Developing A Voice As A Photographer

Nine Hours Till Dawn
Camera: Zero Image 2000 Pinhole
Film: Ilford Delta 400
Location: Mallard Marsh Campground – Hosmer Lake, Oregon

I’ve been doing a great deal of reflection of late. Sifting through my collection of images created over the years, searching for unifying themes and visions. Asking myself what, if anything, defines my body of work? Have I created a recognizable style, voice, and message?

This long overdue self-assessment began with the booking of my first photography show, which opens December 2nd. The task of deciding which images to show was admittedly a bit overwhelming. While I’ve been sharing my work online for sometime now, there is a level of anonymity to posting images on sites like Flickr that feels safe. Little thought was being given to how each image I uploaded reflected on my overall body of work. It wasn’t until I was tasked with producing tangible evidence of my work, that I stepped back and attempted to define myself a photographer.

Mother Nature’s Artful Hand
Camera: Zero Image 2000 Pinhole
Film: Ilford Delta 400
Location: Cape Kiwanda State Park – Pacific City, Oregon

What I realized was I’d already started the process of building a recognizable body of work. Over the past year or so, I’ve transitioned from simply photographing everything around me, to taking a slower, selective approach to making photographs. Ideas are formulated well before film is even loaded into the camera, guiding me as I set out to create these concepts. Movement, is an example of something I actively attempt to capture in still photographs.  Blurred flurries of activity set against an an otherwise stationary landscape. Perhaps its a crowd of people navigating about a city, the artful hand of the ocean shaping the shoreline, or how the wind makes the trees dance.

Developing a voice as a photographer doesn’t happen over night of course. In fact quite often its a lifelong quest, filled with periods of success and stretches of doubt and uncertainty. Many of the concepts I wish to depict in my work, have yet to materialize either because the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet, or I’ve simply failed in my attempts. But that’s OK, because each instance builds upon the last until finally a successful photograph is created. A body of work is about more than a collection of images, its about the journey taken to create them. Even though your viewing audience only sees the finished product, not the effort behind it, that doesn’t make it any less important. Realizing this, and learning to take pride in my photographic process has helped immensely in my ability to continue to grow and develop my craft.

Brothers At The Ballpark
Camera: Zero Image 2000 Pinhole
Film: Fuji Acros 100
Location: Safeco Field – Seattle, Washington

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About jsodphotography

Seattle based film photographer. Recording light through a pinhole, Holga, and various 35mm cameras.
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26 Responses to Developing A Voice As A Photographer

  1. Jack Lowe says:

    Great honest post, Jeff — good luck with your show… JL

  2. Jack Lowe says:

    …by the way, love ‘Nine Hours ‘Til Dawn’.

  3. jesusjoglar says:

    First of all, congratulations!!!
    Seconf, you have a very important body of work as to be exhibited to the general public, not only to the “followers” like myself here or in Flickr. Your pictures of the Nature or in the breweries, for example, are two good examples of your quality as a photographer.
    Third, I wish I was there on December 2nd!!!
    Cheers!

  4. Thanks Jesús for the kind words. Flickr has helped me connect with so many other talented photographers, especially those who enjoy using pinhole cameras such as yourself. It has really helped me grow into my own over the years.

  5. kiwiskan says:

    Hope your show gives as much enjoyment to those who come as you have given to your fellow bloggers.

  6. Great post Jeff. Good luck with your show!
    I’m also looking at my work, trying to find a thread somewhere….. Nope….. I’m doing all things all the time… at the same time…. awww…
    Diversity, yeah, maybe that’s me… Rolling stone, maybe that too….
    Well, at least I’m having fun… 😉

    • Thanks for the kind words! As for themes in your own work,they are there for sure, even if your not completely focused on them 100% of the time. I believe the difference between simply taking pictures and attempting to make photographs is the thought process the person goes through before they even touch the camera. As an admirer of your work, I can see you put a great deal of thought into your images and it shows.

      All things considered, photography should be fun. We should all practice our craft for ourselves first and foremost, and then begin to consider our audience. If we are not having fun what is the point right?

      • Thank you for your kind words Jeff. Yes you’re right, if we are not having fun, that’s gonna show in our images for sure.
        Finding inspiration in others work is a great thing for me, and your blog is very very inspiring!
        Thank you! 🙂

  7. janaobscura says:

    I remember in my PCNW B&W class, the instructor told us what sets picture takers apart from photographers is their body of work. A photographer has some thread of similarity, some theme, some concept that binds the work together. It’s something that I think about constantly and I think you’ve absolutely found your voice as a photographer. I agree with everyone here in congratulating you on your December show, I am glad to be able to view your inspiring images in person. I look forward to pinholing the event ;).

  8. congrats on the show – can’t wait to hit that milestone myself. I am glad you mentioned slowing down. I also have more planned shots in my head now. Maybe because film is an expense and I want to make each shot count…

    I just spent the weekend matting over 90 photos for an upcoming fine art/craft fair and it brought me “closer” to my work, seeing it printed and not just on screen. Very rewarding experience in itself!

    • Thanks Evan, its very exciting and nerve-racking, but a milestone I’m very proud of. 90 matted prints sounds like quite the accomplishment in and of itself. Good luck at the fine/art craft fair.

  9. I’m always amazed how long it takes to develop an eye and an interesting body of work. I’ve been photographing for almost 25 years and still feel like I’m struggling! But’s it such fun trying to figure it all out. Congrats on your upcoming show. Your work is beautiful!

    • Thanks for the kind words. I agree with you that it takes quite awhile to develop ones photographic eye and a body of work. Its one of the great things about an artistic outlet, continual improvement and evolving tastes make it so what we like now, may not be what we like tomorrow.

  10. simon0252 says:

    Congratulations on your photography show. Hope to exhibit myself one day – busy building up a portfolio of work which I’ve recently started to frame. Photography has so many diverse elements it is endlessly fascinating. Hope to see some photos of your show.

    • Thanks for the kind words Simon. I’ll most likely be posting something about the show later next week. Building a portfolio is a never-ending process, but a fulfilling-one. There is something about having a print framed that is so much better than viewing the same image on the computer screen. Cheers.

  11. brilliant article, great photographs!!!

  12. endlessframe says:

    This is a great and insightful piece, on that everyone should consider. Good luck on your show!

  13. oldpugs says:

    Good Luck on your first show, how exciting! I love the nature photographs, probably because that is what I try to do. I have had some success as a photographer, but on a very limited basis, so seeing your work is inspiring. Thanks for the nice comments about my pug blog.

  14. I love it when artists talk about their work, how and why it was crafted the way it was. It’s interesting how you are drawn to show movement against stillness. Thanks for sharing.

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