I`m sure you are thinking from time to time about where are you standing with your own photography. I mean questions like “am I unique?”, “am I good enough like all the masters I admire?”, “ what should I do to improve my work?”. Or maybe you are on a certain level of your photography, and you are laying on a safe bed, satisfied, and don`t even question yourself. You just repeating style that you mastered and you are not questioning is it your voice or is it voice borrowed from Alex Webb or Daido Moriyama or some other great photographer...
little story from my past
Let me tell you a little story from my past...Long time a go when I was musician/guitarist I was in a friend's studio.His name was Snackie. He was a big fat guy with almost 130 kg, rough and tough type of guy. But he was also a guitar master who was able to play anything from Paco de Lucia to Jimi Hendrix and beyond. He had a perfect ear for composing, arranging and everything that can be done with sound. Music genius in my, and many others opinion. So, at that time, he was making his first own solo album (after years of producing music for other artists) and he hired one of the best singer from the country. Music was almost finished, so all he was needed is to record singing and make some finishing touches. So, I was sitting there in the studio and he told the singer to go to the recording room. He starts the music and the guy (with one of the best voices in the country) start to sing. And after maybe 30 sec, Snackie stop the music and says to the singer with a serious voice.
“ Look, man, don`t try to sound like David Coverdale. Try to sing like you think and feel it will go well with my music. Like it is your song…”
“Ok,” says the guy with frustrated voice ”play it again”
And Snackie starts the song again.
And after a few moments, he paused it again, and he was already a little pissed of.
“Ok”, he says to the singer “now you sound like Sting, and I don`t want my song to sound like his song, I want it to sound like MY song.
So this situation goes for about one hour, when Snackie start and stop his music, and singer is sweating in the microphone room, singing first minute of the song again and again like Tom Waits, Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel etc, etc…
And suddenly I see how Snackie is rushing to the mic room really pissed of, grabbing the singer with his big hands around the neck and yelling at him.
“Get the fuck out of my studio. You are not a singer. You are nothing. You are just like some broken jukebox.Who the fuck care that you have great vocal capabilities when you don`t have your own voice.” So the singer runs out of the studio, scared to death and with pale white face…I was happy that I`m not the singer...
You already starting to see the point of the story. So, from time to time we need to look hard and objectively our own photography and ask ourselves honestly. Are we singing our own song, or are we just copy look&style of masters we admire? It`s ok to look at their work and to pick up tricks from the composition, using colors, post processing or subject treatment... But trying to look like them, it`s completely different story. There are bands like Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, Rage Against The Machine...and there are tribute bands that usually perform in local bars and never go further from there...What kind of performer do you want to be?