting themes either within themselves or with their surroundings. I particularly like images where water plays a part in the designs and colours. If the image is a detail of a bigger object Ansell Adams preferred the term ‘Extracts’ rather than ‘Abstracts’ since the image is real.

The third area of interest I would call ‘Relics’. For example, the shapes and immobility found in a rusty gate or an old water wheel and their connections with a time when their location had a different function. I particularly like it when this results in a contradiction or incongruity within today’s images. For example, the geometric arch structure of the old railway viaduct in Monsal Dale in the English Peak District, once an enabler of industrial progress bringing its smoke and mechanical noise to a beautifully natural landscape – almost a corrupter of the scene – now transmuted into an integral geometric part of the scenery with its shape and natural materials adding their own contribution to the landscape.

Reflection

This post tries to capture, in a more conscious and structured way, my thoughts about the subjects and ideas that make me enthusiastic about photography. My objective is that over time, posts assigned to this category (Developing my Voice) will combine to create a stronger articulation about the nature of my personal photographic ‘voice’ or style and what I want to say through my photography.

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