I'll be honest, I'm not much of a fashion hound, I'm not even a fashion golden retreiver. I generally wear pretty boring clothes, hate shopping, and get a bit angry when people say things like, "Oh, blue is in this season". Oh really? And who exactly decided that blue is in this season?
Over the past year, I've fallen into a groove with my portraits. They've started to feel a cohesive set to me, and also, I think, somewhat recognizable as having been taken by me. Some of it has to do with my framing, and the focal length lenses I like to use, and of course my post-processing. And some have said that I'm able to cultivate a certain kind of portrait from my subjects, though that sounds a little new-age for my liking.
As a general rule I think all of this is a positive thing, because it makes my work more recognizable and perhaps memorable, which will hopefully lead to the all important, more work. But I'm not sure if the groove is not just as much of a trap. I mean, I 'think' that this look was organic and just came about, which would be a good thing, but did I subconsciencely choose for it to happen because I felt the look of my portraits was too scattered. And then the question remain, is having "a look" in the first place really a good thing?
There are many portrait photographers who's works is quickly recognizable. Annie Lebovitz has a look, Platon definately has a look, Seliger to a certain extent, Greenfield-Sanders most certainly. I once told a big-dog I know that I was scared of getting pidgeon-holed to which they replied something like, "It's better to be pidgeon-holed and working than not". Which is a good point; None of the above photographers seems to be for want of work.
Then of course there is the issue of what's cool, as what's cool is what sells. And I'm pretty sure my pictures are not cool. Last year I entered in a competition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and while a couple of my images made it to the last round of 150 out of about 6000, none of them were selected for the show. Of the images that were, some were absolutely gorgeous, and others, in my opinion, absolutely god-awful. Most of the stuff I didn't like was of the flat light, dirty, seemingly poor person with a blank look on their face kind of stuff which I think was in vogue last year. Most of the stuff I did like was dramatically lit and looked like a painting. Which is good because my images tend toward more dramatic lighting and painterly look.
The thing is, that I don't like to be comfortable. In fact, I'm uncomfortable being comfortable if that makes any sense. So while with one foot I feel like I'm hitting my stride, with the other I question greatly the path the stride is taking. Maybe it's just fear of regret, or of screwing up, or of becoming static. I'll admit that I'm at my best when I'm changing, when I'm dynamic.
I talked all this over with my friends Craig, Lisa, and Mary Beth. A typographer, a photographer, and a writer. Basically the conclusion we came to is that you may need to make certain concessions of stability to the commercial gods, so they know what they're going to get when they hire you, which is fine as long as you continue to grow on the side. And not in a every once in a while I mess around way, but rather all the time. The trick on this balancing act is to not teeter too far toward either side.
So basically I need to come with some ways to expand my creative horizons a bit, so if anyone is in the NYC area, wants to take some pictures, and will allow me the time to experiment: Let me know.