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.