Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why So Serious?

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I came across a folder on one of my external hard drives that I've somehow overlooked. It was a copy of the contents -- leastwise, partial contents -- of a hard drive I was using about 5+ years ago but haven't used since. (An old USB 1 hard drive that took forever to do anything so I put it out to pasture.)

The folder had a bunch of sub-folders of work I did back then.  For me, looking at the work was interesting to say the least. It was like a glimpse into my own photography past, albeit not too distant past. Since I was suddenly looking at the out-of-the-camera images (rather than the few of them I processed back then which I still have on some other hard drives) it was even more telling from a lighting and style point-of-view.  For the most part, I haven't looked at this old work since soon after I shot it.

The first thing I noticed was that I was more into low-key images than high key. In fact, I couldn't find any high-key images amongst the work. (These days, I seem to shoot more high-key than low-key. Way more.) Also, not only did I apparently favor low-key images, but low key images that were more on the dramatic side than most of my recent work.

It's like I want to go back in time and ask myself, "Why so serious?"

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Some people will tell you that low-key images are more dramatic in general. There's a fair amount of truth in that notion, but back about 5+ years ago I seemed to be going out of my way to produce images with much more emphasis on the dramatic, lighting and style-wise, leastwise if what I'm seeing on the copy of that drive is any indicator.

Now, I'm wondering what changed my approach? How did I evolve my personal style from a "Why so serious?" kind of shooter to one who is much less... serious. (Note: Please remember that I'm talking about lighting and photographic style and not about my personality and general demeanor. I'm rarely someone who others might ask "Why so serious?" regardless of the photographic style I might be currently employing.  Just saying.)

This stuff, of course, could easily open a discussion on evolving styles. Are most all photographers' styles in a state of flux?  Or, does it remain static for some and not static for others?  Is it important to have an ever-evolving style? Is it better to arrive at a style that seems to work and to stick with it?  I wish I had absolute answers to these questions.  I don't.

I'm also now thinking about what it is that drives the changes in our styles?  Is it us, ourselves?  Is it that we learn more and as we learn more we integrate that learning into our work, thus changing our styles? Does gear effect our styles? (i.e., does new or more gear sometimes act like a catalyst for changing one's style?) Does the work of others have significant impact on our styles? That is, are we merely just a bunch of imitators and mimics, style-wise?

Shit. This is getting complicated!

Sorry if I seem to be all fixated on this changing style thing but it seems to me that if I knew the answers to this stuff, and to what degree each of the individual answers to my aforementioned questions effects the whole, I could be more proactive about where my style is headed or even whether it's important for me to somehow direct where it's going. You know, instead of just letting it go where it goes all on its own.

The pretty girl at the top (and in all three pics, for that matter) went by the name Cytherea. She might still. It's just that I haven't heard from or of her for a number of years now. All the images I've posted are from a set of images from the folder I mentioned in this update. They were snapped in my studio, when I had a studio, with a Canon 20D. All were lit with a Mola "Euro" beauty dish and a pair of strip boxes. Here's another of Cytherea from the same set.
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