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Friday, 14 January 2011

Comments

Wow. Exactly my thoughts. Is that why I love to read T.O.P.?

This post strikes a chord with me and I think it is leading me closer to figuring out some things about my photographic goals.

The difference between commercial/professional photography and art photography has takes center stage at a lot of debates I have about photography. I realized years ago that commercial work, and commercial-looking work, is simply not interesting to me.

To me, an amateur (or, to use a term I seem to loathe, "hobbyist") photographer imitating a professional or commercial photographer just seems... hollow. Pros do it because they get paid to do it. Commercial photography looks the way it does because it promotes, it sells things, it appeals to denominators of various commonality. If you're doing it and not getting paid, then... well, what?

If you imitate art photography, and get past technique, then you are an art photographer. Selling, galleries, all that is irrelevant. You're using photography to explore something beyond photography. The world you explore seems vast and limitless. To me. I suppose I should put on the standard Mike Johnston disclaimer that photography is many things to many people and I shouldn't begrudge anyone their particular flavor of photographic pursuit. But this is helping me understand myself a little better.

Mike always makes me think. Sometimes until my head hurts.

The history of photography as an art form fascinates me, not least because of the vivid personalities and conflicts that are part of the tale. Ansel Adams and Edward Steichen famously loathed each other, and they represented very different approaches. Adams certainly had a consistent style, settling on traditional gelatin silver prints with a 'look' that evolved over time toward greater drama. He considered himself an artist, and did commercial work with evident lack of enthusiasm to support his art. Steichen tried almost everything, from platinum to gum to gelatin silver to dye transfer, and did fashion & commercial work with obvious gusto. Hard to say whether Steichen had a 'signature style', because he did so many different kinds of work. But he certainly seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.

Folks seem to worry about how they can develop a personal style to their photography, some secret gumbo of techique and processing that holds the key to their own signature look. Alain Briot wrote a whole book on the subject. But it's really very simple. Do what you like. Photograph a subject you find irresistibly fascinating, challenging or beautiful. Photograph it as well as you can, craft the best possible file or print, until you really love the final result. Keep at it until you have a body of consistently good stuff. Presto! You now have a personal style.

Mike, could you comment about artists whose vision grew out of their choice of technique versus artists who settled on a technique because it best suited their vision. Sort of chicken-egg question. Just curious.

The photography that I love and care about is art photography, especially that which relates to the human condition. My pretty/cool/awful to human condition ratio is way out of balance.

Some extraordinary photographers defy this categorization. Paul Strand, one of my favorites, is one. His work spanned 60 years or so, and morphed continuously in terms of genre as well as presentation format (print, film, books). And, like others during his time, his style passed from Pictorialism to more Modernist in nature. Even that, though, is oversimplification. I won't attempt to detail the changes; that's been covered elsewhere. Here's but one brief overview for some not familiar with his path...http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pstd/hd_pstd.htm

Strand isn't alone, however. Andre Kertesz is another whose life took many turns, and whose work changed along the way. And there are others. One common aspect to these great photographers is that their work was mature and fantastic at every stage; it didn't just incubate and grow into one ultimate path. Some, like Sheeler, even worked in two mediums - photography and painting - along the journey.

For me, the ability to span diverse subject matter and presentation style over time is not common; and to do it all at the highest level is special. Perhaps some current photographers will ultimately follow this path. Or, maybe those days are over, and the new breed needs some 'hook' to brand their work and develop a sales strategy. I hope their are still some creative geniuses out there who beat to their own drum.


okay, I give... which is which? Maybe the AD should be credited. Is it the catch light, the crop -- what holds the content, what is the presentation, other than the personage-ality of the sitter?

Selling your "book" is easier when it is consistent enough for the AD to project what your next shot will look like.

Great article, I'm hoping to get into Macro and food photography.

I guess the technique is often shaped by the tools and resources available (camera, lens, developer, printer). Each tool brings with it its' own relative strengths (and weaknesses) which would likely draw the photographer towards a technical sweet spot.

That clarifys a lot. Thank-you

Mike, you make an interesting point and I agree, sort of, especially where editorial photography is concerned.

However I have reservations regarding advertising. It really depends on the agency, client and the specificity of the brief. Often it's the agency's vision, not so much the photographer's, that sells the proposal to the client. The photographer's skill is in applying their knowledge to deliver that vision.

It's really hard (for instance) to spot which car ads are done by which photographers, but they are no less talented or professional for all that. in fact, delivering to a brief is a skill in it's own right.

True and in my opinion incredibly sad. I just saw the William Eggleston exhibition at LACMA and there is still a good deal of variety in his work. Now, when you look at which new artists get exhibited, it is almost monotonously boring what curators consider a coherent body of work. No offense to Martin Schoeller, but when you compare his head shots to the portraits of August Sander, they look like passport photos in comparison.

If recognition is what you are after, you only need to wear the same clothes every day—a bright pink polyester jump suit should do it.

I touched on the subject of recognition as a goal in a 2007 blog post:
http://originalrefrigeratorart.blogspot.com/2007/12/without-notice.html

Personally, I find it very sad watching friends do the same thing over and over and over because that is what they believe—their dealer tells them so—the buyers want. Better to work on an assembly line, where you [traditionally] have health care and retirement.

For joy and personal enrichment, make pictures, words, music—whatever, on your own, and to please yourself.

Thanks Mike, I can now let go of that nagging feeling I should learn about using flash!

I wonder if that's what my problem is?...for the last two or three months, I've been gradually loosing interest in photography altogether and today, these days, I have almost no spark, no interest whatsoever. My darkroom sits idle and looking more and more like a big closet and this is all really disconcerting as he**! I thought it would never happen to me!

Then, a couple days ago you stick up this photo of a really nice (Chamonix?) view camera and I think about the really nice (Shen Hao) 4x5 I bought about, oh, 4 - 5 months ago, along with all the accoutrement for prints from 4x5 negs (which are really wonderful to look at BTW). At the time I was thinking that moving into that format would give my photography a big boost, would be the BIG BREAK in my STYLE that would move me on to the next level and so forth and so on. I love the big negatives! I love printing with them in the darkroom! I DO NOT LOVE setting up that oh-so conspicuous camera anywhere in public and enduring the scrutiny of the curious. "Is that a REAL camera?" or "Isn't that about 100 years old?" and so forth. I am a long time Leica shooter and this is the antithesis of the descreet way of shooting and moving that has been my STYE for so long.

I just read and re-read your item about technique and when I was just about ready to start adding up what I could get on the 'Bay for all my stuff, you get me thinking that maybe I know what the problem is after all!

Wanna buy a nice 4X5 field camera and some lenses??

Nicely said. Much the same is true of equipment...

Completely changing technique/style is sometimes a pure economical choice. When you write "Consistency is memorable", you're pointing to the reason. Having such a strong recognizable 'signature' may be a double-edged sword in the magazines world. It surely can make your work memorable, but it can also make it too memorable when it comes to style. Which means that a particular technique translated into a style/signature will have a shelf life that may be shorten by ADs and other art buyers when they get tired of recognizing from 15 feet away who shot the picture gracing the cover of a magazine. That will certainly be a push to find a 'different' photographer. So "Consistency is memorable, variety is not" may apply to the art world, but for the commercial one, branding may get boring after a while, when a photographer keeps repeating himself.

Also sprach Michael.

I subscribe to every single word you wrote.

Cheers,
Marino
:)

Wait, after all these years avoiding it, you tell me I'm doing the wrong thing, and that I'm supposed to get into a rut?

Darn! Kind of too late now.

Fascinating. A bedeviling thing about photographers is the black-box phenomenon, the mystery, of how they attain their styles. Admirers can easily find out how Mark Twain worked to achieve his distinctive sound (he transplanted Shakespeare to the southern US), or how Churchill communicated (he wrote in Psalm style, mimicking a biblical king). But photographers seem inarticulate on this matter of style. How do Greenberg, Levitt, Maier, arrive at their visual signatures? Was it some anxiety of influence in relation to a master? Is it by total accident? I just read Meyer Schapiro on Robert Bergman and I still have no idea of what made Bergman Bergman. I wish writers on photography sought answers to these questions rather than asking, what cameras do you use?

Well put, though certain to generate outrage from those who know better :)

As a perpetual student in all things I acknowledge the point you are making but think that some of the art I like best is to be found in the photographs of those photographers, tiring of the technique they've applied all their career, who now apply their vision (and not necessarily their technique) to something new.

I'm not disagreeing, just suggesting that mastering a technique, while a requirement in producing quality, may not be the only way to produce art.

This is of course a very good point, in fact an advice given to all contemplating a career in serious photography. But when one asks what was the consistent technique we see in HCB (beyond the superficial leica and 50mm in bw), I am not sure I know. Perhaps I can see that in Alex Webb--he consistently embraces complexity, and by contrast HCB's clinical simplicity. There are eminent exceptions of these for both, but let me shut up and hear how Mike and possibly others bear on this.

I'm conflicted on this and also wonder if you are confusing style with technique. For example, Ed Burtynsky has maintained a constant message and a fairly constant style over his career and yet his technique had evolved as technology has evolved (film to digital). The same goes for Steve McCurry. His style leaps off the page, but his technique has had to evolve over time.

And then I think of some examples from music. The Beatles evolved their technique and style over the years and their audience grew with them. They moved from 4 track studio recordings to 24 track with extensive overdubbing. The guitars and amps changed. George picked up the sitar. The style moved from straight-up club rock'n roll covers to the psychedelic.

Artists have to grow. Technique must adapt to technology. Style evolves with maturity and skill. Curiosity drives artists to adopt new media and new styles. Think of Picasso!

I partially hear what you are saying. New artists must have a certain consistency of style and technique to find their audience. They should also have a message that they are trying to impart. However, I don't agree that artists should cling to their original style and technique and refuse to grow over time. That would lead to stagnation.

I sometimes read about people doing things like street photography (Of strangers! That they don't know!) and I envy them for doing something I can't do well. I try to remember to focus on what I enjoy, and not worry that I'm missing out on other styles of work. Easy enough to do when I've got a camera in hand, but it gets harder when I see pictures that I really admire but could never take myself.

On the other hand, working on a new technique can be a lot of fun. I got a wide-angle zoom for Christmas (a very generous gift from my father), and it has been a tremendously enjoyable departure from the wide-normal-to-short-tele primes that I've most used previously. Perhaps, in the end, it will just drive me back into the loving arms of my 40 mm-e pancake, or perhaps it will become my main tool; it'll be fun to find out either way.

On a different note, has there ever been a great fine art photographer whose signature technique has been changing techniques all the time? I don't know of one, but my knowledge of photographic history is far from encyclopedic.

Mike,
thank you. I feel confirmed by this well-formulated statement. I was pretty sure of myself - I thought - but judging from the measure in which your words make me feel more secure about my own way in photography, I could still use some support. Thanks again for that.

Few people ever thought painting/drawing were "one" thing. There are all kinds of people using pencils, pens and paintbrushes -- children with coloring books, architects, newspaper illustrators, map-makers, engineers, and fine artists, among others. Whistler learned to draw at West Point, because drawing was considered a necessary skill for military officers.

But somehow, even though photography is used in all those different ways, photography has often been thought of as one thing -- skilled use of a camera and ancillary equipment. It's the reason we have the word, "Gearhead." It's as if the object in painting were not the painting produced, but the use of the brush.

And that's one problem with (as an example) all the photographic "artists" who try to shoot like Ansel Adams. Adams himself used a variety of cameras, but his vision, as expressed in his photos, is very identifiable. What his imitators are doing is not developing a personal technique that will best express a personal vision, but rather applying a known technique to a scene. So you can go stand in a particular parking area looking over the lake at the Grand Tetons at sunset, and find 30 photographers there, with expensive cameras, including large format machines, all taking the same shot at the same time...applying a technique to a scene. If you've got a truck and a camera, and a "Velvia" setting on your DSLR, you too can do it.

http://www.wildnatureimages.com/Grand-Teton-National-Park-Photos.htm

And when they're done, they don't get back Adams, or art, they get back postcards that they could have much more easily bought at the nearby tourist kiosk.

JC

Excellent points all, Mike. In the pre-www days when competent 'professionals' were harder to find, 'generalists' ruled due to their mastery of multiplicity in problem-solving.

As 'good photos' became more and more common, 'specialists' became the norm as a way of making work memorable in the minds of clients.

And now that 'everyone' is capable of creating 'good photos' using one technique or another, the term 'professional' becomes important once more for the depth-of-experience this designation brings to a project, and to the client's ultimate peace of mind.

Amen.

Apropos of finding a signature style, and sticking with it:

"Inspiration is for amateurs."
- Chuck Close

Reminds me of advice given to me as a younger guitar player: "Learn all the theory you can, practice and develop your technique, then forget it all and play."

Hmmmm - random thoughts:

- Of the 16 photographers you mention, I recognize the names of five, and could say I have a sense of the work of three. It's only as a result of the serendipitous viewing at BFA mentioned below and Ctein's presence on TOP that I can say I have some idea of the work of more than one of them.

Being a photographer does not necessarily mean being interested in the work of most other photographers. Making photographic images and enjoying viewing them are two separate things.

Mike has what sounds to me like hundreds of feet of books by and about photographers and their images. I have two feet of those. I clicked a digital shutter 5679 times in 2010, plus a handful of film images. Many hundreds of those images pleased me a great deal. I made a photobook of 100 of my own images. It greatly pleased me and many friends and family. There are as many ways to enjoy photography as there are people with cameras. All are valid.

- Many artists deeply fear becoming "mature", and consider it equivalent to becoming dead.

- Having a 'signature' style/technique may well be useful for commercial purposes. It can be commercial death, as well. Think Van Gogh.

I also know of artists who have felt trapped and stultified by the commercial success of a style that no longer fulfills them artistically, but keeps a roof over their family fills their bellies.

- As an amateur who need only please himself, I regularly try new techniques, looks, etc., sometimes as a matter of intent, sometimes as a result of an accident that spurs experimentation.

I would suggest that for at least some photographers, even experimentation that doesn't "go anywhere" very far, artistically and/or commercially, can reinvent, revitalize a core style that has become stale, or stale feeling.

- Having recently gone through the Avedon exhibit at the Boston Fine Arts Museum, I suggest that he he changed technique and style several times. He didn't just do one thing his whole career, with a time out for the portraits.

"And from there, it's on to the real work of hunting down the pictures and saying what you want to say."

Oh boy, I really like that sentence! I'm going to print it out and tape it to the front of my monitor.

"Wait, after all these years avoiding it, you tell me I'm doing the wrong thing, and that I'm supposed to get into a rut? Darn!"

No...again, I'm only talking about technique here, and what I'm suggesting is that you only need to learn what you need.

Mike

Mike,
I wholeheartedly agree with your post. I'm currently a 22 year old art school student at a UC university and have been assisting in Los Angeles for the past 4 years. All the photographers I've worked with, some of whom are extremely well known in the industry, have always said the same thing: create your own style and consistently go with it. That is not to say you ought to stagnate in your own style until you're sick of it yourself, but rather to improve and modify your style until it is YOU. One of the photographers, who I'll just name J, once told me that magazines always hire the experienced photographer because their portfolio shows a consistency that the magazine is after. They won't hire a jack of all trades because there's no security in it. He may be able to create an image that suits the magazine, but then again he may not (due to the varying images in his portfolio).

Unfortunately for me I'm somewhat going the round about way. I assist and intern for all these photographers in an attempt to find a way to create a new style of portraiture by learning as much as I can. Each time I assist a new photographer, I'm able to reach one step closer to the distinct style I want to create for myself.

-Dan

In a book on writing I once read something to the effect that, technique is what you deliberately do, but style is what you can't help doing.

If you could figure out what your inherent style is, you could concentrate on learning the techniques that help express it.

"But when one asks what was the consistent technique we see in HCB (beyond the superficial leica and 50mm in bw), I am not sure I know."

Animesh,
You just named it. He used a 35mm Leica with a 50mm lens and fast B&W film, and took available-light pictures printed out to the clear frame edge, and he let other people edit his contacts and print his pictures. That's it. Maybe strayed just a bit here and there (he carried a 35mm and a 90mm lens too and very occasionally took a picture with one or the other), but that's the technique. He stayed remarkably loyal to that technique his entire career. His style, artistic concerns, way of seeing, and subject matter are different topics.

Mike

Interesting post. It seems that it almost takes someone else to describe your particular style. I have been shooting professionally for 14 years and I'm assuming that I have some sort of a style to the images I take when viewed en mass as a body of work, but I have no idea what it is? (This may support the idea that a professional photographer is less apt to be stylistically defined as an art photographer.)

"I clicked a digital shutter 5679 times in 2010, plus a handful of film images. Many hundreds of those images pleased me a great deal. I made a photobook of 100 of my own images. It greatly pleased me and many friends and family. There are as many ways to enjoy photography as there are people with cameras."

Moose,
Fine, but that's not the topic here.

You have your technique too; maybe you just don't realize you do. I'm sure I could rattle off a number of techniques off the top of my head that you'd have no knowledge of. Can do flash filtering? Cyanotype? Focus trapping? Pre-flashing B&W film? Make an object cast a colored shadow on a white background? All I'm saying here is that you don't NEED to know every technique. You just need to master the one(s) that allows you to do the work YOU want to do. Which it sounds like you have.

Mike

but that's the technique. He stayed remarkably loyal to that technique his entire career. His style, artistic concerns, way of seeing, and subject matter are different topics.

Now I get it!
Will

As I look at it, style is how you see the world, it is your vision. Technique is all about making the equipment you have achieve that vision. If you look at the studio work of David Bailey you see a unifying style, high contrast images against a white background. He achieved this look with large format, medium format and 35mm. He even experimented with subminature formats.

Sometimes there is a simple reason for that "look". Tim Page when asked why he chose to work in colour famously said he did it because he got paid more for colour. William Albert allard was a black and white photographer until he went to work for Nation Geographic. The constraints of working in colour using slow films created his signature look.

For many years I studied a classical Japanese martial art. I desperately wanted to be like my teacher. After 10-12 years I realised that there was no way I was going to achieve his style as I was considerably taller, heavier, less agile and had a different temperament. The penny dropped and I realised that I needed to make the techniques work for me not me trying to be him. My practice considerably improved after that.

Hmmm... Getting here late.

Your article feels good, like a well-fit glove, Mike. But I think I would sculpt the argument a bit differently for the general public.

I would alternatively suggest that folks become second-nature comfortable with their tools and not let style dictate vision.

Keeping a camera long enough to learn it well enough to get it out of one's way is absolutely fundamental. Yet, as we see from your survey, most folks have been using their cameras two years or less. When you consider that most members of this same group are mainly weekend hobbyists, that doesn't amount to much flight time to make that camera a second-nature tool.

But what about that whole "consistency" thesis; is it really good advice? For hobbyists, probably not. Vocational photographers need to establish consistent visual styles essentially to productize themselves. The overwhelming majority of celebrated photographers from the 20th century earned their livings as commercial photographers, hence they developed their "looks" to help them become successfully distinctive.

Hobbyists should experiment, now more than ever. Knock yourselves out. Look, most amateurs have no real intentions to become rich and famous with a camera. Few people see their photos outside of their circles of friends and families. The primary motivation for pressing the button for hobbyists is to have fun in a creative, legal, and respectable pastime. Following the footprints that you think famous photographers of 60 years ago followed is as nutty as wearing a wristband imprinted with "What Would HCB Shoot?"

So I say to hell with developing a dogmatic "consistent style" if you're just trying to enjoy yourself and impress your friends. If you pursue photography long enough (few do) you'll eventually settle into comfy ruts anyway.

I do, however, recommend restraint when changing cameras. New gear probably represents the greatest setback to photographic progress.

I once had a mentor tell me that learning photographic technique is like learning to shift gears in a car with a standard transmission, at first one is always conscious of what gear one is supposed to be in while driving, after a while it becomes second nature as you automatically shift into the right gear, at this point you can point your "car" in what ever direction you desire and let your creative eye explore the world around you.

"I clicked a digital shutter 5679 times in 2010, plus a handful of film images. Many hundreds of those images pleased me a great deal. I made a photobook of 100 of my own images. It greatly pleased me and many friends and family. There are as many ways to enjoy photography as there are people with cameras. All are valid."

This is pretty much what I've tried to say in a very muddled way in my last couple of posts here. The clicking shutters during the hunt for the pictures is what it's about, for me. Thanks Moose and Mike.

OK, like Will, now I get it!
Thanks Mike! :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

It's definitely much easier to find a voice when sticking with one main technique. Different tecniques; different languages. So, people will get confused if you switch language after every sentence. Of course, you might wish to confuse people for experimenting purposes, just as long as you're aware of the signals you're sending out.

Mike, the more I look for examples which support or refute this view, the more polemical wrinkles appear. It's really a fascinating topic for discussion.

I found this rather thought provoking article as I was searching for references on the Dusseldorf School and thought it provided an additional and interesting slant on the subject.

The author is David Byrne, founding member and song writer of Talking Heads fame and a published artist and photographer in his own right.

http://journal.davidbyrne.com/2010/05/052910-arts-n-crafts.html

Specifically this extract was quite thought provoking and certainly has a ring of truth to it.

“Jan Dibbets and other “conceptual” artists in Europe — who in the late ’60s and early ’70s established that photos were a medium that could be used and accepted as fine art, and one did not have to be a skilled craftsperson in the art of photography or in printing to successfully communicate in that way. The photography was in service to something else — an idea, emotion or concept”.

I would be fascinated to know what you and other commentators here think about that and the article as a whole.

To what extent is photography seen as an artform, and to what extent does it remain a craft? Can craftsmanship actually get in the way of art or does one require mastery of the craft in order to become an artist?

His example of a punk band is an interesting illustration. Compare a punk guitarist to an orchestral violinist and you have the two extremes. I think these also exist to a large extent in photography.

It's not always about how you say it, but what you have to say.

Regards
Steve

I do not want to be a professional photographer. Got one job that can feed my family and get my sons to colleges hopefully. Really do not want another one.

But as a hobby running around different technique (and old camera) is enjoyable. My objective is just to appreciate more good artists work. Or at least I can read the commentary of their own work and sort of understand it. These artist dedicate quite a lot of their life on it and shall deserve it. I only spend relative small amount and based on looking on some art I know (Chinese calligraphy), there is no way to be on that level. Hence, I do not think I shall and even can imitate.

But I still really think that it is good for learning by copying a bit (but move on). You experiment and the journey for exploration is quite enjoyable as a hobbyist.

May have to wait to pass this stage or never pass it in my life. But nice to know "that" in the trip.

The best part about enjoying any art is the opportunity to wander around inside someone else's head.
If the artist has progressed past worrying about technique you get right to the good stuff without stumbling over lots of instruction manuals.

And is our measure of success here purely economic, and fame? Personally I enjoy pursuing images in any way I feel like it at the moment, and feel success if I get a warm glowy feeling from the result. When I show it to friends, loved ones, and the public, if a few people respond positively, honestly, then that is success. Sure, economically you need to use the same lights in the same way so THey want You. At least until THEY are done with You. Then what.

I've watched a number of well known photographers, artists and commercial shooters, wonder what to do next when THEY no longer want THEM. The style, a la technique, they so identified themselves with is no longer in fashion, and they wonder how do I put on a new style to get it all back. Rough spot to be in believe you me.

i think mr castner's featured remarks are pretty astute. i will add two observations: first, i am always a bit surprised when i hear about people mastering a technique. i am pretty good at a number of (photographic, and a few other) things, but i don't stop improving or stop learning about them. perhaps that's just me, but i kinda doubt it. i wonder how many of the people i consider masters of photography themselves feel like they have the craft down cold and can forget it. (no doubt, most such /do/ have a superb level of technical skill in what they need and use, but that doesn't have to mean they've stopped learning more, or paying attention to what they might change--even if they stay within the bounds of a given technical preserve.)

second, there are certain ways of being a photographic artist which don't fit your learn-one-technique-and-get-on-with-it approach very well; documentary and street photography come to mind. i think James Nachtwey is one good example; his work is amazing, yet spans quite a range of techniques, from film to digital, color to bw, wide angle, normal and longer, prints presented as virtual panoramas, etc. one gets the impression that he has a considerable technical skill and knowledge toolkit to draw on, from which he chooses whatever the subject demands, and also that he actively seeks out new techniques for capture and presentation, both.

now perhaps documentary photography isn't the sort of art you had in mind, but to me it is a particularly central field of photography, and even though his work is remarkable for the degree to which the artist involved steps aside and lets the subject dominate, i think he's unquestionably one of the greatest photographic artists ever. perhaps one would want to say that his core technique has more to do with relating to his subjects than operating the camera, but i think that's disingenuous, since he uses the cameras so expertly.

nachtwey is of course exceptional, and probably wouldn't himself be all that comfortable being made an example of a photographic artist, per se. (i don't know.) but other examples come fairly easily to mind; as mentioned, have a look at avedon's autobiographical book, and you see work ranging from 8x10 studio, 8x10 in the field, medium format, and even 35mm leicas, if i remember correctly--deployed for static subjects and whirling dancers, formal posers and candids. or take salgado; his best known work is much more consistently stylized than nachtwey's, yet still he worked with a wide variety of equipment, leicas, 6x7, digital slr, and i think digital medium format now too.

it seems to me that these are people who have a vision of something they want to accomplish, and are happy to search continuously for whatever new technical means may help them achieve that vision.

the relatively recent (?) expectation in the gallery/museum racket that a worthy/bankable artist will deliver a technically distinctive product seems kind of out of touch with--in structurally predictable ways--the basic phenomenology of photography, which is that it provides a way of fixing what you can see. lately, that doesn't seem to be enough for the art world.

I always thought style was a mistake you can repeat.

But don't ask me. About the only constant in my work is that my admirers can fit together comfortably in a phone booth.

your "style" is your voice, and technique is what gives you the frame... search for what you are trying to say, about yourself and your view of things...not some visual hope of what you want to be. aesthetics are temporary, but a voice is truth.

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