what's your genre? and who cares.
i attended a lecture last month the subject of which was 'defining your photographic style'. i came away equal parts validated and confused.
the crux of the talk was that the 'best' photographers work in only one genre. the idea is that if ten photographs were put up on a wall, the viewer should be able to identify which one belongs to which artist based on an understanding of their total bodies of work. if an artist works in multiple genres their body of work will be diluted and this exercise won't work. while i agree on some level (think ansel adams), i also take issue. according to this theory, if i wait tables by day and shoot editorial fine art on the side i would somehow be a more valid artist than if i make my living shooting portraits of children and working the fine art scene after hours.
apparently when someone asks you what you shoot you are supposed to be able to answer in one quick gulp. if you have to say 'my day job is shooting portraits of kids and during my free time i shoot lifestyle and fine art and sometimes i do commercial and editorial work' you are less-valid.
here's the thing though: i'm not buying it.
i'm pretty sure that what makes me a better portrait photographer is my vision. it's the same vision that gives me insight into all the other shooting that i do.
and as for that other shooting, here's the validation part: i love the term 'lifestyle'. i was completely affirmed to see it on the list of possible genres that this instructor considered viable. (see how i pick and choose what i listened to? i was a little like that in high school too.) i like it because it really feels like it really describes how i shoot (today, anyway). for me, lifestyle photography is about capturing everyday moments as they occur. it's slice-of-life with my commentary and vision imposed.
portraits aren't that different really, after all, a good portrait should capture the subject (lifestyle portraits do this in the subject's natural environment as opposed to the studio) and depict personality and story. the best compliment a photographer can receive about a portrait is 'you've really captured your subject'. it's just an added layer on top of 'you've really captured that moment'.
that's all i've got today.