Last weekend, a friend and I taught a photography workshop to a group of middle school students who have begun to use Instagram to share their art and talents. We talked about composition and light, lines and perspective and using social media to share our images. As each of these budding photographers explores different methods to define their art, I reminded them to find their own style. “Eventually,” I told them, “you’ll see a cohesive look to your photos. You’ll know what you’re drawn to, what you love, and your portfolio will represent you as an artist.”
I added a photo to Instagram the next morning and when it fell into place in my feed, I noticed I could easily make out my style. I love natural light, softness, color, elements of childhood and pretty details. It all looked so beautiful in the frame of my phone–a collage that represented cherished stories in my life and captured in a way that embodied my particular style and art. I made a note to order some new prints to display.
I’ve been submerged in blogging, photography and social media long enough to have heard a whole lot about branding. Our feeds, our pages, our logos, our taglines, our photos and our styles are our brands, whether we like it or not. With one click, we get a feeling of who someone is, of what they represent, of what they love, and as artists we’re encouraged to make those things look and feel cohesive. But maintaining a cohesive look can also be a censor for true art and beauty.
What’s my brand? Love and little moments; finding beauty–digging for it, changing the way we see it; adding hints of color to the washed out grays of the world; admitting when it hurts and it’s hard and capturing the beauty of that hurt and hardness; connecting, searching for and recognizing the good. As a photographer and artist, I find it fortunate when I can capture these moments in nice light and at good angles and will naturally always aim to represent them with my art and style. I don’t deny the part of myself that loves that challenge.
But far above art and style is heart and story, and sometimes the deepest most beautiful moments in life don’t add up to fit a cohesive feed. They happen in artificial light, in front of cluttered boxes, with crooked lines, harsh shadows and yellow hues. Their story is their art.
This week, I added some of my most beautiful moments ever to my feed. There’s no soft, natural light, no strategic perspective, but they represent the most important thing about my art and my brand, I hope–love. Love can’t always be packaged with soft light and pretty details, love doesn’t always photograph well or fit with our style, but the story blooming under those fluorescent lights, the emotions surging in that crowded room–it was art, it was beauty, and it looked and felt more cohesive with what I want to capture and share than the perfect afternoon light ever could. It was beautiful.
Our feeds are not our lives, but they do give us the opportunity to share pieces of our lives that might inspire, motivate or make someone happy.
In my feed, on this site, within my brand and on my unending creative expedition, I capture moments. I look for light. I stretch my perspective. I crop, expand, tilt, pull back and zoom in. I celebrate beautiful things. I tell stories. And I make room for love, however it may look.
Please come back Monday to hear more about the love I was witness to this week, and ways that you can share it too.