Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finding my Identity

As I look at other people's portfolios I bounce between being moved and impressed to being overwhelmed or over-stimulated.  There is so much material, particularly on Model Mayhem, that it's hard to take it all in.  Also, I found that it's a bit of a temptation to give in to the temptation to mimic what others are doing, or pursue an approach that will get my photos added to the most lists, get the most comments, or the most views.

But I can see that this is not going to keep me on the path to becoming an artist.  I realize I have to serve only myself in what I create.  Yeah, that sounds selfish, but it's the only way to create something that is a true expression.  In the end, it does not matter if somebody else likes it, comments on it, or adds it to their list.  If I generate an image with that in mind, I am searching outside of myself.  That will not provide any satisfaction to me, and it will not offer anything to others of any significance. 

As I take increasing numbers of portraits, and work with larger numbers of subjects, I am learning the importance of discovering my own identity.  Just like a model has to develop her own look, I as a photographer have to develop my own style.  While I can learn from others about things like lighting, poses, wardrobe, etc., I have to unleash myself from such learnings and be willing to experiment with my own ideas.  I'm excited about having that insight, because I presently have the advantage of having fairly limited experience.

I have to confess that when I first started taking female portraiture, I often thought about what would be "sexy" as I considered a theme or pose.  But very quickly I noticed that for myself, even what was sexy was most often not the most revealing shot.  Now when I look at shots I've taken, I have a completely different idea of what is "sexy".  In fact, I would not choose that word as the most fitting word.  It's more like I want to create a sense of desire on the part of the viewer.  Desire to want more from the model.  Often I find this is achieved through the eyes and the facial expression of the model.  To this point, I can think of contrasting experiences with models who know how to use their facial expression (especially their eyes), and those who do not.  When I think of the most rewarding photoshoot experiences, it is of the models who know how to make love to the camera through their eyes.  When that happens, it is a transforming experience.

I recently came back from a trip to Thailand.  During that trip I brought some gear with me, and was fortunate enough to host six different photoshoots with five different models.  The suitability and skill level of the models against what I was trying to accomplish was strikingly diverse.  I suppose it would be a mistake to go into much detail about what was missing with some of the models, so I won't go into that here.  But as I look back on the one model that stood above the others, I realize that there was something about who she is beyond the exterior that made that photographic session so special.  She helped me to get a better understanding of who I am as a photographer, as well.

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