Creating something original photography isn’t easy, especially in today’s world, where we have more photographers than ever. That doesn’t mean that photographers cannot attempt to develop a project that goes against the grain of what we see. Yet, I see so many photographers unprepared to take risks, choosing to remain in a comfort zone that only limits their capabilities.
As the Arts & Culture Editor of The Phoblographer, I’m sent numerous photography projects on a daily basis. Many of them are either not suitable for us or offer nothing the photography world hasn’t seen before. It’s alarming how many photographers seem to feel copying and pasting what’s popular will guarantee them success. Either that or they’re just lazy and not willing to think outside the box.
Recently on Twitter, I saw a photographer do a “huge NFT drop.” Gripped by the headline, lured in by the hype, I checked what NFTs were on offer. To my disappointment, it was a series of strangers drinking coffee in the front window of a coffee shop. How many times have we seen that? Furthermore, this photographer asked for anything between $500 to $2600 (1ETH) to own this digital asset of said stranger drinking coffee in the window of a coffee shop.
I see a lot of photographers like this on the internet. In my opinion, it’s a “share and hope mentality.” Photographers today are begging for people to pay attention to them rather than demanding.
Demanding People Pay Attention to Your Photography
By demanding, I mean creating work that leaves people no other option than to pay attention. Think of the works of Hideka Tonomura, a Japanese photographer famous for documenting her mother’s affair. After years of living under her abusive husband’s control–to the point it nearly killed her–Tonomura’s mother broke free and began to live another life. This new life made her feel seen, heard, and happy. It takes a lot of courage for both a photographer and subject to document such a story, especially when the relationship is as close as it can get, between mother and daughter.
Maybe a less extreme (but still perfect) example is the work of Tarryn Goldman, who we featured on the site last year. She developed a series of images that looked like oil paintings–she did it without Photoshop, proving what you can do with your camera, the proper lighting, and unlimited creative vision.
Questions to Ask About Your Photography
I think photographers would benefit from asking themselves a handful of questions before starting or sharing an image or series of images, especially if they’re looking to earn money from it or get the work published.
- Why does this world need to see this?
- Has another photographer done this work before?
- What am I doing differently from similar photographers?
- How can I create work that will remain relevant for decades to come?
- Why should people pay for this?
Solid answers to solid questions should help to get your mind thinking about creating something meaningful and different. Of course, there’s no guarantee that risks will pay off. The more left-field you go with your creations, the more chance you have of it going straight over people’s heads. However, if you continue to make original photography, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get your work to click. You won’t be a sheep but an innovator of the creative photography world.
I appreciate how difficult it is to make original photography. Not only does it require a lot of thought, it requires a lot of courage to put yourself outside of the safety bubble of trends and the like.
For those who genuinely want success in the industry and desire longevity and legacy, ask yourself what you need to do to achieve it. Is it simply to copy and paste, or is it to create something that’s unique and your own? I think you already know the answer.
Which photography series do you like that’s original and unique? What helps you create photography that’s different from the norm? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.