Updated: Oct 30, 2018
Author Jenn Mishra
I had a bit of an epiphany this week with the help of a couple of the women photographers who I’ve been privileged to interview over the past couple of weeks for PhotoYoga. The “ah-ha” moment had to do infusing my personality into my photographs.
This idea was explored by both landscape photographer Karen Hutton and conceptual art photographer Claire Rosen whose interview so inspired me that I picked up her book Imaginarium to read.
Karen talked about helping photographers create a sense of “who-they-areness.” She explored this idea further:
"When flipping through social media stream - you want for your fans and followers to know an image is yours. Like: BOOM that’s Jenn’s!"
Boom! If you go on my Instagram account, the first photo – every photo - should say me. Only I could have taken that photograph and no one’s going to mix up my photos with the photos of another photographer.
And then it happened. Boom!
I took a photo that did say "me".
If you’ve been reading my posts for a couple of weeks than you’ve seen the photo in a previous post. I used it in my article Characteristics of Zen Post-Processing
It’s a tree in reflection – one of my favorite subjects – I’ve even taken photos of this self-same tree before many times. This time, it was different somehow. I stepped beyond my norm and created a photo that in my gut felt like me. It was a little bit different, a little bit unique, a little bit artsy. I used my both photographic eye as well as my post-processing skills to create this image.
There was excitement at the creation. I seem to have found a new level of expressing myself through my photography, but there was also unease. Could I create another photo like this or was it a one-off?
Then I opened Imaginarium and Claire Rosen knocked me off my chair. In the book, there was a section on finding yourself in your photography. She talks of doing this through a personality exercise. The point of the exercise is to get to know yourself well so that you can create art - photographs in her case but any art really - that fits with the key aspects of your personality.
In essence, Claire found the words that best described her personality and then focused on the ways that these descriptors fit her art. In this way, she was able to focus on the parts of her photography that were key to her personality and stop chasing images that didn’t.
Claire’s descriptive words were:
Exacting/Finesse (sophisticated, stylish, airless)
Fantastical/Charismatic (magical, whimsical, gothic)
Fertile (feminine, romantic, dramatic)
Tenacious (focused, resourceful, extreme)
Each category includes descriptive words that further explore these characteristics in her personality. I’ve included a few in parentheses to give you the idea. Take a look at Claire’s photographs and see if you can see how her photographs fit with her description of herself.
One thing that was important was the idea that these personality characteristics are neither positive or negative – or rather they can have both light and shadow. Each characteristic could in some ways help you to achieve your art and also hinder creativity. Each characteristic was neutral so Claire tried to avoid judging.
This idea was intriguing enough that I started brainstorming the descriptors I might use for myself.
At first, I did the exercise without much thought to how it fit my photography. Claire has such a strong style and mine is a bit more scattered.
I brainstormed descriptors and grouped like characteristics together ending up with 5 categories of “Creative Words”. Though I haven’t yet explored these personality traits to the extent that Claire has, I have a start:
Curious - Creative
Uncertain - Insecure
Clarity - simplicity - Honesty
Intense - focused - Detailed - Obsession
Independent - solitary - strong - stubborn
It was difficult at first not to be judgmental. There are characteristics we all have that we characterize as positive and others that we think of as our personal flaws or are generally seen as negative.
Once I had the list of personality words, I had to make the jump between the words and my photographs. How to do that?
What does “curious” look like in a photograph? Or “independence”?
Then I went back to my photo – the one that felt so right to me – and there it was. The connection between my personality and my photography.
This lone tree (solitary) still standing in a lake when so many other trees were long gone (stubborn) is one of my favorite subjects. By focusing on the reflections in the water, I saw the tree in a different way (creative) and liked that the shape of the branches changed with the ripples of the water. I flipped it over in Photoshop simply because I was wanted to see how the reflection would look as the main subject (curious) and wanted to be a bit different (independent).
I like minimalist photos, but sometimes find the world chaotic so I respond to this clean vision of the tree (clarity, simplicity). In post-processing, I’m very detail-oriented, wanting to get the photo looking the way my vision drives it without caring how long it takes. That’s a good thing normally, but I do have to watch that I’m not overly obsessing over a photo and always have to watch to make sure I’m not over processing (focused, detailed, obsessive). I do have three versions of this photo and I’m in love with each which might speak to a bit of insecurity.
I’m still working with this idea of matching my personality to my photographs, but I think I’m on the right track. I can now see why the Tree in Reflection photo felt so “right” to me. It matched up with how I think of myself.
If you want to go through this process with me, here’s the exercise in a nutshell:
Brainstorm 5 words that describe your personality. Try not to be judgmental, just be honest with yourself. You’ll decide later whether the trait tends positive or negative – or both.
Open a thesaurus LINK https://www.thesaurus.com/ and fine words similar to the 5 you brainstormed in step 1. Sometimes the first word that comes to mind isn’t necessarily the best or maybe the trait has varying tones. Write down all the words that apply to your personality.
Take a minute and think about how these traits tend to show up in your life and your reactions to life.
Choose a photo from your back catalog that you really like. This is the photo that you keep coming back to or use as a screen saver or think of as your best. Explore ways in which that photo matches your personality traits from step 1 and 2. It’s ok to adjust your list if you learn something about yourself from your photo.
Choose a photo from your back catalog that you don’t like very much. Something just feels off about it. Explore ways in which that photo doesn’t match your personality traits.
This process will take me some time to sort out in my own mind, but I can see Claire’s point. If I know myself well enough, it will affect what types of photos I seek out, how I photograph and what choices I make during post-processing.
Here are a few photos from my back catalogue that in hindsight, may show my individual voice.
Feel free to share your personality-infused photos below.
** This post may contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.
Article Written by Jennifer Mishra
Jennifer Mishra is an American travel photographer born in Colorado and based in the St. Louis metro area. She has a background in classical music and academia. She is the founder of PhotoYoga. Her photos are published at Wits End Photography or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.
Write for PhotoYoga
Have you read an article that would interest readers of PhotoYoga? Write an overview of the article and describe how it fits with or influences your photography. Share your own images if that's appropriate.