About 20 yrs ago, I began teaching myself how to play the banjo. Since I had become a fairly competent guitarist earlier in my life, I had a reasonable idea of what I was getting myself into. Being self taught on most things that require a bit of skill, it followed that learning the banjo would be the same. This time, however, I tried something a little different. I imagined what I would end up sounding like if I didn’t just try to copy what I saw others doing; if I didn’t look too closely at what ‘proper technique’ was, and if I went out of my way to avoid trying to play along with what the big-shots were playing.
In other words, I was somewhere between a mushroom growing in the dark, and a cargo cult.
What I ended up with, was something quite different than what I was hearing others do -when I started really listening to all the nuances, and variants. Some things that others could do fairly easily, I found really hard to do, and other things, that I was told were quite difficult, I had no problem with. I also noticed that there aren’t really very many people who played like me at all. I found a couple of ‘old time’ banjo players who were somewhat similar, but only for certain things. For better or worse, I had come up with something different.
I’m self taught with a camera as well. I’ve read a few books on the mechanics, and principles, (mostly when I started out) and still, to this day, look for tips, and suggestions on how to improve, but I’ve never taken a course on photography, or composition. (Heh… maybe it shows?)
I’ve made conscious decisions on how I shoot; like shooting in B&W, and using more shadows, and darkness in my shots, even to the point of arguably underexposing things, but that’s what I like. At least for now. (I remember reading an interview with Steven Spielberg years ago, where he was discussing his craft. He was talking about cinematic style, and he mentioned that he liked to film the light, whereas, someone like Martin Scorsese films the shadows. Wow! That really hit home with me, because that’s how I see envision things too, and now thanks to Spielberg, I’d be able to explain myself!)
I know that how, and what, one photographs determines one’s style, but I don’t really think about it. I just try to get the camera set to where I like it, and then take the picture. Pleasing myself always seems to be best. And just like learning to play the banjo, painting your house, or even what clothes you choose to wear, requires a little bravery, and confidence if you’re going to do things your way. Nothing wrong with wearing bright red socks with a charcoal gray suit, but you could raise an eyebrow or two, and in certain circumstances, it’ll even piss some people off.
Sometimes I think that ‘style’ is a term best used by someone other than the person doing the creating.
I suppose it just boils down to perseverance. At least it does in my case. Stick with something long enough, and it seems as though more and more of your personality comes out.
Or, again in my case, keep beating your head against the wall, and maybe you’ll actually learn something.