Forget The Labels, Let Your Vision Speak For Itself
It is important as photographers to go where our creative minds take us, be that on the sidelines of a sports arena, or a rundown country chapel. We all have a unique perspective on this world, and our photography is how we can share that. It can be really easy when we are learning photography or trying to find our creative voice to become caught up on how to classify our images, and this can be really detrimental to our creative growth – so we all need to get over it.
This isn’t just photographers of one niche either, this is a problem across the industry, we all feel this need to label our work this, or put it into that box, when in reality what we need to be doing is focusing on fine tuning our vision, and becoming the most in tune with our creative minds as we can. If you are always trying to fit yourself into a box, you are never going to learn to be creative and color outside the lines.
So, to all the photographers out there who have a hard time deciding if they are street photographers or urban geometry photographers, or environmental portrait artists vs lifestyle portrait artists, or a boudoir photographer vs an erotica photographer – quit it, just do your thing. Put your passion into your work and use that fire to create the best version of your imagery as you can, if someone asks you to define it, give them an honest answer and move on.
I am often bombarded with questions about if my work is boudoir or erotica or even porn. The truth is that it doesn’t matter what it is, I am going to keep doing me and sharing my vision no matter how it is labeled by others. But the reality is that we as photographers are all on a spectrum, be that a spectrum from boudoir to porn, or street photography to urban architecture, or epic weddings to documentary weddings. Not every shoot may fit into one box, heck, in my case images can vary on the spectrum from one minute to the next within a given shoot. Getting caught up in that, it serves no purpose other than to hold you back from obtaining your true potential in your given field or specialty.
Labels are clearly important to some degree, obviously if I started shooting headshots and called it food photography people would be really grossed out and confused. But that said, you shouldn’t let these labels rule you and limit your creative expression. Just because you call yourself one sort of photographer doesn’t mean you can’t be another kind of photographer at the same time. Label your work as accurately as you feel you can and leave it at that, no need to fuss beyond that.
Take some time to decide what you think you are, regardless of what you think other people would say – what do YOU think you are, and go with that – stay true to that. You may, like me, find yourself in this gray area between two or more different genres, with people often bickering about if you are one or the other, and that is ok. Let them think what they want, do your thing and – never – apologize for it.
The next time someone comments that one of your lifestyle portraits is actually an environmental portrait, ignore them. The next time someone critiques your street photography, shrug it off. The moment you begin to change your vision to try and fit within the boxes set for you by others, that is the moment your creative vision ceases to be your art and becomes your prison.
You need to be giving yourself the freedom to try things, to experience things, to fail. It is the only way you will learn and the only way you will be able to take your art to the next level.
So go out there today and do you, take that shot you think others wouldn’t take, find that perspective that only you can see, go forth and share your art with the world and tell anyone who has a problem with it to bugger off.
Anthony Thurston is a photographer based out of the beautiful pacific northwest. He specializes mostly in boudoir photography, but also enjoys a variety of other photography niches in his free time. Find Him On His Website.