Awhile back, I wrote my most personal blog post ever. It was about a huge “AHA!” I had about experiencing my life’s work unfold before my eyes. And it continues! So many cool things in the works right now. I can’t wait to share them! They all relate to what we’re embarking upon right now.
Today, I’m beginning a 10-day series of blog posts about “Finding Your Voice”, something near and dear to my heart and soul. Whether we refer to a photographic voice, your artist’s voice, your actual/physical voice, your writer’s voice… being able to make yourself seen and heard in the way your soul wants to is life-changing. It’s life-affirming. It sets a wave in motion that creates its own gravitational force; drawing to you the things, people and experiences that make your spirit soar and make you so DAMN glad you came to this Earth. I can’t always explain how it works… only that it does. It’s been a theme throughout my life. It wove itself into the very fabric of everything I’ve ever done… in particular, teaching for 40 years.
I’ve been asked when I’m going to start teaching again. Well… how about now?
10 Days, 10 Concepts
For the next 10 days, I’m writing a daily installment in series I’m calling: “Finding Your Voice… 10 Days, 10 Concepts To Help You Find Your Photographic Voice”.
It’s not about sliders or camera settings, I’ll tell you that. Those things are by-products. This is about finding your voice in your work. For this, I’m defining “voice” as a unique point of view and way of seeing the world. For me, that has developed throughout a lifetime of experiences that encompasses horses, figure skating, dance, performing, acting, singing, voice overs, writing, bring in relationships, having my heart broken – and healed again, nearly dying – but not dying, being a child who had visions, talked to God, saw the world other-dimensionally alot of the time, couldn’t figure out what kind of hell she’d fallen into in the beginning… but grew to love this place called Earth.
You haven’t had these exact experiences; you’ve had your own. These experiences certainly don’t define Who You Are… but they have shaped the unique way you see the world. They inform what you most desire… and desire is awesome. (Danielle LaPorte will tell you why.)
Finding your voice in Photography
One of the most common questions I hear (outside of “What camera settings did you use?”) is “How do I find my style?”. I hear that as really meaning “How do I connect my heart, my soul, my most passionate vision to what comes out of my camera?”. That’s the real question… and the trick, isn’t it?
Finding your voice in anything, really, is all about learning about yourself. In good measure, it’s about discovering what you love most – and converting that into your art. In our case here, photography.
What Do You Love?
Do you love music? Do you love adventure? Being in a group? Being alone? Do you love exploring – or are you strictly a by-the-book planner? It’s good to know these things for your own personal development as a person. As an artist – it’s critical to not only know them, but to know how those things make you feel. Art is an expression. It’s emotional. It’s encompassing. If your work doesn’t make someone feel something when they see it, then what’s the point? To do that… YOU have to feel something. And it has to be specific, or it won’t embed itself into your work.
Day 1, Exercise 1
Here we go! Day 1, Exercise 1. Ponder this: “My Favorite Way to Feel Is __________” and the start filling in the blanks. Then begin translating that into what you photograph, where you go to photograph, how you set up your camera, lenses, settings, etc… and why you photograph that subject (what do you want to convey/make us feel?).
Here are a few examples to give you some ideas, using my own work:
I love to feel expansive, in awe, in love with the world around me. It’s not the ONLY thing I love to feel… but it’s definitely in the Top 10. It’s strong enough to inform a decent segment of my work:
I love the excitement, anticipation, focus, movement and beckoning feeling of a journey. For me it translates in a couple of different ways, from the literal:
To an implied inner journey (the path of challenging oneself and succeeding):
To the hush of a quieter, more private and hidden journey:
To the mystery of a journey in the abstract, where the elements are implied more than shown. I love the feeling of my imagination wanting to jump in and fill the gaps.
From the stories my mother used to read to us as children… to my acting career … to the vivid imagination I was born with… unusual perspectives have always thrilled me. Learning to see the world through another’s eyes. Telling their story – or seeing new aspect to my own. I love the feeling of altering my perception, where one moment things are as they always are… then the next, an entirely new perception sprang to life. Ah yeah, that’s an adventure! That’s where my heart goes pitter-pat!
In this photo, I kept seeing the bike as alive… eager to go, eager to be on the move. Unfettered by locks, it waited willingly for its owner, its partner in crime. Italy is known for its bikes… but this one wanted. To. MOVE! It made me laugh. It made the choice of wide angle lens, tilted a little, placing the bicycle at the edge, where the front wheel stretched added to the urgency – obvious. It created the perspective that I loved the most – and it helped me tell this very specific story.
My lifetime propensity for unusual perspectives lead me down this path. It’s what made me see this scene THIS way… it told me which lens to use, how to frame it, what to emphasize. I knew I had it right because of how it made me giggle with glee. That’s how I love to feel more than anything!
See how this works? If you start with what you love, how you most love to feel… it’ll take you down roads you may never have visited. Or if you have, you’ll see them in a whole new way.
Here are some words to get you going, in answer to the question: My favorite way to feel is ____________.
Giggling with glee
Bathed in light
Shrouded in darkness
Up early (as in, morning)
Up late (as in, night)
In the city
Near my kids (or children in general)
Low to the ground
High above everything
At the start of a journey
Cool (either temperature or attitude)
I’m just throwing out ideas here… what do YOU love? Once you find something, then identify WHY you love it so much – and see how you can convey it visually. How would you make a portrait of it? Experiment with translating it into a visual form so that we can feel it too!
Remember: the best art – and photograph – is emotional. It takes knowing yourself well to create works like that. And a very specific set of choices to make the vision clear.
Then… go in search of what you love, what makes you feel amazing – and photograph through THAT lens!
Hint: Go for the giggle of glee at the end.
Miss a day? No worries… they’re all right here:
Finding Your Voice, Part 1: My favorite way to feel.
Finding Your Voice, Part 2: My favorite time of day.
Finding Your Voice, Part 3: My favorite light.
Finding Your Voice, Part 4: My favorite texture.
Finding Your Voice, Part 5: My favorite element.
Finding Your Voice, Part 6: My favorite color.
Finding Your Voice, Part 7: My favorite movement.
Finding Your Voice, Part 8: My favorite shapes & patterns.
Finding Your Voice, Part 9: My favorite view.
Finding Your Voice, Part 10: My story.