On Finding Style

I’ve been enjoying A.B. Watson’s website and his strong points of view on photographic vision. This essay at the Leica Camera Blog puts it very strongly, emphasizing consistency in process, camera, lens and workflow. Watson’s work has a very strong style in what he chooses to present on the website and on Instagram.

It’s interesting that Watson works as a professional photographer doing product shots, fashion shots and who knows what else. He doesn’t really talk about it and the web is pretty clear of identifiable professional work. It’s the inverse of many professional photographers out promoting their commercial work with their identifiable style with some personal projects thrown in.

I’m fortunate to never have had to support myself with photography. It’s simply a creative outlet for me. I learned a long time ago to simply point my camera at anything that looked interesting visually. Over the years I’ve developed a habit of seeing pattern and structure in what I think of as “small landscapes”, like the curb and bag in the image here. My photography developed in tandem with my career in science which early on featured a lot of light microscopy. So I was shooting through the microscope to document my observations for publication and fortunate to have a darkroom at my disposal right through the advent of usable DSLRs.

My work as a photo-microscopist clearly pushed my style toward seeking sharpness in my subjects, valuing image quality very highly. I’ve learned to use out of focus areas in my images, but most of them demonstrate sharpness and detail that keeps them as a very real reflection of the visual reality that presented itself to the camera.

My Flickr Photostream dates back to 2005 and provides a visual history of my work. For a long time I was really taken by color, producing images that to my eye now look oversaturated and overcooked. It was sometime around 2010 that I returned to my monochrome image roots and became more cinematic in my choice of lighting and rendering. I know that Vincent Versace’s Welcome to Oz was published a bit before that, but I remember seeing it in the bookstore and thinking it looked crazy complicated. So it probably was around 2010 that I worked my way through the chapters one by one, followed by Oz to Kansas in 2012.

Many times over the years I’ve worried that this photographic vision was too limited. You can my little ventures into street photography and scenics on Flickr. I prove I can do it, but feel less affinity with the images. They’re me pretending to be those other photographers. The essence of personal vision is following that deep connection to the images as expression. I may not really have much to say, but the images are mine.

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