October 4, 2012

Recently a friend told me of her frustrations as she sought to find her Vision and this brought back memories of my own journey. For years I was confused as to what Vision was and frustrated because I didn’t know how to find mine. 

I use the word Vision so much that I forget how hard of a concept it was for me to initially understand. For most of my life I struggled to find myself photographically and people would frequently tell me that I just needed to “find my own Vision.” But what was “Vision” and what was “My Vision?” Did that mean I needed to develop a specific technique, a particular look or a unique style?

I had absolutely no idea how to find my Vision. I was told that I had to keep working at it, but how? It was frustrating because it was such a nebulous concept and I had no idea how to proceed.

And the truth was that I wasn’t sure that I was capable of having Vision. I was raised in a home where the arts were not emphasized and I never developed creative skills; instead I was logical, methodical and gravitated towards mechanical things. I wondered if  some people were just naturally creative and others were not, and feared that I was in the “not” category.

The good news is that not only did I find my Vision but I am absolutely convinced that everyone has one. It may be buried deep under a lot of “stuff” and it may be atrophied from lack of use, but it is there and you can find it.

What is Vision? It is the sum total of my life experiences that makes me see the world in a particular way. Because my experiences are different than yours, my Vision will be different than yours. And since my Vision is based on my experiences, it will change with time.

Vision is what makes me see an image that others may not see, or see it differently. Have you viewed a great image that was created where you had photographed before? I used to wonder why someone else could see that image and I could not, I believe it’s because we have different Visions. The good news is that  it works both ways and sometimes you’ll see an image where others do not. The important point is that you should pursue your Vision and not try to see what others see.  

Because Vision is simply your experiences and how you see life, I am convinced that everyone has one. It just needs to be discovered. Sometimes that is hard because it can be buried beneath a lot of “stuff” such as self doubt and a lack of creative experience, as was in my case. But I found mine and am absolutely convinced that each person is capable of finding theirs too.

So how did I go about finding my own vision? I had this idea that to follow my Vision was synonymous with following my heart and so I took all of my images and divided them into two piles; ones that I REALLY loved and everything else. I purposely ignored “good” images or ones that others liked and ones that sold the best because I didn’t want to consider what others thought, I only wanted to consider what I thought.

Then I started studying those images to understand what they had in common. I noticed that when I was doing what I loved and pleasing myself, my images had a particular look and mood. I also noticed that what I was photographing and how I was photographing was changing; I was moving away from my landscape roots and creating a different kind of work.  

Once I found my Vision, there was still a challenge, and that was to religiously follow it. I was so used to copying others, pleasing others and following trends that I had to train myself to only pursue images that followed my Vision. When you copy others, the best you can ever hope to achieve is being a great imitator. When you seek to please others, you end up not pleasing yourself. When you follow trends, you are like the blowing grasses which are buffeted by every wind.   Following your Vision is the only way to achieve satisfaction.

Over the course of two years (it was a slow and painful process) I found my Vision. It was not a “Eureka!” moment, but rather it crept up on me slowly until one day I just realized that I had one. I cannot put my Vision into words, but now I understand it and what was once so mysterious now seems so simple. 

Finding my Vision gave me a tremendous feeling of freedom and confidence. I no longer felt constrained or bound by the opinions of others, I was free to create what I wanted and how I wanted, regardless of who liked it. The most important thing was that I was happy with my work. Finding your vision does not guarantee critical or financial success, but it will bring about personal satisfaction. Ironically, as I stopped caring what others thought and created for myself, my work became more popular with others.

Vision is more important than your equipment, your location or your processing techniques. Vision is the most important ingredient in a great image and I am absolutely convinced that everyone can find theirs.