Voice is not your style. Style is something that is copyable and falls into a set of categories or combination of them. Voice is unique and only belongs to one. Vision can be shared, style can be copied, subject can be repeated but voice belongs to the individual and is unique.

There seems to be much confusion on the interchangeability of style and voice. Entire plugin industries are dedicated to style and the ability to copy other photographers styles and work. Your voice is what you take with you when your style grows or changes. Two examples in the art world I use are Picasso and Noguchi who both encompassed several styles of work in their carrier but the work was always unmistakeable theirs. My friend Sabrina Henry explains voice as knowing who the designer is no matter what the fashion style of the season is.That ability to recognize a persons work based on how they say something in their work from across a room is voice. Voice is unique to the individual and is a part of them as much as their fingerprints.

Your experiences, outlook, beliefs and view of the world in general make up how you will say what is on your mind when you make a photograph. That split second of time, framing and end vision for the image is all part of those things that make you unique as a person. It is that interpretation of an event in time that is yours alone.

Ted Orland writes in his book View from the Studio Door “ We recognize that someone has found their Voice when their distinctive spiritual or emotional core becomes an inseparable part of their Art”. For a persons voice to be heard and recognized is to begin to trust your own vision and intent when creating your work. To believe in your way of seeing and saying something about the world you photograph. To stop following the latest styles, trends or fad and doing in a way that is yours alone.

This isn’t just doing something different for its own sake but trusting your gut on what you believe expresses your message and intent in a way that is right for you. Avoid buying into the latest “right” way of making images and make them in a way you believe is proper for you. Knowing the so called “rules” and putting them to work for you and your way of saying something is using your voice. Breaking those same rules because you believe it works for your intent is also using your voice. Following the crowd or making images that someone else has done because you think they are “inspiring” is using their voice not your own.

The parts that make us individual all contribute to how we say something in our work and each of us is unique in who we are. It would be impossible to duplicate who we become, our hopes, fears, loves, passions and losses have all gone into making us. These things shape our view and message, they provide us with how we see the world around us and what we want to share of that world. Our vision is what we find to share, our voice is how we express the importance of what we share.

Voice is the unique quality that give an image its power and connection. Using your own voice adds the intangible to every image we make regardless of style or media. It is the unmistakable stamp of who we are and how we see the world, added to what we have to say about it and transforms our work into a creation of unique expression.

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