Awhile back, I was told by a photography agent that she liked my work, but the editing and subject matter seemed a little scattered; she recommended making my style more cohesive in order to draw in the right kind of clients and representation. She was incredibly gracious, and I took her advice to heart, immediately culling my portfolio and sorting through my favorite photos to see if I could discover any sort of trend in my style to hone in on; some characteristic that made my photos mine. I wasn't able to find one.
Photography is an art form, and I've never considered myself to be an artist. As a kid, I double-triple-sucked at drawing and painting. Try as I might, I couldn't make my hands do what my brain imagined; it was all squiggly features and disproportionate shapes. Instead, I drew with words, creating elaborate stories and lists, character descriptions and plot lines. I listened to music and drank in lyrics, rewriting them in notebooks and on my AOL Instant Messenger profile. I don't remember ever caring much about the visual. I don't recall being moved by photographs or any kind of art that you can hang on a wall. I am not one of those "I received my first camera at the age of ten and from that moment on I knew what I wanted to do with my life" kind of people. I have no idea how I ended up being a photographer.
But here I am, taking photos, making some money off of some of them, and trying to figure out what my "brand" is. Because in this day and age, it's all about the brand. Isn't that what everyone is doing on social media, whether or not it's business-related? We're all crafting a portrayal of ourselves that we want others to see. We do it on Facebook because that's just what you do on Facebook, and we do it for our creative businesses because that's apparently the only way to get hired.
I'm still a little iffy on committing to just one brand, though. Maybe that's because I didn't take any business classes in college, or maybe it's because I don't want to have to put myself in a box. If it was a box that could grow exponentially or change colors, that'd be awesome. Or maybe if it was like...Mary Poppin's bag of tricks, or something. But one box? What if I change my mind (which, based on past experience, is inevitable)?
As a result, I've spent a lot of time trying out other peoples' boxes. My writing shifts, along with my photography styles, as I discover new subjects and editing methods and kinds of prose that I find to be the most attractive in that particular moment. I think we all do this to some degree; nothing is completely original, after all, and it's part of the growth process. But because I started this whole creative journey so late in life (I know, I'm only 27 - almost 28, eek - but you know what I mean), this whole growth process is a bit belated. And I'm doing it all in a very public space, thanks to the internet.
I'm at a point where I'm wondering if I'll ever settle into myself, or if, because the concept of myself shifts so often, I'll be forever switching it up. I don't think there would be anything wrong with that, necessarily, but I'm not sure what that means for the business part of my photography business. It'd be nice to go back a few years, declutter my brain, and start from scratch; ignore the internet and really commit to finding my own style. Maybe I would have already found it if I hadn't been spending so much time focusing on everyone else's.
I also wonder if not having a particular vision or aesthetic means that I'm not a "true artist", whatever the hell that even means. Why can't scattered be my aesthetic? Why do I have to focus on just one thing?
Maybe it can be, and maybe I don't have to. These are the conclusions I'm coming to.
What I know right now is this: I love photography. I love composing a shot, taking a picture, and then going home and editing it to look exactly how I want it to look. I love capturing moments and scenes that make my heart swell with happiness and awe. Taking the perfect picture is like dumping the perfect flavor combination of Skittles into your hand. Delicious. And colorful. And when Skittles scatter, they're just as beautiful as they were when they were piled together (I really like Skittles). The restrictions we put on ourselves (okay, the restrictions I put on myself) are ridiculous. Time to let those restrictions go and let those my photos scatter. Hopefully they'll still be just as beautiful.