Monday, January 16, 2012

A Little Bit Personal

I usually keep it light, or funny on the blog, so if this seems a little stoic or reflective, or hell, even self indulgent, I'm sorry, and check in tomorrow for a boudoir session.

Boudoir Photography seems to be the new trend, with many photographers capitalizing on the surge of popularity, and because of that, I've gotten a lot of emails lately inquiring about my style and my methods, from women interested in booking sessions to photographers who want to get into this sort of milieu asking for everything from advice, lighting techniques, what equipment I use to my rates and contract information. I've been asked to mentor both paid and unpaid, my rates and packages have been questioned and compared, so I thought I would take a little time to explain my approach to boudoir photography, and really, to photography and art in general.

The only advice I have for any photographer, and really, for any artist,  is find your own vision. My style is a culmination of my own personal experience and just the way that I see the world, and I would venture to say, that an individual's perspective isn't something that can be learned or taught. Part of what I love about Haute Boudoir is that every single person I work with  is so beautiful in a completely new way; no face, no body, no personality, no spirit is the same as anyone I've ever met, and so with each session, regardless of similar lighting, inspiration or posing techniques, the photographs are completely different because the women are so diverse. I really love that with each new project or shoot is a new opportunity to create something different, which is one reason I don't want to operate a boudoir studio, since I really enjoy discovering new places and of course, welcoming new challenges. I love working in studios, and from time to time, I enjoy the security and comfort of knowing my surroundings, but more often than not, I really find that I thrive in the unknown and the unexpected, and as such, my work evolves, which is really important to me as an artist and photographer.

I'm very happy with where I am right now, and I am even more excited for where I will be in the next month, year or years.  I'm fortunate that I get to work with some really incredible people, many of whom I now consider good friends. I also get my share of headaches with people who don't understand what I do or value my work. When I get an inquiry from a potential client who wants me to lower my rates to match someone else or asks if I would photoshop my images in a way that I don't feel is representative of my style or vision, I'm confident enough to stand by my work and my methods, and not to compromise unless I feel it's an opportunity to challenge myself and to grow as a person and as an artist.  There will always be areas where I'm not as strong as another photographer, and for me in particular, that's self promotion.  I'm not the most well known boudoir photographer and I really don't need to be, but I realize and appreciate the need for visibility in a day and age where everything exists online and has such a short shelf life.  For me, finding the balance between being a self indulgent braggart and managing a savvy PR campaign is the trickiest part of running a business where the product I'm selling is such a part of me.

I never want to be "that photographer" who brags, fawns or waxes on about how great I think I am and how all my clients, colleagues and industry collaborators would agree that I'm wonderful. I don't need to be in every magazine or on every blog, and it seems that the amount of time that many spend trying to climb that ladder of industry popularity is not only exhausting, but transparent. The overwhelming desire for photographers to be popular, media darlings is an epidemic. It seems like many photographers will do whatever it takes to be promote their business, even if it means sacrificing integrity, friendships, quality, individuality and artistic expression.  I don't think you should ever abandon your own vision in order to be popular, because you are truly doing a disservice not only to yourself, but to your clients, the artists whom you admire and emulate, and your industry.

Don't get me wrong, there are many deserving and talented photographers out there who get a lot of press because they are truly remarkable artists with a smart, effective marketing & pr plan. Those photographers become popular because they have a unique contribution to their industry, and also because they are passionate about what they do and how they do it, and have invested a great deal of time, energy and effort into their particular style. These also happen to be the photographers who are the most copied, which I think is a shame, especially if you are selling yourself as an "artist." Just because it's on trend or in demand doesn't mean it's the right decision for you. You have to find the medium, method and means for your own voice to be heard, since that's the only thing that separates you from the competition.   I think it's wonderful if admiration for an artist starts you down the path that feels the most you, but I also believe it's a travesty to follow blindly, without really understanding what you're doing or why you're doing it.  If you're forcing it, then wouldn't you be better off finding something you don't have to force and putting your energy and talent there? I certainly think so, which is why I love photographing people and why I've decided to dedicate time, energy and effort into that aspect of my life and career. I want to evolve, I want to get better, and when I think of photographing women for boudoir shoots, I want to find the challenge, the unexplored, the unique, and I want to get better with every shoot. I hope in 20 years to look back and see just how far I've grown and evolved as an artist, and see how my vision has expanded and evolved. I want my photographic oeuvre to tell a story of where I am at that point in my life and how I see the world and how I related to my subjects. It's really important that my work be a reflection of who I am in my life at the time I created it, and not what I thought was popular, trendy or the most profitable. I don't want my work to blend into an abyss of inspired by lookalikes, I think it's much more important to be me, whether anyone else respects, likes or appreciates it. Sometimes it's better to find your own path, than to follow everyone else.

I do consider myself an artist, and everyday, I am inspired by those individuals I admire, and I consider them more role models than idols I want to copy. I figure out what it is about that individual or that art that I admire, and what I can learn from that. But for me, nothing is more important than nurturing my own creativity. For the photographers out there who copy or want to be just like another photographer, my advice is to be your own artist. For the women out there thinking about Boudoir, find a photographer whose work you like and who you feel comfortable with, and stop comparing yourself to anyone else. The things that really matter, can't be bought, copied or compared. Be you, honestly and authentically, because no one else can be.

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