It was when I lived in Paris. My friend Beate came to visit and after a long trip of sightseeing we decided to go shopping. We went from one store to the next and she bought piece by piece. At the fourth or fifths store she started searching more with me than for herself. I think that is typical for a woman when one buys something and the other doesn’t. She walked besides me looking through skirts and dresses and shirts and trousers. „What are you searching for?“ She asked me and right then without thinking and without realizing it before I answered „I don’t know, I think I lost myself, I lost my style.“ And right then in the middle of the Zara in Paris I crashed and started crying.
It is the challenge of every artist. Finding your voice, your style as an artist that makes you unique and that defines you. And as I had lost my personal style in Paris I know many people still search for their own style or for their style as an artist.
Finding a style is a hard process as it evolves over time and doesn’t happen overnight. For those of you who feel lost like I felt lost in Paris let me give you a little guidance on where to start finding your style.
Here are my three steps for finding your own style.
1. Listen to your voice only. There are so many great artists out there. Speaking for photography it can be really really overwhelming looking around and back at your own work. Train yourself to listen to your voice if something really speaks to you or if it is just pretty. Making a difference between something pretty but not your style and something that truly speaks to your heart.
2. Have a look at a classic photography book. I prever the book „Vanity Fair: The Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images„. It is my favorite photography book and you will find so many great and different artists in there. If you don’t own a book like that you could go to a library (a good library should own this book) or you could head over pinterest. I prefer this book over pinterest as this is a selection of different artists and styles and you don’t need a search term that already is a filter to what pinterest will show you.
Take a cup of your favorite tea or coffee and sit down with this book. Every picture that truly speaks to you you just add a little post it to the page and go on. Once you are through the book start looking at the images that you marked with your post-it. Do these images have something in common? Do they reflect a certain style?
Why I ask you to look at others instead of your own images? Because when you look at other images you can purely focus on light and composition. Looking at your own images you will always be judging the image because of the subject you photographed. People you like will always be a picture of the style you want to shoot where images with people you don’t like wont likely show up in your favorite top 10 images. Even if it is exactly the style of photography you want to shoot.
3. Now that you have seen so much ask yourself some questions comparing the images that got marked in the book: is it more black-and-white or more color (for me it is always more b-a-w), is it natural or flashlight , is it sunny and airy or more moody, is it a bohemian or classic look, is it more elegant or more casual, … Once you start you will find the questions. There is no right or wrong this is just a way to translate your inner voice into some real words.
After these steps look through your own images. Now you have a better image of what your gut always knew and what that little voice was always telling you. It was just so hard to listen to it. Look through them image for images and decide weather it is just a pretty image, weather you like it because of the person in the picture or weather it truly fits your style. This might take a while as we are used to fall back into our own routines and as it is so hard to look at our own images from another point of view but try it. It will be worth it and you know how to approach the next shoot to evolve your style.
That day in Paris I didn’t buy anything. Beate embraced me, we bought some French baguette and cheese and went home to my apartment. I had stopped listening to my voice. I listened and looked at the people around me and was overwhelmed by so many influences that I forgot who I was and what my style was. I started listening to my voice again and slowly recognized who I was. In those days I bought my first little black dress.
Some images of the Vanity Fair book.