February 26, 2016

Tell Me About Your Vision: Here’s My Response

Dunes of Nude No. 119 (from my recent Death Valley trip)


Last week I asked the following question:

Someone is looking at your work and says: tell me about your Vision.

How do you respond?

Here’s my response:

When you look at my images, you are seeing my Vision.

Why use inadequate words to describe my Vision when the image says everything?

~ ~ ~

Only once in my life have I tried to put my Vision into words: a friend, blind from birth, asked me to describe my work and Vision to her. I asked how could I describe things which she had never seen? She said that she created mental images based on my descriptions. I’ve always wondered what my images looked like to her.

~ ~ ~

I enjoyed everyone’s comments and could see that semantics, different perspectives and honest differences of opinion were all in evidence. May I offer my viewpoint?

Vision can be elusive and hard to discover, yet I believe it to be an incredibly simple concept:

Vision is simply how I see things, based on my life experiences.

Because we’ve all had different life experiences, we all have different Visions. But everyone has a Vision!

Vision is much different than a look or a style. And once you start following your Vision, your work will not all start looking the same. Vision transcends a look, a style and techniques. 


Vision is expressed through our images and unlike Harvey the Pooka, your Vision can be seen by everyone (you have to be over 50 or a movie buff to get the reference).

Vision is the most important ingredient in your image, it’s what makes it unique and “yours.” It is more important than your camera, lens, process or any piece of software that you use. And no amount of technical perfection, unusual technique or unique subject matter can compensate for a lack of Vision.

An image without a Vision is just a…well, just a picture.



12 thoughts on “Tell Me About Your Vision: Here’s My Response

  1. Amen and amen. I’ve never thought about going out and creating my vision. I think about creating FROM my vision. Dewitt Jones talks about “having a vision for our life and not for our images,” and then says, “I’ll see it, because I believe it.” I can’t remember who said it, but I love the quote that goes something like… “If you want to make more interesting pictures, be a more interesting person.” I think all of these ideas cement your view of vision Cole. It is not something we create, rather a byproduct of who were are and what life experiences we’ve had.

  2. I submit that Vision is a more than ones life experiences, and visions would be different even if different people had the same life experiences. Therefore, I believe vision is a combination of ones unique lifes experiences and how ones brain is wired.

  3. “Everyone has a vision”. That’s one of the most profound comments on “the vision thing” I’ve ever read. Yes. Of course. It’s that simple.

    By virtue of being human, and not a tree or a tangerine, each of us within our brain a vision of the world. We each DO have a vision.

    The rub is identifying it, digging it out and laying in on the table like a huge gold nugget from the rich mine that is your life. Ah Ha! So THAT”S how I see the world, so THAT’S what moves me, and creates Awe.

    So, the problem with Vision is not having it. Everyone has it. The problem is simply digging it out with a pick axe. Profound, Cole.

  4. Agree with Sam Blair and I could not possibly
    state it any better. Note to Sam: we may have “met” in an online long exposure class several years ago – one participant was “Sam Blair”.)

  5. I’m sympathetic, but often puzzled, when photographers say they have trouble finding their vision. As conceptualized (aptly) by Cole, it doesn’t seem that complicated. To quote Howard Roark, “Don’t you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?” My sense of it is that people get too hung up about vision and overthink it, which creates obstacles to getting in touch with it. If it were me (and, fortunately, for me it is), I would just be honest about what and how I want to photograph and go for it, ditching any and all preconceptions, expectations, agendas, etc. that get in the way.

  6. Who we are (spirit, hard-wiring, life experiences) coalesce, to use the analogy, into frequencies. My view (pun?) of vision is being open to, to listen, to embrace what resonates. We don’t choose what form these encounters will be. We only can choose if we embrace it & with how much diligence.

  7. Hi Cole,
    You do keep me grounded ….thank you. I sense that no one can feel, see and copy my vision. Vision is about what I see through my eyes. Vision is about what my soul, and my emotion is creating, a statement about the image I processed or what I am processing as of this writing. That vision leads to a style which people can copy but have no idea why I did what I did in the digital darkroom.

    To your credit I understand why I should be unconcerning when someone suggests how I should have applied more light, less presence or use a more natural subtle approach when they have no idea what statement I was trying to make. Critiques from most people including judges during a competition are to technically oriented and less about what my mission statement is regarding the creation.

    Thank you once again for your insightful blogging …. Be well my friend.

  8. Wonderful topic…

    In my opinion. it’s quite simple… PASSION, the need to express. Nothing more, nothing less. We all have vision, but a few of us feel the need to throw it out there.

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