When someone views your art, do they know it’s yours, even without seeing your name on it? I’ve heard this standard posed as one measure of being successful as an artist. It’s been called having a style, having a voice, having a vision, but really it all comes down to the same thing – have you put a piece of yourself into the art you make, recognizable and distinguishable from everyone else out there? Are you in your art?
There’s a lot of advice floating around on how to achieve this. One piece of advice I’ve heard is to pick something and become known for it. What that thing is could take a nearly infinite number of forms. For example, you could choose to become known for a particular kind of subject matter – landscapes, portraits, documentary, whatever. Or, you could become known for a certain kind of process – printing on crazy materials, using homemade cameras, employing really obscure darkroom methods, and so on. Maybe you could become known for a unique approach – photographing only at certain locations, or certain times of day, or under particular phases of the moon.
A lot of photographers who struggle with putting themselves in their work take this kind of advice seriously. And I don’t necessarily dispute that it may be effective, but to me it seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse. I would like to think that if you simply stay true to your own vision of the world, then that vision will come through in your work, no matter what kind of work you to choose to make or how you choose to make it. I have no problem with any of the techniques I’ve described above, but using them should be in the service of your vision, not something that you impose upon it.
The image in this post, “RE/MAX Building No. 2,” is the latest in a string of architecture images I’ve been posting. Before that, I was posting a lot of landscape images. On this website, I’ve also posted several abstracts, and even a color image or two. It could be argued that these different kinds of images don’t have much in common, and that I may be diluting my work by failing to be consistent. Instead, I sincerely hope my personal vision for each piece I’ve made comes through in my body of work as a whole.