What makes something yours?

December 22, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I had a good question on my FB page yesterday (thank you Mark!)

'All your photos are recognisably yours - even if they had no watermark. Is this intentional?'

My burning-the-midnight-oil answer was: ‘The editing process is almost identical whatever the circumstances, so it's partially that (I guess that's the intentional part, I know where I want to end up with colour/saturation etc.) and part eye/gut (unconscious) - I wouldn't know where to start on making them not look like mine! I'm not overly fussed with the technical side, and probably a lot sloppier in that respect than a lot of people. If it feels right then it stays.’

Apparently I wasn’t entirely happy with this answer and my brain was mulling it over more in my sleep, because today I woke up with more to say.

Confession: I don’t have, and never have had, a favourite music photographer or a specific influence. I honestly don’t pay that much attention - I can’t, it would drive me nuts. I have seen many, many great concert photos (which I’m sure my brain has taken note of and filed away to an extent), but an early self-preservation thing when I picked up a camera was to try to avoid getting too drawn in to what other people are doing/have done. Why? Because I know myself well enough to know how easily I fall into the trap of comparing, getting negative, hitting self-destruct. ‘Not good enough’ are words that rattle around my head constantly if I let my guard down. I became a lot happier with what I was doing once I forced myself to throw away my hangups about how things ‘should’ be, stopped looking for ‘good examples’, and just started to feed my desire to do something I loved in a way that felt right to me. I stopped being afraid of not being perfect, and forced myself to trust that I was technically competent enough to not screw up too horribly on a regular basis. After all, it's supposed to be fun, not a form of torture!

I want my photos to look like my memories (which are warm, rich, colourful and occasionally fuzzy). I love to see exchanges of emotion. I want to soak up and retain as much of the feeling of a gig as possible, and I am utterly selfish about it. I want to be able to point to a picture and say ‘that’s what it felt like’. That’s what (whether the outcome is successful or not) I always carry inside. I usually favour colour over black and white.

Ultimately, if anyone asked for my advice, it would be this: Don’t take photos for other people. Do what you care about. Be present. Immerse yourself. Make something that’s yours, that feels right to you. If you believe in it, chances are that feeling will be communicated to others. Nothing is ever as satisfying or as motivating or as authentic as doing your own thing. I think that’s the key to your work becoming recognisably yours.