SLUSH by Toni Ahvenainen

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen. Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO1600, 1/200sec, f/3.5, Raw. Flickr account

Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen.
Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO1600, 1/200sec, f/3.5, Raw.
Flickr account

Season of Photographic Eye - picture 7
Week 48, Wednesday

In previous post I discussed the relationship with photographic eye and art. Today I'm going to look the problem of photographic eye through a another related concept: photographers identity. One can say that photographer has a strong identity when people recognize his/her work from the photographs alone. Maybe it's the distinctive style, way to photographer handles the subject or the subject in itself – all in all it means that photographer doesn't just capture the objects and things front of his camera, but instead imposes his/her personal interpretation into a photographs he creates. One could also say that photographer who manages to do that has found his/her photographic eye and utilizes it through photography.

If you want to be a commercially successful photographer with a distinctive identity and style, the path into that is somewhat easy to outline:

1. Learn the photography from the technical and aesthetical point of view. Now, it has to said that either from the technical or aesthetical point of view photography is not a rocket science. As there are technical rules how expose a good looking shot, there are also certain rules, visual motifs and practices which guide the aesthetical part – and there is no reason to invent the wheel again. Unfortunately I see many people get stuck into debating minor aesthetical things, like 'where to crop' or 'rules of third', which are often just question of taste, in the end at least. Following broadly a certain rules usually produces quite suitable photographs.

2. Find your niche. If you think you are going to succeed as a 'portrait' or a 'landscape' photographer you will face a tough competition. The more there are photographers doing the same thing the more difficult it is to stand out of the mass. When you find yourself a successful niche chances are that there are very little competition against you and you have better possibilities to develop your identity and status as a photographer.

3. Develop your own interpretation of that niche. Finding your niche isn't always enough. You need to develop your own vision how you approach and photograph your subject. It can of course be something technical, but usually it also involves, for example, a new cultural interpretation of your subject or some other way to break away from the beaten path. Being a bit controversial in a constructive way helps here a lot.

4. Use marketing and branding to establish your style and identity as a photographer. To be recognized as a certain kind of photographer you need to present yourself as such, and to do that you need to be seen in public where the photography happens. Networking, branding and showing your work to others is crucial part of your identity as a photographer.

Now, I don't feel a need to become a commercially successful photographer and because of that I haven't exactly followed this path myself. Instead I've thought that I want to develop photography from the technical and aesthetical point of view, and learn to find my own way of interpreting the world through my photography. Therefore finding my photographic eye involves also contemplating my own identity as a photographer: why do I take photograph in the first place and what am I actually searching through photography?