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4 Tips to Help You Define Your Photographic Statement and Pursue Efficiency

A gelada male photographed in Ethiopia with my 'Back to Black' style. Photo in black and white by Amar Guillen.
A gelada male photographed in Ethiopia with my 'Back to Black' style.

Reason #5 for Defining Your Photographic Statement: Pursuing Photographic Intentionality

I am sure that when you look at pictures, you try to analyze and judge them. You may be using objective criteria as I had explained in other columns.

Objectively comparing different works is one way of looking at photography. It is well suited for photo contests and/or some social networks to make editorial choices. But do you think this choice is justified when you look at the artistic activity of another photographer and compare it with your own photos? Would it not be interesting and useful for you to add the dimension of the photographer's intentionality?

I define photographic intentionality as the process that progresses towards the creation of your photographs.

For me, photographic intentionality is more important than photographic analysis or judgment.

The idea is that when you look at photos, you don't just look at the result, but you also consider the process used for their creation. You will ask yourself questions about the history or the aesthetics.

I think that judging and analyzing a series of photos by ignoring the photographic intentionality is similar to having deciphered only half of the meaning of the photos. The rest of the images lie in the dark.

Don't you find this idea attractive and interesting?

Have you ever noticed that very technically weak photos had an extraordinary impact? I won't name names of any specific artists, but I have many references in mind. I can think of photos that are blurry, badly framed, with approximate colorimetry. And yet, many experts agree that they are great. This is simply because the photographic intentionality is very strong. The photographic statement is dominant and visible.

The photographic statement comes before the work. This notion of intentionality was born in the 1970s. This fundamental movement that questions the whole of contemporary art led to what we know today as the form of performances or ephemeral art.

Finally, the resulting photo becomes only a document factor attesting an action of the photographer. The photographic statement becomes the place. By defining it for your photographic activity, you will define your own photographic intentionality.

Now perhaps you may better understand why you should define your photo approach.

Tip #1 for Defining Your Photographic Statement: Analyze the Activities of Other Photographers

When defining your photographic statement, you should not reinvent the wheel. That would be a waste of your time. Other photographers before you have asked themselves the same question. Take advantage of it! Look, read, and analyze what they did with their photographic activity.

When analyzing another photographer's activity or photo work, first study their photographic vision. It should come through in their photos. Take a piece of paper and a pencil to write down your ideas. If this photographer has published books, read them. Browse their website if they have one. Proceed in the same way for identifying their photographic signature.

This will help you understand how to define your approach.

The other advantage is that you will enrich your photographic culture.

I'm not telling you to copy other photographers either. You must be inspired by them. You will pick up ideas, values, and ways of working to improve yourself.

Never forget that real innovations are rare. They require a lot of experience and talent. Most of the time, to create, we just collect a mix of different techniques, styles, and personal preferences to arrive at something new. But the fundamentals are not really new. This is how we progress to arrive one day at real innovation with an innovative approach.

Study not only well-known photographers, but also lesser-known ones. Analyze the activity of photographers who are both inside and outside of your theme. The process of defining a photographic statement is not tied to a theme. It is an intellectual act. The important thing is to acquire the reflex.

Tip #2 for Defining Your Photographic Statement: Perfect It Over Time

Photographic time is long. It lasts a lifetime. It is not the time of a photo, a collection, or a project. It is a long process. Your goal is to one day achieve photographic excellence even if it seems impossible. But that is your goal.

It will take time to define your photographic statement. Its definition will be refined over weeks, months, and years. This concerns your photographic signature as well as your photographic vision.

This is quite normal. Since 2010, I have never stopped refining my own photographic statement. The general idea was there since the first day, but I have specified certain words and certain styles as time passed.

You will improve. You will evolve. You will no longer be satisfied with mindlessly browsing photos on social networks or in magazines.

You will gain your photographic independence. You will get better with time. This is what I've found when reading the biographies of many photographers.

This is also the path I follow on a daily basis. But just because it takes a long time doesn't mean you shouldn't start today. Every process starts with a first step. It is the most difficult to take. It is the most important. Then you must keep improving and keep moving forward. Little by little you will encounter joy and friendship. It is a rewarding experience to recognize your own growth as time passes.

You will reach nirvana when you are able to create a true photographic style. I have experienced this, and it was on that very day that I knew I had reached a real milestone.

Tip #3 for Defining Your Photographic Statement: Choose a Maximum of 3 or 4 Styles

The definition of photographic styles will allow you to create your photographic signature.

That is to say, the way you will show the world around you.

You can choose high-hey, low-key, minimalist, dreamy, ethereal, etc. You can combine styles. For example, choose high-hey minimalist, low-key in color, low-key in black and white. The combinations are numerous.

You must choose styles according to your sensitivity and your soul. But define a maximum of only 3 or 4. If you choose more, you will lose yourself in the field of creativity. The photographic styles are also safeguards that prevent you from taking the wrong path.

For me, the culmination is when you manage to define a style that is unique to you. It's a style that no one else uses. That's when you'll stand out from the crowd and become identifiable.

It will take a lot of work. You must have experimented with many techniques. But believe me, this is a moment you will never forget.

Tip #4 for Defining Your Photographic Statement: Ask Others for their Impressions

In order to define your photographic statement, I advise you to first write it down and then to select 10 photos that you will have taken. Next, choose 4 or 5 people you trust, photographers who may or may not be in your circle. Submit your text and photos to them.

Ask them for their opinions. You must explain to them that you expect oral or written comments that contain honest constructive criticism. Do not settle for good or bad feedback.

The purpose of this exercise is to see if you are on the right track. Based on their feedback, you will make the necessary adjustments. Doing this is essential. Remember, you are creating photos for yourself to express the world. But you are doing it for an audience. You have to make sure that they are listening and especially receptive. This is the application of the principle of the virtuous circle of photography.

Some comments may not be pleasant to read, listen to, or encounter. Go beyond that. You need to take the essence of the comments that will be made to you.

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When I submit collection ideas to people I trust, I take every comment seriously. I don't leave anything out. That's what keeps me going.

If you are an avid follower of social networks, you can also test your feelings on your followers. Not being a social networker at all, I won't be able to give you a method, but nothing prevents you from trying.

Although you define your photographic statement, its validation depends on the opinion of the outside world.

Finally

I hope this column will help you define your photographic statement if you haven't already done so.

It is one of the pillars of your business. If you don't define it, you will have little chance of creating interesting and meaningful photos. You will not be able to last in time. Don't forget that defining photographic statement progresses through two stages:

  • Your photographic vision.
  • Your photographic signature.

Your photographic statement will be refined over time. It is not fixed in place. It will evolve just like you. It will allow you to achieve that closeness to the photographic excellence for which we are each searching for.

I wish you a good trip.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

 

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