For quite some time now I have struggled with trying to find my “identity” in photography. When I say identity, I mean, the style, or the subject(s) that define my style of photography. Being that my style has varied over time, and my subjects rarely stay the same, I found myself getting frustrated that I hadn’t yet found my niche. I mean, how do others seem to find it so effortlessly? There are many photographers that are known strictly for their style. So when you see their picture, you know instantly, exactly who shot it. So why couldn’t I find mine?
When I first started doing mobile photography, I tried to edit my pictures to be unique. I felt that since I was living in Seattle at the time, there was nothing there that was really calling my name. Since I couldn’t find any subjects that I loved to shoot, I decided to just over-edit all of my pictures. I was intrigued with architectural photography though, but Seattle really isn’t known for their architecture. I loved certain NYC street photographers and the shots they could snag of the people walking the streets there, but Seattle rains so much that hardly anyone is ever out just walking the streets. So there went two ideas down the drain. And of course, the pictures of abandonment I’ve tried to shoot. I had been inspired by folks on Instagram to shoot abandoned places, but again, Seattle literally has almost next to no abandoned places. When something goes abandoned in Seattle, it quite easily will be demolished within the week because the real estate is worth so much there. So… Crap. Now what? It had been over a year living in Seattle and I had tried to shoot anything and everything I could, never once finding that “one thing” that could define me as a photographer. So what did I do? I blamed Seattle. It had to be Seattle’s fault that I hadn’t found my “thing” yet. So I moved to Denver. And sure Denver has some cool architecture, and yes, people walk the streets here… But why wasn’t I going crazy and shooting everything I saw? That’s a great question. And it’s been bothering me for quite awhile too.
I looked back on my year with Instagram. I looked at all the different styles and techniques that I’ve used. I looked at my very colorful, “overgrungified” (as one person called it) style I used at the beginning. I went back and looked at all the black and white shots I did; even the shots where I would only use Hipstamatic with black and white film. Then there were the shots where I started posting “real photography” with my DSLR. That turned out to be more of a headache than it was worth though; with people arguing about whether or not a DSLR shot should even be posted. Nonetheless, none of those styles seemed to really capture what it is that I love about photography.
I vented about this one night to my good pal, Mr. Brad Puet. He didn’t seem to be all that empathetic, or even all that sympathetic. I thought maybe he just didn’t understand what I was talking about since he had nailed down his street photography so well. As far as I’m concerned, he is the standard when it comes to street photography. He didn’t have my issue; he had already found his identity. But as I continued to vent, he quickly, and when I say quickly, I mean, QUICKLY responded to me. He stated that the thing that I had always done so well was gave people a history lesson, or even just the story of my shot. He brought up the Nirvana series I had done. He reminded me of the short trips I took all over Seattle (all being paid while on the company clock I should add) finding the Kurt Cobain landmarks. I would shoot them and then do some research on the locations and share them with the people on Instagram. In all honesty, I really did give people a history lesson with that series. Because I know I was learning too. As BP continued to talk about it, I remembered how much I had enjoyed doing that series. It was fun for me to learn about these legendary places. And it was even more fun to write it all out and share these little tidbits of information with other people. After Brad was done talking to me about it, I kind of sat on the couch silent. I realized that Brad had actually just solved my question. I didn’t go to Brad expecting an answer. I was just venting to him. Never did I think that he was going to actually give me the answer I had been looking for. But he did, and I’m incredibly thankful for him and his quick answer. It’s funny, because he acted like he and everyone else had known all along, and I was just the last to find out.
Brad gave me my answer, but now what? In the last couple of weeks I’ve started returning back to my “storytelling” or my “history lesson” as some have called it. And it has been really fun. But not fun enough. I can’t put everything down in Instagram that I want to say. And quite frequently, I just get tired of writing everything on the iPhone’s Notepad. I know I know… I could just type it out and email it to myself, but I don’t, ok? But more specifically, it’s dumb that I can only fit so many words in a comment, and then have to put at the bottom, “(cont’d on next comment)”; because in case you haven’t been able to tell at this point, I can ramble quite a bit when I’m typing. So I thought of an answer. It’s not really all that original because hundreds of thousands of people do it every day. They blog. And so shall I. You see every day on Instagram, people creating series for their shots. Here’s my trip to Mexico, so here’s my shots spread out, 2 a day for the next 3 weeks. Or, here’s an abandoned building, stay tuned tomorrow for what the inside looks like! Oooh! I can’t wait (go ahead; pick up on the sarcasm I was just laying down). I can say that, because I’ve been guilty of doing crap like that. I remember back when people would show you their vacation photos, and you would look for something sharp in the room so you could slit your wrists. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to share your vacation photos, please do so. It’s just funny to me how the attitude towards other people’s vacation photos has changed so much in the last 5-10 years with the invention of social media. I have no intentions of going back to doing things in the way that I, and most everyone else does things on Instagram. I don’t want to be consumed with likes, and followers, and the horrid, ghost followers. I just want to share the experience, not my edit, or my half-assed attempt at “real photography.” I want to approach my photography in a photo-journalistic kind of way. I just want to take the shots as I see fit, and post the majority of my shots with the stories that go with them here at Juxt, not Instagram. I’m not quitting Instagram, I just won’t be posting my stories and history there anymore. So if you’ve enjoyed reading the things that I’ve been writing about randomly over the past year, hopefully you’ll be willing to come over here to continue reading about my interesting adventures. If not, don’t worry, my feelings won’t be hurt.
For me, this was revolutionary finding my “identity.” If you’re reading this, and you’re looking for your identity too; maybe talk to a friend, they may have more insight on you and your style than you think they do.