Consistency, Style, and Aesthetic

On a recent Ask me Anything Post, friend and fellow photographer Jeremiah presented these questions which I felt deserved a long-winded answer!

“You have a consistent look to your work. Would you say that is due more to your preferred esthetic or a desire to have a consistent look to people observing your work?

How much does consideration of external pressure and reception impact your shooting and processing? Does it restrict your creativity and shooting process?”

Thank you. One of the greatest compliments that have begun showing up in the last few years arrive as “I can tell it is your work just by simply looking at it” which for me, is a pinnacle of what I have been wanting to achieve in style, tone and consistency since I started this photographic journey. I have many, many favorite artists from all kinds of genres with their personal developed style and approach to their work setting them apart from others is what has always intrigued me as well as inspired me. In photography, I love the work of Saul Leiter, Ernst Haaas and Fred Herzog…all of whom carry a similar style, tone and approach, but whose work remains completely different and easy to see one from the other. I marvel at this and love each of their works (they all have inspired my own).

Early on, in my own path of photography, I was looking for a common thread between tone and style that drew me into my work and I worked hard at finding a way to understand it and develop it. I fumbled a lot, searching for that piece of my personal puzzle, eventually finding it with the combination of how I approach a subject and the available light and color and then learning to work with and be consistent with it, but also being comfortable with my subject matter. Thankfully, my background in fine art has helped me to stay true and  understand this path as I often view my work as “sketches” while the actual work will be to consolidate it and present it as an exhibit where the true artistry of it all will hopefully emerge in the body of work.

 “You have a consistent look to your work. Would you say that is due more to your preferred esthetic or a desire to have a consistent look to people observing your work?”

It is without a doubt my preferred esthetic that drives me and that creates the consistency that people will observe in my work. I used to try to shoot what I thought people wanted to see and the more that I did that, the further I began to get from my own style. My work became muddy and I started to lose interest. The honesty of it was gone. Getting back to what made me “smile” everyday was the turning point and one that I try hard to protect now.

We all have this need to please the people around us. I certainly do and it was fortified by years in the hospitality industry and catering to the whim of the industry. But, when it comes to this work, I have to draw the line and stop listening to everyone around me and ultimately pursue the moments that I feel give my work the soul and purpose it needs, trusting my own story telling process. I now shoot for an esthetic and trust that my style is strongly in place and can override my own doubts, something that I continue to hope I no longer need to consider when I shoot, but also helps me to stay on my path. Of course, this is never pefect and far from an everyday truth as doubt is a constant source of aggrevation and distraction, but then a healthy surrounding of positive influence and inspiration can usually solve some of it and get me back on track. And a good sense of humor to appreciate the lessons the doubt has to teach me anyway.

 “How much does consideration of external pressure and reception impact your shooting and processing? Does it restrict your creativity and shooting process?”

I would love to say none, but that isnt true. External pressure and reception always play a part in the development process for me and again, play havoc on my ability to second guess every single impulse I have throughout the process at times. In this instance I am my own worst enemy, but this is also what keeps my style in check and I continue to groom it allowing it to grow, leading me into new territories or the stamina to work through current ones.

This is a really great question and I think cuts right to the heart of creativity for everyone. As an artist, I am always trying to find my voice and allow that voice a forum to speak. Photography has given that to me and although I pursue it with a ton of conventional means, I also still experiment and work through inspirations that haunt me and beckon me to take another look. Occasionally I show little pieces of this type of work and sometimes I do not, but if you look at my body of work, you can easily see where these will pop up and they often represent pieces of a larger body of work or sketches of an idea I am working through. Last year I started a Monochrome 365 project to help me gte back on track with consistancy with how I am seeing shapes and shadows, allowing me to further develope my tones and solidify style as well as get back to somethign that I really love, black and white imagery.  And it has worked. I am almost finsihed with the project, but I have really been enjoying the process and how it has led me to be mor ein touch with my color work. Suprise. .

Remaining curious about whatever catches my eye and leads me on a path of inspired creativity is the essence of my drives and how I might deliver my work. This is truly what I love most about living in Poland, an environment that constantly compels me being curious and having an outlet with which that I can explore these paths as they continue to inspire me.

The reception that my work has received ahs been very warm and at at times, surprising at how deeply connected people feel. Nostalgia plays a key role in my work and also the backbone to the connection of consistency found throughout and is the way that the public often identifies and feels connected to the images that I take. This is where Poland and I are alike, we are both very nostalgic and sentimental and I allow this to permeate in my work and have a freedom to explore it here that I had not experienced before.

In todays age, the importance of finding your style and understanding that “thing” that drives your work has never been more necessary, especially in photography where anyone with a smartphone can now create enjoyable images and fill a screen with color and vibrancy, but do they haunt you? What work will last through the next century and be looked back upon? What of today will inspire tomorrow and further into the future? I have adopted the phrase “Be inspired to inspire” as a way to remind myself of this and to remain curious along my own process as I often ask myself “Who am I in my work?” What makes and keeps you curious and how do you relate that to others?

As always, thank you for being here.

E

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