Here’s a challenge for all the photographers out there, myself included: look through the most recent photos in your portfolio and ask yourself: “are these photos the product of my unique artistic vision or could any photographer have done this?” I’m not exactly speaking to the rampant copycat-ism that plagues the photography industry currently: the copied locations, copied compositions, and copied processing styles. Though those factors play a role in what I’m talking about. Instead, what I’m noticing more and more is a lack of unique vision in the photographic world today. When I look at an photographer’s portfolio online I find that more often than not I don’t see any unique imagery that speaks to who that person is as an artist. I see lots of beautiful pictures, but few that truly represent that individual’s view of the world. Has photography really become that interchangeable from person to person? Or are we becoming less willing to step outside the accepted norm of photography in pursuit of likes and thumbs-ups? Whatever the reason, I’m disappointed that so often if you take away the name from the online gallery of “Joe Schmoe Photography” you simply cannot tell who took the photos. When you listen to a new song on the radio you can often tell immediately who the artist is without hearing the DJ announce it. Why? Because great artists have a unique style that is identifiably theirs. And even if another artist covers the same song, the style is different, the approach is different, and the result is unique. Why don’t we have the same in photography? Instead it seems like we have a race to be as similar as possible.
I’m not saying I’m impervious to this, and I have my fair share of generic landscape imagery in my portfolio. But more and more I strive to represent the natural world through my own personal experience. My goal is to have a portfolio of images totally unique to me. Photos that only I could have taken, and that no one else ever will take. Not because I’m a better photographer than anyone else, but only because those photos are the product of my individual approach to image making, to experiencing the world, and to the way I like to share those experiences with others.
So again, I repeat my challenge to myself and to you: look at your portfolio. Does it represent you and only you? Or does your portfolio got lost in a sea of non-personal expression? When others look at your work will they say, “that’s a photo that only you could have taken.”? I hope so, and I hope you’ll join me in that pursuit.
Chime in with your thoughts in the comments!