“Each of us has a real capacity for originality, but originality is very, very hard to get to. It takes real work. I think people don’t quite realize how much work it takes to be a good artist.”
Roberta Smith, Art Critic for The New York Times
Digital images are everywhere. Anyone can be a digital artist and photographer today. However, the pictures we see haven’t really changed, nor have the ground rules for making good images. We still have that need to create and share pictures to mark points in our lives, that give meaning to experiences. Memories we refer to when we have moved on in our lives.
This is where I started as a photographer, taking pictures that had meaning for me, and also where I am now – creating images that have meaning. The difference is in what I have learned, and what I am still learning on my journey as a photographic artist. The sea change for me was realising I want to share my photographic stories. I want to narrate these stories in my own voice, but in a way that causes people describe their own, personal stories from my images.
From the moment I became brave enough to show other people my images, people would compare my images to those of other photographers. I began to try emulating those photographers who were so much better than me and who had attained far greater fame. This seemed to be my creative life – always learning new techniques, showing new images, and always being compared to other photographers.
I didn’t know my own ‘style’. It was all great learning – but I had started looking so hard at other people’s work that I had lost my self.
The crunch point: What should I do? The answer came. Stay on my own, unique path. Focus on my own unique vision.
So what happened, and what is still happening? My photography path was similar to many others. I decided to stay on my path, learning and experimenting, building and working towards my own creative vision. I went on workshops and accepted mentorship – but I stopped copying. I began to see a difference. My path began to separate, heading off towards my own, unique destination. From time to time, my path still dovetails with others, but after a while they split off as well. I am headed elsewhere.
It’s the separation that makes all the difference. And once I began to see the difference between my work and the work of others I admire, I had broken through.
My work has begun to get noticed. I am winning awards and people want my images for gifts, for their galleries, homes, websites. My vision has taken off. I am constantly learning and experimenting, but now my experiments are enhancing the differences between my work and what or who influenced it.
I have found creative continuity in my personal journey of photography. Why? Because I stay on the path, and my vision is clear.
I am a photographer who tells visual stories. My stories and yours. Stories transcend photographic genres; they are so much more than a recipe of techniques. My photographic style is that of a storyteller. My vision is to create images that make you curious, that tell you stories with emotion and meaning; stories that get told again and again.
Mary Hinsen is a photographer and visual storyteller who lives in beautiful Central Otago, New Zealand. She is on the Council of the Photographic Society of New Zealand and is an active member of the Photographic Society of America.