Japanese Family, Tokyo 2008 by Emily Shur
I have never been able to keep up with most trends – whether they are in photography, art, fashion, music, etc. In terms of fashion, when I lived in NY, I cared a lot. As hard as you try though, there’s always some chick at the party who looks cuter than you do. Her shoes are cooler. Her outfit is more put together, but at the same time seems effortless. I still care, but I focus my love of clothing into the styling of my photo shoots because lord knows I can’t rock an edgy ensemble the way I used to. As far as music goes, I am also still interested, but the husband usually tells me what he likes at the moment and chances are I will like 95% of that. Then I look cool because I know about lots of new and fun music, but really my coolness is just the sloppy seconds of someone who really makes an effort to listen and learn.
When it comes to photography I have always admired certain “looks” and aesthetic choices of different photographers, but I’ve never been a fan of work that screams the question “I’m really cool, right?!?!?!” Then, you see other people doing their version of that look, but no one has distanced themselves far enough from the others to have a fresh take on anything. This happens in fashion all the time. Every season, I’ll see some girl wearing something…let’s use ballet flats just as an example. Then I think “Oh cute. Ballet flats….a nice alternative to the flip flop or the sneaker. Maybe I’ll pick some up.” Then I see some other girls wearing ballet flats. A month later it seems like every girl between the ages of 9 and 40 is wearing ballet flats, and they become part of what I like to call the “uniform”. Ultimately, I don’t buy a pair because I have clearly missed the boat on the ballet flat. Sigh. It just never works out for me when I try to catch up to something that is already happening.
Same goes for photography. A “uniform” evolves when people see something that is working for someone else and try to emulate it. I understand why this happens, and I’m sure I have been guilty of doing it at different points in my photography. At the end of the day though, I believe in making solid pictures that are not dependent on a gimmick or a trick. I have never been the “cool photographer”, and I’m guessing I never will be. I accepted that a while ago, and really just want to make work that I’m proud of and that a few people whose opinions I respect enjoy as well. Of course, more than a few people have to like what you’re doing in order to make a living, and that’s where being trendy might work in someone’s favor. In all honesty, the photography I love and respond to has stood the test of time, and I think it’s too bad that some people always seem to be racing around trying to be the coolest. It is difficult to be original when there are so many photographers and so much competition. James Danziger had a good post yesterday about this topic. I think that all we can do is be ourselves and make the work we want, even if we aren’t reinventing the wheel. If it comes from a sincere place, I think that is what matters. Aww.