Originality been the holy grail of photography that many of us have chased. Yet, like happiness, love and money, it’s not something we can chase and acquire. If we chase hapiness, we will never be happy. More than likely we will end up in some sort of a rehab program. Similarly, if we chase originality we will never be original.
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity said that, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
So our best bet is to shoot in a a manner that leaves origionality its by-product. That manner is to find our intent and vision for each picture and then take a picture that best represents our intent and vision.
Let photographs be our language. Tell our story through our photographs. If we do that, we will be able to look back at our portfolio in time and realised that we have been original without ever striving for it.
In writing you can not take another writer’s story, republish it with different character names and hope to be original. Yet in photography, I see so many photographers that take photographs with all too familiar compositions with all too familiar subjects in all too familiar settings.
If you don’t know what I am saying, think of the last time you saw a cliche photo of a sunset with seascape in the foreground (I’ve been guilty of this). Or long exposure photo of a wharf, converted to black and white in post processing (I’ve been guilty of this one too).
We are not only photographers but artists. And I believe that art is only art when it has something of you in it. So let’s make sure that is the case.
Someone once asked Bill Gates how to make money and his response was to make your own money. Don’t try to make money like Bill Gates has made it. That money has already been made.
Same is true of photography. Do not take other people’s photographs. Those photographs have already been taken.
World does not need another Michael Kenna. His photos have already been made. World needs your art. It needs your voice and your story in your own photographs. Take your own pictures. Have a portfolio that is proudly, authentically, vulnerably yet unapologetically you.
Then as C.S. Lewis said, we would have become original without having noticed it.