I was reading an article today about the latest in-demand fashion shooter and, in it, they talk about his exceptional "clarity of vision." That got me to thinking and asking myself, "Do I have clarity of vision?"
I've been a photographer, on and off, either as someone taking his first steps, a hobbyist, a part time pro to a full time working shooter, for the better part of half a century. (Beginning when I was 12 or 13.) After all these years and so many, many photos snapped, I'm not sure if I have any sort of personal vision which I believe has clarity.
So what is clarity of vision? I did some quick Googling to see what the consensus might be and it seems "clarity of vision" refers to a person's ability to communicate his or her vision. Okay. I can do that. Leastwise, I can photographically communicate someone's vision, usually my clients' visions of what my work should communicate. But is it *my* vision and do I even have one?
To be honest, I don't think so. Usually, someone else expresses to me what the vision is, what it includes, what it should say and, in many ways, how it should say it. By the way, I do know I have clarity of purpose: to continue earning a living via photography.
"Vision" is a word that is bandied about amongst photographers regularly. It's one of those buzz words that somehow refers to a photographer's work, albeit in somewhat vague and ethereal ways. It alludes to some creative and imaginative process that is unique to an individual photographer. I suppose "personal style" is also a phrase that has something to do with "vision," although it seems to refer to the way in which a photographer realizes his or her visions.
When it's said that certain photographers have "clarity of vision," does it mean they simply know how to take the image from inside their heads and translate it to a photograph? I suppose so. I'm happy to report to myself that I think I can do that well enough. But does it also mean I'm free to pursue whatever visions pop into my head? And with even more freedom to execute them, photographically, in any way I want? Obviously, the answers to those questions are no and no.
Personally, I don't think too many pro photographers get to pursue visions of their choice except when it's personal work. Hobbyists, of course, are free to pursue personal visions to their heart's content. With working photographers, a huge part of the "vision" most often belongs to someone else, either an individual or a group of individuals. Think clients. The working photographer's job is to take those peoples' visions and, with as much clarity and skill as possible, and adding their own personal styles, embellish them in crafty ways thereby turning the visions of others into great photographs for their use or enjoyment.
Let's say I'm a fashion shooter. Do my visions include a beautiful woman? Often, they probably will. Do my visions include a beautiful woman holding a Gucci purse? Probably not. But the visions of my client, in this case Gucci, certainly will.
I have no clue where I'm going with all this other than to say I think we, as photographers, often take part in a giant circle jerk. We take (or are given) full credit for things like "vision" when, in fact, that vision usually isn't 100% our own. In fact, that percentage is often significantly less than 100%. I don't know about any of you who also do this photography thing for pay but I've found I don't often get to pursue visions of my choice, that is, I don't get paid to shoot whatever I want to shoot however I want to shoot it. In other words, I don't get to simply pursue my own visions, whatever they might be.
I apologize for my cynicism to you true visionaries out there.
Before shooting the photo at the top which, I should note, is an example of personal work, I had a monochrome vision of a sexy, freckle-faced girl holding a cigarette with a bunch of back-lit smoke next to her.