The Importance of Voice

What caused to you first pick up your camera? What inspires you to keep picking it up? It will be different for everyone, and there is no right answer.

I won’t say that I was the girl who always had a camera in her hand, but I do know that I took a lot of candid photos for my high school yearbook as a staff member and editor. I also took a fair share of photos for my high school newspaper, also as staff and an editor. I certainly don’t remember the first photo I took, but I do know that I spent hours pouring over family photo albums. I can’t say what drew me to it, but a couple of years ago I discovered that my grandfather (who passed away about a decade before I was born) bought himself a camera in 1923, and my mom still has photos from it. She gave me the camera, but it was unusable being so old. Earlier this week I shipped it off to a repair shop in the hopes of renewing it and being able to use it. But I think photography has just always been in my blood.

Nikon Z6ii + Lensbaby Velvet 85 for both images

Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?

Charles Bukowski

In late college I purchased an SLR but never properly learned how to use it. I went through a couple of cameras as a young married, and by the time I had my son 15 years ago I realized that I didn’t want blurry photos of he and his older sister, so I got a proper camera and learned how to use it. So one could say that my modern inspiration is family photography, the likes of which I used to look through at my kids’ age.

And certainly that is true to some extent. I love every image I have taken of my kids and husband. But as I look back, I know that when my children were very small, I would sneak outside during their nap times (always with a monitor in hand) and find myself some nature or macro to shoot, and how much peace that brought me in those harried years.

I grew up in the country, with few neighborhood friends. We had 11 acres, and when I would get bored, I’d tell my mom I was going out to “roam around.” We had fields and orchards and woods, and there were always bits of nature to explore. I know my love of nature photography, and my early days of macro, hearken back to that simple life, of exploring on my own, and discovering plants and streams and spiders (yes, I was the kid who would bring my mom daddy long legs that I had found).

Yashica Mat 124 + Ilford HP5+

My own work today still references that idyllic world. Even when we visit Manhattan, I am always finding the plants.

Nikon F100 + Portra 400 for both images

It is often hard to find anything original on Instagram these days; people hope to become the “next big thing” and often emulate the photographers who are currently the It Girl. There is nothing wrong with this, and copying other work is often beneficial for growth, in shooting ways that you might not currently, and that mimicking can help you learn new skills. But when you can set aside what is popular, and focus on what you want to create, your work will become so much stronger. And ironically, the It Girls of photography are popular because not only is their work very strong, but also because it is original and unique to their own artistic Voice. When we all try to photograph the same way, with the same props, all of our work gets diluted and none of it stands out.

I have a pdf put together with some exercises to help you find and refine your voice. You can find it linked below.

Nikon F100 + Kodak Gold 200


Follow along with my Project 52 in 2023

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