“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!” How many times have we all been given this tired, clichéd advice? Too many to count, right? The phrase itself may have lost its influential weight, but have you stopped to consider what the real words are telling you? Hopefully in a not-so-clichéd line of thinking, it’s saying to value your work and your style even if it doesn’t jive with the norm, and even more importantly, once you find your style—own it and be an expert in it.
As a travel photographer specializing in destination weddings and adventure photography I love colors. I cherish the ability color has to influence; different colors can elicit different moods in us, the proper color in an ad can prompt us to open our wallets, or a color description can be so vivid we feel transported.
Overcoming Fears and Doubts
However, doubts began to emerge as to the need and desire for my work once the vintage/retro craze hit a few years ago. I felt as if my worst fears were finally coming true. Was I becoming a dinosaur to these new fresh faces joining the industry with their faux-Holga Camera filters and faded, de-saturated filters? Were faded, muted colors and photographs in and vibrant colors out? Was the allure of anyone-can-be-a-photographer-Instagram taking over our sacred realm of actual photography?
After this rock-bottom feeling, I went through a small meltdown wondering if my work still had the same value it once did. I sought the wisdom of a trusted peer, industry professional and great friend. She reminded me that trends in photography, like anything else, come and go. Like the lost days of acid-wash denim, or 90’s grunge, so soon would be the trend of vintage, replaced by something else. The top vintage photographers would then go through the cycle of doubting themselves, as I did, and as all photographers do who consistently work to produce high-quality, relevant, emotional pieces.
Thinking Inside My Style
Once I got over the fears, I did retro/vintage my way. I created my own version of the trend. The final product was a highly-stylized shoot I titled “Greetings from Hicksville” that is full of unapologetically bright colors. From this project, I created my own genre of Hyper-Color Retro Glam. The shoot was done at the kitschy Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree, CA, and showcases a vintage scene in the style I had already mastered, but portrayed in an entirely new avenue. It not only helped me tackle the fear of becoming irrelevant, but also proved to me that I could stay fresh and innovative while still staying true to my style. I did not have to attempt every new trend that evolved in order to prove my staying power.
So my advice might not be exactly “think outside the box” as much as it is to “think inside your style.” Whatever trend comes up, do it your way, and don’t not worry about what everyone around you is doing, trending, or exhaustingly chasing after. Focus on your talents, your strengths, and what you are passionate about. Master your specific craft and your work will reflect the time, energy, and care you put into it. Maybe you won’t have the most followers on Facebook or you refuse to join the “Gram Game,” but at the end of the day, you will be able to say that your work is your own: honest and original.