On Style

Jackson Photo Walk: Dandelions

When I look at someone’s body of work and it tens to be too cluttered and not consistent in terms of subject matter (sunsets, photos of cats, shoes, street photos, etc) I find it quite frustrating as a viewer.

That’s Eric Kim, renowned street photographer, in his “On Consistency In Street Photography” post.

He finishes with this: “I would say embrace depth over breadth. Meaning, focus on getting really good at one thing– than being so-so in many different things.”

As a liberal arts student, being decent at a bunch of things is my bread and butter. It’s how I live my life. I like to do lots of things.

Often, though, I feel that “depth” pull. Why not just pick one thing and do that well?

Mt. Evergreen Cemetery - Drifted

The trouble is, at least in creative pursuits, it takes time to develop that style and consistency Kim calls for. More often than not, I feel like I’m still developing “my style.”

I’ve thought about the photos I made when I first got into photography, and how uninformed and uninspired they were. I just shot stuff. I went outside and around town and fired away (see the shots in this post – all from earlier work).

It all fit perfectly with that “your first 10,000 photos are crap” mentality, and it’s something that’s true. If you’re not a bit embarrassed by your earlier work, you’re probably not growing.

Morning, Jackson - Consumers Energy

I see this in other photographers I follow.

Take Arthur Chang, I photographer I recently found on Flickr. His early stuff is interesting and fun. But look at how dramatically it changes when you look at his recent photos. I mean, wow. There’s a perfect example of developing style and consistency.

I notice the same thing in my own work. Used to be, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I know more, and so my work changes.

Two Square Blocks - Pipe

And you know what? I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with that lasting forever. I’m fine with messing around, trying on different styles. Maybe I’ll find one that’s truly “me” and stick with it. Or maybe I’ll keep searching.

Thing is, I like shooting a variety of things. Portraits, still life, abandoned buildings, cars, interesting design, etc. And I love using different styles, depending on my mood. Maybe that’s what makes me a hobbyist.

Kim says, in his blog post, that life’s too short. Find a style and stick with it.

Find a style you like? Great. Want to stick with it? Awesome. Maybe someday you’ll become one of the greats.

I say, don’t let a time limit stop you from trying out everything and anything. Depending on your creative goals, you’ll be fine trying on lots of creative hats.

Follow the Thomas Hawk philosophy and shoot the dickens out of everything, everywhere, using every style, and do lots of it.

Bubble Pond

Bubble Pond, Arcadia National Park

Bubble Pond at Acadia National Park in Maine.

Just for fun, I’ve taken a bunch of my landscape photos from cross-country trips (this one on a swing through New England in 2008. Here’s the original.) and re-edited them with VSCO FIlm 03.

The trouble is that these were all taken with a Canon SD750 – a point and shoot with limited capabilities. It took great photos, but the files aren’t all that flexible. Or big.

Anyway, enjoy the full series, or buy a print

Trying Out Film

Fuji Superia

The fun part about a hobby is that you can take risks and trying things out with little to no consequence (if you don’t count time or effort).

And so, while I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, this year I’m going to try to do a bit more 35mm film photography.

I just posted my first batch of photos developed from a roll of Fuji Superia film. My local photo shop actually developed them for me last year, but it’s taken me this long to get them scanned and uploaded. I’m also working on a roll of Ilford black and white film that I’m excited about.

Fuji Superia: MacBook

All of this film stuff has me thinking about experimenting with film more. Specifically, I want to play with my Tomyko LT002 plastic toy camera. I just loaded it with some Lomography 400 speed color film (if you’re going to go toy/plastic, go all the way, right?). While poking around, doing some research on the camera, I came across some sample images – the type of dreamy photos I’ve wanted to make, just for fun.

(An aside: it’s super hard to find info on these Tomyko – or Lavec – cameras. But you can grab your own for $15 on eBay, or for $5 at a local thrift store.)

Fuji Superia 770

Also, I have collected rolls of Kodak Portra and Ektar to try out with my Pentax K1000.

To do all this, there’s a little bit of an investment involved. It takes money to develop and scan the film (though not much), but that’s to be expected with any hobby. And lord knows I know how to spend money on a hobby.

Fuji Superia 767

Taking photos with film is different almost automatically. You need some patience, and some selectivity, to make film photos.

That’s my goal for 2014: explore this measured pace. Make thoughtful images. And learn a bit about how people used to make photos.