Finding Your Voice: Day 1. Feeling.

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?

Slipstill

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:

Expansive:

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:

Zabriskie Dawn

Heaven & Earth

Heartburst

Shades of Blue

Journey

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:

Making Tracks For Home

To an implied inner journey (the path of challenging oneself and succeeding):

Climb Like a Girl

To the hush of a quieter, more private and hidden journey:

Step By Step

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.

I Hear That Train 'a Comin'

Unusual Perspectives

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!

Let's Go!

Now You:

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 ____________. 

Meditative
Quiet
Moody
Giggling with glee
Bright
Lively
In motion
Bathed in light
Shrouded in darkness
Protected
Overlooking
Looking up
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
Warm
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.

15 thoughts on “Finding Your Voice: Day 1. Feeling.

  1. There are few things I admire more than Uniqueness. It’s hard not be derivative in a world so old. (I’m not sure how old the world was/is that you came from, but this one is some what old.) But I’ll give you this Karen … there’s only only one you, without question.

    1. Ahhh Gino, big hug! Thank you; as you ARE the King of Unique-i-tude!

      The world I came from? Yeahhhh. It’s old. Really old. 😉

  2. Typo
    “Then begin translating that into what you photography, where you go to photograph, how you set up your camera, lenses, settings, etc…”

  3. Wonderful Karen – what a gift! This is so clear and relateable – thank you for giving voice to finding voice. This is a doer and a keeper I’ll say! Getting started 2day

    1. Woot! That’s a BIG compliment coming from you! Thank you – and go get ’em on the 2nd day. We know the power of VOICE!!!

  4. Karen:

    I am going to save all ten lessons in one document so I can return to it from time-to-time. I know what you have to share will be important to me and others. I want to be able to share your ideas (with appropriate attribution, of course). I too look forward to the rest of the series.

    ALSO…how did you find Daneille LaPorte? She seems to have spunk and sassiness like someone else I know! ; )

    Thanks for all that you share!

    1. Hey Jeff, that’s fantastic! That’s what I’d do… save these. It’s alot of info at one time – and even I weave in and out of the concepts as I grow, evolve or want to refresh my eyes again.

      Definitely share liberally! Thank you for attribution. The most important thing is for folks who want the information to get it.

      As for Danielle LaPorte… she’s part of the group of women entrepreneurs I follow, admire, work with or learn from in my business and life. I’ve followed Danielle for years and love her whole Desire Map dealio. She part of the whole crowd of Laura Belgray (www.talkingshrimp.com) and Marie Forleo (www.marieforleo.com) that I’ve learned so much from. I’m a big believer in cross-training! 😀

  5. Loving this karen, just what I needed! You know that thing called life kinda knocked me diwn the last few months, didn’t even see it coming.lol I have dusted off my boots ready to rock the day, I will be giggling with glee along the way, whooohoooo!

    1. Oh Yay! I’m so glad to hear it Tammy. I hear ya on the life thing. It can really punch ya in the pooch sometimes. Ugh. I’m glad to hear you got your boots dusted off and are giggling again!

      I’m also happy to hear that (so far) the info is useful. I’ve been pondering over how to encapsulate all that I’ve learned for so many years across multiple disciplines into some really simple tools that get folks off of fussing over camera settings so much and focusing on what they want to use settings FOR. It’s whole flipover of the usual approach. Not to mention the part where it allllll ties right into life itself.

  6. Cartwheels, high fives….yippeeeee….looking forward to the rest. 🙂 now to go work on my exercise. THANK YOU!!!!!! for this.

    1. Yay! I’m excited that you’re excited, Peg! It’s a long conversation, let’s see if we can get it off on the right – FUN – foot! 😀

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