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Author Topic: develop ones own style...  (Read 40866 times)
RSL
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« Reply #180 on: October 02, 2013, 08:23:48 PM »
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Lighten up, Isaac. The world's a fun place, especially when you have a camera in your hands.
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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #181 on: October 02, 2013, 10:03:01 PM »
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[...]page viii John Szarkowski[...]

[...]page v Ansel Adams[...]


An excellent post.  Citing authoritative sources to counter ill thought out opinions keeps things on track here.  Or at least it should.

The fact is, Ansel Adams did nothing in the Pictorial Style after about 1932.  That's not an opinion, it's a fact.  The opinion that he did is based on a poorly understood conceptualization of what "Pictorial" means.  It does not mean simply that it looks like a painted picture.  And this again is a problem caused by the use of personal definitions.
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amolitor
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« Reply #182 on: October 03, 2013, 05:43:09 AM »
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Isaac, I find your quotations peculiar. Do you intend them simply as additional commentary? They seem to bear no particular relation to the text of mine you quote with them. Well, that's not quite right. They're talking about style. Szarkowski seems to be treating style as subject matter together with the way it is conceived, which is an approach I can get behind, although I think it's somewhat narrow.

It's good stuff, although I tend to discount an artist's commentary on his own work a few points, for well-understood reasons, it just seems a bit tangential.
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« Reply #183 on: October 03, 2013, 05:51:23 AM »
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An excellent post.  Citing authoritative sources to counter ill thought out opinions keeps things on track here.  Or at least it should.
So what makes these sources authoritative then? Rather than ill thought out opinions?
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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #184 on: October 03, 2013, 06:11:59 AM »
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So what makes these sources authoritative then? Rather than ill thought out opinions?


Adams on what Adams was doing is authoritative, eh?  That may or may not be true of every photographer, but Adams is widely recognized not just as America's most significant photographer of the 20th century, but also as an extremely able teacher who wrote many books and was accomplished at a wide variety of instructional methods.  He is probably one of the most authoritative voices on any topic about photography, but is certainly the most authoritative about his own photography.

John  Szarkowski discussing anything to do with photographic style is authoritative, eh?  He was the Director of Photography at the NY Museum of Modern Art for three decades and is widely recognized as the most influential curator, critic, and historian of photography.  That spells "authoritative" in bold letters.

Of course, I'm sure you already knew those details, so I'm amused that you would ask a rhetorical question as if it did not have the obvious answer.

Citing those two as authoritive sources certainly trumps individuals who say that they can't even discuss photographic style using standard English, and like Humpty Dumpty from Lewis Carrol's "Alice In Wonderland" believe they can make any word mean exactly what they want it to mean, thus becoming the master even if it relegates what they say to the vast pile of meaningless words that do not communicate useful meaning or add to a discussion.
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jjj
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« Reply #185 on: October 03, 2013, 09:39:34 AM »
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Adams on what Adams was doing is authoritative, eh?  That may or may not be true of every photographer, but Adams is widely recognized not just as America's most significant photographer of the 20th century, but also as an extremely able teacher who wrote many books and was accomplished at a wide variety of instructional methods.  He is probably one of the most authoritative voices on any topic about photography, but is certainly the most authoritative about his own photography.

John  Szarkowski discussing anything to do with photographic style is authoritative, eh?  He was the Director of Photography at the NY Museum of Modern Art for three decades and is widely recognized as the most influential curator, critic, and historian of photography.  That spells "authoritative" in bold letters.

Of course, I'm sure you already knew those details, so I'm amused that you would ask a rhetorical question as if it did not have the obvious answer.
Not actually rhetorical, because earlier you argued that context of author was not important, only their views were.

If he [i.e. Isaac] does or does not provide examples of his photography it will not change the validity of his comments on style.
Now Adams only had authority because of his photography. If he had never showed anyone any photos then he would just be another 'ill thought out opinion', unless of course like say Isaac you agreed with the opinion.
Szarkowski had likewise proved himself by his work in and around photography, if he had not done that work to show again he would not be seen as authoritative.

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Citing those two as authoritive sources certainly trumps individuals who say that they can't even discuss photographic style using standard English, and like Humpty Dumpty from Lewis Carrol's "Alice In Wonderland" believe they can make any word mean exactly what they want it to mean, thus becoming the master even if it relegates what they say to the vast pile of meaningless words that do not communicate useful meaning or add to a discussion.
Yet when I say anonymous posters have less credibility than people who have a body of work or relevant experience to back up their points, you pooh-poohed that line of argument. Quite poorly as you took my saying that anonymous posters tend to be trolls as meaning identifiable people always make sense when posting, which is obviously not the case considering my posts regarding Russ's numerous daft ideas.
Isaac is simply an anonymous poster on a photography forum and there is no evidence that he even does photography. So he is the antithesis of being authoritative with regard to photography.
He is however very fond of preciseness in the use of English and sticking to the literal facts in an argument and interestingly your style of writing is curiously reminiscent of his posts. Albeit longer in length.
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« Reply #186 on: October 03, 2013, 09:58:57 AM »
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As far as I can see, "style" has absolutely nothing to do with the effectiveness of art; it's merely the personality of the artist showing through his work. Bad painters can have a "style" just as good painters can have a "style." And though a photographer's work may be very effective, when a camera is in the way, "style" goes out the window,
Only if you have no style in first place.  Tongue
There are plenty of people whose photographic work is as distinctive as artist's work with canvas. Just as there are far, far more people whose efforts are not distinct enough to be picked out whether the medium is oils or photography.

This discussion reminds me of when I was at university I did the publicity shots for Sheffield University Fringe and some friends asked me if if the photos were mine as they looked like my style of photography. Now I've photographed a lot of world class Lindy Hop dancers at Herräng Dance camp as have several other photographers since I first documented the place and it's pretty easy to tell each of the photographers apart as we each have a distinct style. Which according to you is not possible as we used a camera and weren't in a studio - though I did build a studio in the woods one year I was there.
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amolitor
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« Reply #187 on: October 03, 2013, 10:27:26 AM »
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There are two troubles with photographic styles.

The first is that when an artist DOES have a distinctive style, it is usually very easy to copy, especially in this digital era.

The second is that in this digital era, with a trillion photographs and perhaps 100 million moderately serious amateurs, any style will usually be copied by the merest statistical accident.

Copying someone's approach to mixing colors, or applying paint, or whatever, is a bit technical. A competent painter can do it, generally, but becoming a competent painter takes some real effort. You can teach a motivated teenager how to make knock-off Ansel Adams landscapes quite briskly.

Creating a style in photography is effort. Mimicking one is quite simple.
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amolitor
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« Reply #188 on: October 03, 2013, 10:30:30 AM »
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I am reasonably confident that Isaac and Floyd are not the same people. LuLa forums tend to attract somewhat bossy fellows who find themselves unable to wrap their minds around the idea that they might be in the presence of people who are as smart or smarter than they are, who have thought through some of the same issues at least as thoroughly, and who have arrived at different conclusions. These chaps are just two more, who happening to be working at about the same time.

Isaac is a bit testy and terse to the point of inscrutable, but he doesn't seem to get particularly nasty when he's backed into a corner. At any rate, I haven't ignored him.
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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #189 on: October 03, 2013, 10:41:05 AM »
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Not actually rhetorical, because earlier you argued that context of author was not important, only their views were.

What I previously talked about had only to do with posters to this forum, and specifically the credibility gained from posting images to this forum.  It was about non-authoritative opinions and had very little to do with what makes an authority an authority.  But even then your generalization is poor, given the example of John Szarkowski, which was discussed earlier and the fact that this discussion you are now referencing is about whether Ansel Adams is an authority on his own work!

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Now Adams only had authority because of his photography. If he had never showed anyone any photos then he would just be another 'ill thought out opinion',

That is not true.  If he had never shown his photographs he would still be the most authoritative voice available on his photography.  Indeed, he would be the only authoritative voice on his photography!

But it is also true that given the variety of material that Adams produced about photography he is something of an authority on photography in general totally for reasons other than the quality of his own photography.

It isn't showing a photograph, or even dozens of them that is significant.  It's being acclaimed for those photographs!  Posting two dozen images to this forum or to a website is not in the same league as having your photograph sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars at an art auction, having them on display in ever single major art museum, etc  etc.   That context, not a context of having posted images to this forum, is significant.

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unless of course like say Isaac you agreed with the opinion.
Szarkowski had likewise proved himself by his work in and around photography, if he had not done that work to show again he would not be seen as authoritative.

Szarkowski is considered authoritative due to his work at MOMA, not because of his photography.  And his photography did win enough independent acclaim to at least attract some attention, and that distances him greatly from someone merely posting their work to this forum.  Different context, and you are comparing apples with oranges.

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Yet when I say anonymous posters have less credibility than people who have a body of work or relevant experience to back up their points, you pooh-poohed that line of argument.

Because you can't support that opinion with logic, and instead try to compare the credibility gained from posting an image to a forum with having an exhibition at MOMA.  That sort of argument needs to be pooh-poohed every time.

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Isaac is simply an anonymous poster on a photography forum and there is no evidence that he even does photography. So he is the antithesis of being authoritative with regard to photography.

And in fact I can't recall anyone saying he is an authority.

The point is that his opinions are typically knowledgeable and demonstrate logical analysis of an issue.  When someone posts 10 articles in a row where that is obvious, the next one carries more weight!

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He is however very fond of preciseness in the use of English and sticking to the literal facts in an argument and interestingly your style of writing is curiously reminiscent of his posts. Albeit longer in length.

Thank you for the kinds words.  I'm sure that Isaac also appreciates that you recognize precision presentation of factual and logical information.
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jjj
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« Reply #190 on: October 03, 2013, 10:45:17 AM »
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There are two troubles with photographic styles.

The first is that when an artist DOES have a distinctive style, it is usually very easy to copy, especially in this digital era.
Depends if it's a processing look, like say Dave Hill's work which everyone tries to then mimic or if the style is to do with the content/composition which is much, much harder to copy.

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The second is that in this digital era, with a trillion photographs and perhaps 100 million moderately serious amateurs, any style will usually be copied by the merest statistical accident.
I was in the Tate Modern one day and saw on the wall, something almost identical to sketches/ideas in one of my notebooks. The work of art was from before I was born and I'd never had any knowledge of it. I'd also done work that looked a bit like Dave Hill's processing long before I'd ever heard of him or seen that type of work. Tended to avoid it after it then became a cliché.

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Copying someone's approach to mixing colors, or applying paint, or whatever, is a bit technical. A competent painter can do it, generally, but becoming a competent painter takes some real effort. You can teach a motivated teenager how to make knock-off Ansel Adams landscapes quite briskly.
Creating a style in photography is effort. Mimicking one is quite simple.
I have to say I do hate magazine articles/blog posts who write about how to copy someone's else's work. I'd say that most of the great photographers would be less admired if they were practising today as all the knock-offs would dilute the interest in their ouvre. Nowadays as soon as something interesting is found it disseminates around the entire world very quickly and then all the copycat versions start to appear.
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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #191 on: October 03, 2013, 10:47:36 AM »
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I am reasonably confident that Isaac and Floyd are not the same people. LuLa forums tend to attract somewhat bossy fellows who find themselves unable to wrap their minds around the idea that they might be in the presence of people who are as smart or smarter than they are, who have thought through some of the same issues at least as thoroughly, and who have arrived at different conclusions. These chaps are just two more, who happening to be working at about the same time.

Why do you find it necessary to post gratuitous insults?  You, as does almost everyone who tries that, have describe yourself rather well...  but it is totally extraneous to any discussion that is on  topic here.
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RSL
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« Reply #192 on: October 03, 2013, 11:38:40 AM »
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There are plenty of people whose photographic work is as distinctive as artist's work with canvas.

Name one, and explain what it is about that person's work that constitutes a "style."
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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #193 on: October 03, 2013, 12:00:25 PM »
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I have to say I do hate magazine articles/blog posts who write about how to copy someone's else's work. I'd say that most of the great photographers would be less admired if they were practising today as all the knock-offs would dilute the interest in their ouvre. Nowadays as soon as something interesting is found it disseminates around the entire world very quickly and then all the copycat versions start to appear.

First, there seems to be a mistaken thought in this thread that having a unique personal style is what anyone and everyone means by "personal style".  Second, what is wrong with copying all or part of some specific style?  Third, style is not the same as quality.  And last but not least, not much has changed in how all of this affects art, and it has been disseminating around the world for many many decades.

Picasso, in his youth was literally taught (by his father who was an art instructor) to copy the style of the masters.  In later life he very clearly was influenced by the style of other artists.  Indeed one of his most revolutionary works was clearly inspired 1) by rivalry with his collegue Henri Matisse and was an effort to outdo Matisse's latest works, 2) copied traditional Iberian style for some of the subjects and 3) copied African style for others.  It was also so revolutionary that it was roundly derided by friends who saw it, and Picasso did not publically exhibit it for several years after it was finished.  It became know as  Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

There is no real benefit to having a unique style.  A unique level of quality, yes!
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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #194 on: October 03, 2013, 12:15:01 PM »
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Name one, and explain what it is about that person's work that constitutes a "style."

Ansel Adams and Edward Weston are two that have already been discussed in detail.

Garry Winogrand and Bruce Gilden are two others.  So is Vivian Maier.  So is Cindy Sherman, and so is Andreas Gursky.

Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Alfred Eisenstaedt are three photographers whose style I have always admired very much.

I happen to like the style of a fellow by the name of Bill Hess who lives in Wasilla Alaska and has been photographing Inupiat culture here on the North Slope for a couple decades.  One of the most significant, at least from my perspective, characteristics of his work is that I repeatedly have had the experience of seeing something he did, noticing that I thought is was very good, and then realizing that it looked like his work.  Every time that happens I look for who the photographer was and discover it was indeed Bill Hess.  From my perspective the quality of his work is right up there with Lange, Even, and Eisenstaedt because he is able to impart his style into virtually everything he does.
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« Reply #195 on: October 03, 2013, 12:24:03 PM »
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That's nice, Floyd, and I like the work of most of them though I can forego Gilden, Sherman and Gursky. But you didn't try to explain what it is about any of their work that constitutes a "style." Without that, we're nowhere. "Quality of work" doesn't constitute a style.
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« Reply #196 on: October 03, 2013, 12:53:38 PM »
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I am collecting quotes for an essay I am writing up on why Adams should be considered a pictorialist. You might argue that pictorialism is a big tent that includes a bunch of smudged gum bichromate prints, but you pretty much have to allow that whatever Henry Peach Robinson said about it must also be considered pictorialism, what with him being, you know, the founder and leading practitioner and so forth. I'll share a few choice ones here, that seem particularly apropos.

Henry Peach Robinson, Pictorial Effect in Photography, this book is available free on books.google.com and is an excellent little volume. I recommend it heartily:

---

This is one of the best descriptions of Ansel Adams landscapes I've ever seen, and it was written 40ish years before he was born:

It is not open to the photographer to produce his effects by departing from the facts of nature, as has been the practice with the painter for ages; but he may use all legitimate means of presenting the story he has to tell in the most agreeable manner, and it is his imperative duty to avoid the mean, the base, and the ugly; and to aim to elevate his subject, to avoid awkward forms, and to correct the unpicturesque.

On the subject of smudgy, out of focus, blurry, messes. Arguably, the stuff that characterizes the very tail end, and what many people think of as the whole of, pictorialism.

This theory, that the details of the larger portion of the picture must be out of focus, will not bear the light of argument.

Regarding an unnamed portraitist, I think perhaps Cameron, who made some pretty blurry pictures:

[...]; it is not the mission of photography to produce smudges. [...] but photography is pre-eminently the art of definition, and when an art departs from its function it is lost.

I feel confident asserting that HPR's book essentially disavows what pictorialism became, and rather neatly describes the work Adams would do as an artist. But don't take my word for it, these quotations are certainly out of context. Read the book, if you're interested.

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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #197 on: October 04, 2013, 12:36:27 AM »
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First of all, thank you all for an excellent discussion. I wonder why many others aren't participating in it.

I'm trying to understand the importance of style. Thought I put together a few definitions:

From Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/style):
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a particular way in which something is done, created, or performed

: a particular form or design of something

: a way of behaving or of doing things

From Oxford Dictionary (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/style?q=style):
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1 a particular procedure by which something is done; a manner or way

2 a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed

3 [mass noun] elegance and sophistication

From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Style_(visual_arts)):
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In the visual arts, style is a "...distinctive manner which permits the grouping of works into related categories."[1] or "...any distinctive, and therefore recognizable, way in which an act is performed or an artifact made or ought to be performed and made."[2] It refers to the visual appearance of a work of art that relates it to other works by the same artist or one from the same period, training, location, "school", art movement or archaeological culture: "The notion of style has long been the art historian's principal mode of classifying works of art. By style he selects and shapes the history of art".[3]

Where
[1] - Fernie, Eric. Art History and its Methods: A critical anthology. London: Phaidon, 1995, p. 361. ISBN 978-0-7148-2991-3
[2] - Gombrich, 150
[3] - George Kubler summarizing the view of Meyer Schapiro (with whom he disagrees), quoted by Alpers in Lang, 138

Curiously, the Wikipedia entry does not make a single reference to style in photography. Just saying.

Trying to distill a common meaning in terms of photography, are these terms applicable?

  • Particular, distinctive, Recognizable photograph
  • Way or manner in which photography is done or created (the photograph)
  • Way in which photography is performed (the artist)
  • Appearance or design of the photograph
  • Grouping, Relation to other works, Classification of photographs

Now, since this thread began with the practical necessity of finding and developing one's own style, could we say that to develop one's own style, one should:

Be able to formulate one's way or manner of photography into distinctive but visually recognizable photographs, and perform this photography in a manner which only allows the same, so it can be grouped, in relation to other works, those of the artist or of others, for the purposes of classification?

Is that style in photography? Isn't it like saying - "let's see if we can find how he dunnit so we can a. repeat it, or b. judge it"? I can understand the need to copy a style, but to judge, shouldn't the work of art (in this case the photograph) be enough?

Which is the most important aspect of style - the manner of performing the art, the distinctiveness of it, or the classification of it? If someone wants to actively pursue style by being consciously aware of it while performing art, which of three should he or she pay the most attention to, and why?

I am a big fan of Salgado, and something from one of his interviews is interesting:

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It is a great honor for me to be compared to Henri Cartier-Bresson...But I believe there is a very big difference in the way we put ourselves inside the stories we photograph. He always strove for the decisive moment as being the most important. I always work for a group of pictures, to tell a story. If you ask which picture in a story I like most, it is impossible for me to tell you this. I don't work for an individual picture. If I must select one individual picture for a client, it is very difficult for me. - Sebastiao Salgado - Excerpts from an interview with Sebastiao Salgado by Ken Lassiter, Photographer's Forum

It was interesting to read that because it made me realize that Salgado was actively pursuing a style while photographing. He was following the definition by taking photographs (with a distinctive style), but in a manner that allowed it to be grouped in relation to his other works, for the purposes of classification (in this case a story).

On the other hand, HCB's style was more the manner in which he hunted for compositions within a photograph, in a manner that allowed him to find the right compositions, but leaving the responsibility of classification to someone else (a collection of decisive moments according to HCB?).

Which path would someone need to take to find and develop a personal style?
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« Reply #198 on: October 04, 2013, 05:20:19 AM »
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What a nice summary! Thank you.

A couple of remarks:

- while you've laid out a pretty useful notion of what a personal style might be and how to get one, I maintain that you can boil it down further. How, preceisely, does one do that thing and the answer appears, to me, to be to make a set of choices, photographic choices, and make them the same way over and over.

- the issue of "story" and "style" separate, although one may combine them if one chooses. A group of pictures may tell a story, but not shares a style, and vice versa. A shared style will bind them together visually, which may support the story-telling, but I see no reason that story demands style.
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« Reply #199 on: October 04, 2013, 11:31:15 AM »
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LuLa forums tend to attract somewhat bossy fellows who find themselves unable to wrap their minds around the idea that they might be in the presence of people who are as smart or smarter than they are, who have thought through some of the same issues at least as thoroughly, and who have arrived at different conclusions.

Is that how you choose to describe yourself?
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