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Every December I go through my photos from the year and select my ten favorite images. It’s a great way of reviewing your photographic year and something I always recommend to my readers.
It’s never easy to be objective about your own work, but it’s worth taking the time to reflect on what you’ve achieved and what you’d like to do with your photography in 2023.
This year the challenge I’m setting you is to think about which photos best represent your authentic voice.
Think about it on a gut level as well as an intellectual one. You might feel that certain photos are more authentically you, and others are not.
Where does authenticity come in? Let’s say you spend some time making photos inspired by other photographers. As a result of that your photos look similar to the photos that inspired you. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you have every right to be happy with the results, but are you speaking with your voice or somebody else’s?
What is an authentic voice in photography?
When you use your authentic voice, your photos don’t look like other people’s. They look like yours.
Finding your authentic voice isn’t easy, but it’s an important part of your development as a photographer and creative individual.
There are lots of subjects to photograph and lots of techniques and ideas to experiment with. That’s all part of the fun of photography.
But which of this ideas, subjects and techniques are the ones worth pursuing? Which ones are the dead ends? Which are the ones that speak to you, that pique your interest, that make you say “I want to follow that path and see where it leads me”?
These are the questions we’re trying to answer with this exercise.
Look through your photos
Start by looking at photos you’ve made in 2022. But you can also look further back in your archives (this is easier if you do the same exercise every year).
Are there photos you’ve made in your past that express your authentic voice as a photographer? Are there ideas or techniques you explored in the past that held promise, but since forgotten about?
Let me give you an example of how this works by looking at my own photos.
I like to look at my images in groups, or mini bodies of work. I’ve done it this year and come up with nine photos rather than ten, arranged in three groups of three.
Here’s my first set of photos from 2022, close-ups I made of spices while writing my book Up Close.
These are some botanical photos that I made earlier in the year. There are two semi-abstract close-ups of a leaf, plus a photo shot through glass in a tropical greenhouse.
The final set of three is a group of photos that I made walking around the oldest part of the town where I live.
What is my authentic voice?
Out of these, which do I feel is most authentic? And which ideas do I think are worth pursuing in the future?
The answer may surprise you. My honest reply is none of them. I enjoyed making these photos, but in terms of what I’d like to do with my photography they are dead ends.
Looking back over my photos, there are two things that I’d like to pursue in 2023.
The first is to experiment more with collage and maybe even mixed media, something that I did 2021 and haven’t pursued any further yet. My two favorite photos didn’t make my top ten from that year, but maybe they should have. Here they are:
For the other idea I need to go all the way back to my favorite photos from 2016. Some made during carnival in Cadiz, Spain, plus some long exposure photos made in the north of Spain. Both sets of photos feel more authentic to me than anything I’ve made since then. Here are some of those portraits from Cadiz to give you a feel.
I haven’t started planning what I’d like to achieve in 2023 yet, but these ideas are an excellent place to start. It’s also given me a good idea of what my authentic voice looks like (and what it doesn’t).
Now it’s time for you to look through your photos from the past year and do the same exercise.
Previous top tens
Follow these links to see my top ten photos from previous years.
- Creative Photography Exercise: Your Ten Best Photos From 2021
- Creative Photography Exercise: Your Best Ten Photos From 2020
- Creative Photography Exercise: Your Best Ten Images From 2019
- My Favorite Photos From 2018
- My Favorite Photos From 2017
- Creative Exercise: Your Best Ten Images From 2016
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