Finding Your Voice in Photography

In my most recent newsletter, I wrote about how I’m starting to find my voice for my newsletter.

What about your voice for your photography? For your writing? For everything in your life?

As creative people, finding your voice and style is critical to your happiness and success as an artist. The magnitude of those two will be different for every one of us, but to be happy for its own sake is quite the measure of success.

Why am I even writing about voice and style? Simple, too often we just mimic and do what countless other people do. We like to conform because it’s the safest and easiest thing to do.

We wear the same clothes, we listen to the same music, we become homogenized consumers, exactly what the corporations want.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

What if I were to tell you that finding your voice and style will be one of the hardest creative journeys you’ll ever undertake. It will be one where you question every crossroad, every twist, and every turn.

Would you still want to take it? Or would you just follow the crowd? These are hard questions to follow and every creative person I know struggles with this.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

A few weeks ago I went with my daughter to National Portfolio Day in the City to get some feedback on her current art portfolio. She wants to become an animator and game designer and wanted to know what work she should show for upcoming college admissions.

It was quite a dichotomy of people. Parents, like me, dressed in the most common clothes. We looked all normal, figuring out what lines to get on for what colleges. Doing the parent thing, interested and invested in our children’s future.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

My daughter waited with me and we talked. At first, she was nervous talking to various faculty of a college but then she found *her voice.* She spoke with so many creative men and women and instantly knew if a particular college was right for her. I was so proud of her.

Then she turned to me and said, “there are so many artists here, Dad. I’ve never been in a place with so many artists at one time. It’s cool!”

I looked around and saw young men and women dressed in different fashions. Some wild, some demure. Some dressed to kill and others to make a statement. Some with piercings and others just plain.

When I saw them open their portfolios I was amazed. One prospective student made elaborate masks. Another student painted these most gorgeous paintings. Another student wore clothing she made which she modeled for a fashion school.

There were so many young people with emerging voices and styles that it was inspiring!

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What sets these students apart from you and me? The one simple thing, they’re working. They’re making art. They’re creating.

Finding your voice and style feels a lot like a Zen Koan. The only way to find it is to work toward finding it. It requires you to look, copy, experiment, and strip away the societal and cultural expectations that have been placed on you since birth.

The students, they’re young. They haven’t had too much shit to deal with like you and me. They can strip away those layers easier and get to the core of who they are.

We can too but it requires work and a lot of it. The days you don’t want to take out your camera and shoot is precisely the day *you should.* You need to keep working on good days and bad days. You need to push through.

It’s ok to stumble and fall, I do all the time, but you need to keep working to find your voice and your style.

You owe it to yourself. Why? Because that is your truth, it’s who you are, and that is a wonderful thing.


The poem in this post is from Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

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