We all have a unique vision of the world and photography is such a great way to express your vision. The more you shoot, the more focused and recognizable that vision becomes, a style if you will. But you don’t set out to create a style, your style reveals itself when you get through a volume of work. It’s unconscious and not contrived. Others might see it before you do…you’re too close to your work to always recognize it.
I have been a street photographer since I first picked up a camera as a young kid, wandering the streets of Montreal.
In my experience, one of the best ways to develop as a street-shooter is to take on a project. It helps you to find meaning and purpose in your picture-taking process and you will learn much about yourself while elevating your personal photographic vision.
When working on one story over time—the inch-wide, mile deep approach— it challenges you to see new details, notice nuances, get deeper and deeper in your process. You know what you have which often tells you what you need and where to find it.
When it comes to the project, the idea is everything. Think big. Find that story or theme that inspires you to commit and drives you to work hard, moves you past frustrations, through obstacles and pushes you towards a photographic place of competence and excitement you cannot even imagine when you begin work on it.
If you can’t decide on a grand project, try a short term one first: a person, an event, business; a “day in the life” or portrait series. It can be urban landscapes specific to one block or one city, or other groups of images with a common thread that ties them together, like shooting in the rain.
Look for subjects and environments that you’re going to enjoy and have fun with. Access really is everything to maximize shooting possibilities and strengthen the work. Choose a subject that you have unfettered access to. Having a mission or artist statement for the project can help clarify and focus your vision for a consistent point of view, as well as form a framework for future shooting.
Many of your best ideas will come from your own life; your personal experiences and exploring your connections. Be original, authentic, and true to who you are as a person and photographer when looking for your passion project.
Look at photo books for inspiration. It’s all been done before, do it better; do it your way.
You might pick a project that scares you a little. If your still a bit nervous approaching strangers, maybe a street-portrait project is a good choice. If it moves you from your comfort zone, I find I learn the most and it liberates me from my routine and is very rewarding photographically and as a life experience.