Last year, I spent about 3 months studying the styles and techniques of various other photographers whose work I came across online. My objective was to enrich my knowledge of photography, and in so doing develop my own style. What I achieved was further from my goal than I would have desired.
In the three months of learning on how to improve things like tonality in my black and white photographs and developing a better understanding of my editing software, my photography prints improved – visually. Indeed they were more eye catching and stunning but slowly I noticed that my photography did not look anything like what I had started off with. These improvements on my photography did more than improve they radically changed it to the point it was unrecognisable. Sure, they had this great magazine appeal but I didn’t feel the deep, emotional, timeless connection to them any more. My photographs were no longer my own. Instead, they were those of the authors who had mastered those techniques I had picked up along the way. I had become a human photocopier. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it is bad to learn the styles of other photographers; I am saying it is bad when you don’t move past that and make elements of the style your own – i.e. change it so that the photograph expresses your vision.
After going through that funk for three months I saw an anime series where one of the characters was an artist. Whenever she did a piece she went almost into a trance. She was in her own zone – “Listening to the beat of her own drum.” Suddenly, I realized what I had forgotten. I had completely pushed a side the very essence of my style of photography. I had forgotten to listen to that little voice inside of me that drew me to a scene.
So here is a little tip for the New Year’s resolution. March to the beat of your own drum.