I thought that it would be interesting to share here a pair of exercises that I did recently and one that I have continued with that is intended to help connect you with your story, your voice and your aesthetic.
As I mentioned previously we all see the world in a unique way and as a result we all have a different and interesting story to tell. One of the difficulties is owning that and being true to what you have to say.
Many of us haven’t spent the time to explicitly say – these are the things that attract me, these are the things that repel me, these are the things that I find energizing, these are the things that I find draining, these are the places that I feel most comfortable and in these places I feel uncomfortable. Exercise 1 – go do that! Carry a notebook around with you and make notes about where you are and why you’re responding in a particular way.
If that is the first exercise then the second is to acknowledge what photographers produce work that attracts and which produce work that repels you. Broaden that to include other visual artists, to designers – furniture etc., Then ask the question why they appeal or repel? Finally how is this aesthetic captured in your work.
Taking time to do these relatively simple exercises has helped shape my thinking about what I photograph and why. I suspect it may for you too.
What do you think of when you see or hear the phrase ‘visual story-telling’? My mind immediately goes to the classic Life magazine photo-essays such as Eugene Smith’s ‘The Country Doctor‘, or the kind of article you might see in the National Geographic the Smithsonian magazine or my new favorite magazine Orion.
My reaction has also been that I don’t see the world this way, that I’m not trying to tell a story but look for things that resonate with me. That there’s no story here. In part that’s true but stories are all around us, whether we realize it or not. Any time there is a gap in our understanding we tell ourselves a story to explain it. Any time someone does something we like we tell ourselves a story. Any time someone does something that we don’t like we tell ourselves a story. The photographs that we choose to take do tell a story, whether that’s our intention or not. They tell people how we see the world.
The more we understand our own story the better placed we are to tell it to the world and the stronger this understanding the more likely that your work will be unique. My question for you then is ‘What’s your story?’