Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vox Humana

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Photographers talk a lot about style, you know, personal style. So, what is personal style? Personal style is that part of a photograph which includes the photographer's biases, whether their biases are revealed by lighting styles or techniques, composition, personal commentary, and more. In other words, a photographer's personal style represents that part of their photography in which they have added their own voice. Their human voice. They're (hopefully) thoughtful and intentional voice. It's that thing referred to in Latin as their vox humana. A photographer's voice is not an audible voice, of course, but it can speak quite loudly and quite succinctly.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, vox humana became a popular term among church music aficionados. It referred to a specific reed in pipe organs of the day, one which produced a beautiful, vibrato, almost human-like sound. Later, the term took on another meaning, one used to describe an artist's style, that is, his or her artistic "voice."

Hmm... Latin, church organs, artist's voices, glamour photography?

In the arts, visual arts and otherwise, an artist's style or "voice" is considered a very important element of their work. It identifies them in many ways. That's because it's the one element of their work that sets them apart, to varying degrees, from other artists pursuing the same sorts of endeavors. Photography, like any other art form, can be highly competitive. Beyond a photographer's skill at networking, hustling, and schmoozing for work, i.e., clients, customers, art buyers, etc., a photographer's vox humana goes a long way towards making them, and their work, memorable and, quite possibly, in demand. For some, that is, those pursuing photography as all or part of their income, a resonating vox humana can be quite profitable as well.

In creative writing, for example, a writer's literary style, the way he or she constructs prose, is called his or her "writing voice" even though, again, no actual sounds are generated. (Unless, of course, the work is read aloud and the reader's human voice becomes inspired by the writer's soundless voice.) With creative writing, a personal, identifiable, and somewhat unique vox humana can be a truly awesome thing! (Provided that "voice" resonates in positive ways with readers.) It can not only be satisfying for both writers and readers, it can sell books and more! The same holds true for photographers, even glamour photographers, including that part about resonating... with viewers in photography's case.

Yep, a shooter's style, their "voice," their photographic voice can be an awesome thing. Some photographers truly make their photos sing in beautiful and meaningful ways. Look, I'm not trying to go all metaphorically philosophical on anyone but training and developing your photographic voice, a voice that resonates with viewers, one that produces pictures that sing, is a very positive thing, perhaps the most important thing many photographers can do. Like a singer practices and trains their voice, photographers should do the same... once they find their voice.

How does one develop their photographic vox humana? Certainly not by diction or singing lessons, that's for sure. In fact, I'm not sure it's something most photographers develop purposely and consciously. Instead, their style or voice seems to evolve on its own as the result of cumulative and eclectic, sometimes subconscious, retention by 1) viewing the work of others and 2) incorporating bits and pieces of the work of others in their own work. (Consciously or subconsciously.) 
What eventually emerges is one's own photographic style or voice. It may not always be especially unique and it's usually an amalgamation of other photographer's styles. Most often, it isn't a result of anyone's naturally-bestowed creative abilities. After all, it's that amalgamation of other photographers' styles and approaches which, when assembled together, consciously or subconsciously, becomes an individual shooter's style or voice. The good news is-- No natural endowments required.
 The gratuitous eye candy at the top is Jenna. I snapped it utilizing my usual glamour photography voice, i.e., making obvious use of edge-lighting and shooting from slightly below with an upward angle. That is how, at least in part, I most often talk "glam and tease" with my photographic vox humana. The pic is from a set shot on a small set in a studio. 

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