It’s something I’ve talked about before, this idea that what makes a photograph unique and art-worthy isn’t the setting, the subject or really anything but the photographer who took the photograph. We have all been places that many other photographers have stood, and we’ve all taken photographs of the same or similar subjects using similar compositions. With billions of photographs in existence, it’s difficult to avoid creating something that hasn’t already been done in similar fashion. And this is the biggest reason why photography, in the end, really is about the photographer.
When you dig a little deeper into this idea, it becomes clear that photography is really just a way of projecting something of yourself on the world. Let’s use the example of a state park to illustrate this. State parks are incredibly popular destinations for photographers because they offer a huge variety of photographic opportunities. Even at smaller parks, you could probably spend an entire day and still not find half the photos to be taken. And the truly large ones could take weeks to cover. On top of that, doubtless dozens if not hundreds of photographers have been there before you.
But each of them likely took photos of different things. One may have visited specifically for the waterfalls, so those were the images he created to show the world. Another may have walked right past those waterfalls in favor of interesting rock formations—that’s the vision of the state park that this particular photographer wants to show the world. A third might be irritated to find garbage thrown along the trail, so he creates images of litter to bring attention to this issue, while a fourth documents the birds to be found here, a fifth photographs the trees, and a sixth takes pictures of flowers.
All of these photographers are all at the same state park, but because their worldviews, experiences, and interests all differ, they take photographs of different things and in different ways. Even photographers taking photographs of the same waterfalls will approach it from different angles, use different settings, and so on. That’s what makes photography interesting. No two photographers will approach a subject or location in the exact same way. What we create is a product of our own imagining, and thus, it’s as unique as our fingerprints.
So in that sense, it’s kind of like looking in a mirror. Your photographs will always be a reflection of your unique perspective. The challenge, then, becomes to refine that perspective. To find the things you want to say and the things you want to show the world, and then bring them to life in a way that is relatable enough to capture the imagination of the viewer. And this means that you need to hone your skills, your style, and your creative expression in order to truly reflect the unique vision you have to offer.