Individual personality plays an enormous role in the path your creative work takes. In fact I’ll be bold and state that personality defines the path your creative work takes. For example, the work of Garry Winogrand is completely different work to that of Erwin Olaf. Winogrand states that “When I’m photographing I see life. That’s what I deal with”, whereas for Olaf his work is concerned with the creation of his own fantasy worlds. Two very different approaches to photographic work.
So, what does this mean for you and why am I writing about it?
Well, if personality defines the creative path you take, then it’s difficult to take that creative path if you do not know what path your personality is most attuned to. A lot of people work this out simply by experimenting with different types of work and following their intuition. But for others it’s not so easy: fear of becoming “trapped” doing only one kind of work, fear of failure, fear that your path won’t pay the bills, etc. To have some tools to help you negotiate your path can be a real help. One of the most insightful tools I’ve come across is Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, based on the work of Carl Jung.
When I first came across Myers-Briggs it was a revelation, it gave me a language to understand why I made the decisions I did, why my energy ran out oin certain situations and boomed in other situations. Since then Myers-Briggs has regularly given me insights into how I function best and how I can function better in less than ideal situations. I now consider this essential life knowledge. As Nadav Kander has said, “Making Pictures is exploring ones own life, understanding yourself more and more, which is what’s exciting.”
For those wishing to investigate further I’d highly recommend the following resources.
The photography world is absolutely flooded with products and information promising short cuts that will miraculously turn you into Annie Liebovitz / Martin Parr / Gregory Crewdson. 99.9% of the information about photography on the internet seems to be about technology (which lens is .001% better?) or photographic technique. Now, having the right tools for the job is important. Not many wildlife photographers get by with a wide angle lens on a 5″x4″ camera. And technique is important too. Having all the gear but not knowing how to use it to achieve the desired artistic outcome isn’t going to help.
But there’s something more important than equipment and technique, something which equipment and technique are supposed to be subservient to and dependent upon. That something is personal vision – the ability to refine the way you see until it becomes uniquely and distinctly your vision.
This blog isn’t going to be getting into equipment or technique too much, everything you could ever wish to know about both already exists within easy access of most people.
This video is a talk by Selina Maitreya on developing your unique personal vision. I highly recommend her book How to Succeed in Commercial Photography: Insights from a Leading Consultant (US), here for UK.
For a lesson in visual integrity, take a look at the Instagram page of portrait photographer Martin Schoeller. Even his avatar is in the same style! 🙂
While we’re on the subject of Nadav Kander, I’ve been very much enjoying this talk he gave in London in 2016. Knowing what your artistic reference points are is essential for developing your creative practice. Seeing someone with a highly developed artistic practice give a rundown of their own reference points is an excellent help in getting you to think about your own references. Enjoy!