Developing Vision and Style

Smooth and Course Boulders, Eagle River, Colorado by Jay Goodrich
Smooth and Course Boulders, Eagle River, Colorado © Jay Goodrich

Last night I picked up a book a friend loaned to me and couldn't put it down once I began to read it. That book was Developing Vision and Style by Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, and Eddie Ephraums. I am not a fast reader, if you handed me a 500 page novel it would take me about 5 years of continuous reading to actually finish it. Last night was different though, I managed to get through 60 pages in a couple of hours and not because I was skimming. I am really enthralled with this ideal in photography. I do not want my work or anyone who takes a workshop with me to just click the shutter for the sake of it. I want that click to mean something. Developing vision and style is not an easy task. It is something that a photographer will typically work their entire life to achieve and during the course of the process it will change, shift, and stall out, but hopefully grow.

While reading, I began to think about what my vision and style for photography is. I quickly came to the realization that this is not an easy task. I think that I have always had a vision. Being classically trained as an architect has pretty much forced me to define a way of seeing in my life (albeit it a Calvin and Hobbesish way). I want to show the world a concise image of the way that I see, each of the life experiences that I get to discover over the course of every year I am on this planet--in abstracts of color, texture, shapes, and movements. Simple enough right? Maybe with a little sentence run-on?

Style though, that is the tough one. After writing, re-writing, and throwing out this post, too many times to count at this point, I think that I have finally come to at least a definition of style. It is how I present my vision of the world to the world. With that in mind I guess I could say I don't necessarily want my viewer to see everything, nor do I want them to see nothing. My approach is to give you a modern simplicity that you may not have ever thought of or even seen. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.

Grass Mound in My Backyard, Eagle, Colorado by Jay Goodrich
Grass Mound in My Backyard, Eagle, Colorado © Jay Goodrich

I think the trouble with me being able to define my own style stems from the fact that I shoot many disciplines of photography. Each of these disciplines--Nature, Adventure, and Architecture have different enough meanings to me that I probably have different styles for shooting them. I do feel that most photographic concepts transcend disciplines and if you are good at photographing one thing you can be good a photographing another by following this ideal. Each of these disciplines is affected by clientele, for the other reality to living the life of a photographer is one's ability to pay his bills.

I do know that I see so many photographers copying the works of the pioneers. These photographers are putting their tripod legs in the same holes as Art Wolfe, Ansel Adams, Et al. and calling those images their own. I actually feel bad for those who take part in this type of photographic scenario. What does anyone have to gain by copying another's image? Use those pioneers as the fuel to launch your own vision. Use those masters to learn the basics and then truly decide in your head what your vision is. Light and beauty exist all over this world in some of the most unsuspecting places. Often in your own backyard.

Pine in the Vail Valley, Colorado by Jay Goodrich
Pine in the Vail Valley, Colorado © Jay Goodrich

The images that I have included in this post represent my style and vision as it would be if I were left to my own devices every single day I had a camera in hand. The reality is that the world doesn't always allow these images to occur, nor can I give every client that walks through my door this simplicity, but I do love it when I see it.

I would love to hear other peoples' thoughts. What defines your vision and style? What do you think separates these two similar but different words/ideals? And have you seen your style or vision or both change since the first day you picked up a camera?

6 Comments

    I am a new photographer, just recently made the jump from taking vacation snaps to buying my first dslr, (a Nikon D5000), and I am finding that I am so interested in so many different things, I have yet to settle on a style.

    In general, as applies to everything else in my life, I find that confining myself to, or defining myself by one style is a limitation. But maybe photography is different, and it helps you to focus if there are those definitions in place.

    What would your advice be on that? I am curious.

    My advice would be that all rules are meant to be broken and vision and style can change throughout a photographer’s career depending on where, when, how, and why that person develops as an artist. Thank you for commenting.

    Great post, love it. I always thought there’s no sense in copying someone else’s style! I’ll tell you more: I don’t think it is possible! You can copy someone’s shot, by watching it and pushing your shutter button… but this doesn’t mean you got his/her style! And why? You cannot because you haven’t got his/her vision 😉 Sure, I have to admit that after watching some exhibition sometimes I feel the need (and, yes, the desire) of taking such a beautiful shot. And sometimes I try, but I’ve never been able to. I don’t think this is why I’m not a good photographer, I think it’s just because these shots are not mine, I don’t feel them at all. But that sensation I had when I watched it, I think that’s what we call inspiration.

    And what about me? I am quite new to photography, I started approaching photography almost 2 years ago and I think I developed both my technique and my vision/style. Despite I sometimes try different kind of photography, I’m definitely a nature/landscape photographer. I don’t know what my vision and style are yet, I like high contrast and empty spaces. I know I don’t like forcing composition, I try watch scenes from different angles. That’s not so much, but when I watch the pictures I took a year ago I notice the differences. And I think this is a good thing 😉

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