Stick to Your Own Vision

You have a vision. It’s your own and it is different from anyone else. This is a hard thing for many of us to believe and accept. It sounds pretentious to say “I have a vision”. And it is hard because we are insecure and, deep down, don’t really believe we have one.

A friend of mine, Cole Thompson, tells this story about a defining moment in his career. It happened during a portfolio review. I will tell you that Cole is a B&W artist:

During the last review of a very long day, the reviewer quickly looked at my work, brusquely pushed it back to me and said “It looks like you’re trying to copy Ansel Adams.”  I replied that I was, because I loved his work! He then said something that would change my life:

“Ansel’s already done Ansel and you’re not going to do him any better.  What can you create that shows your unique vision?”

Those words really stung, but the message did sink in: Was it my life’s ambition to be known as the world’s best Ansel Adams imitator? Had I no higher aspirations than that?

That sent me on a journey to find out if I had a Vision. I did and it changed not only my photography, but my life.

What is your vision, then? It is the way you perceive things, based on your history of experiences and your values and beliefs. That is why it is yours and unique compared to anyone else. That is one reason you should not try to copy anyone else’s vision. It would be artificial. You need to do you.

Have you ever been our shooting with a friend and later compare your results? Isn’t it amazing that your images are different, even though you were both is the same place? Sometimes it doesn’t even look like you were together, because you perceive different things as significant. That diversity of results comes from our differing vision.

But what if you submit some images to a competition or a call for entry and they are rejected? What if you go to a review like Cole did? What if they tell you, in effect, that your vision is not worthy. Don’t believe them. Even the so called experts (I’m not sure they actually exist) can only answer for their own vision. If they reject your work, they have a different vision. That does not mean yours in not equally valid. That is so hard to remember when the sting of rejection is fresh.

So when I get insecure and wonder if I really have a vision, I look at a lot of my images and discover that there really is something there. There is something unique and different from what I see from other artists. There is even something I might even consider worthwhile.

Trust that you have a vision. You do. You are a person and you have a history of experiences and values that have shaped you. You will choose what you photograph and that will be based on your vision. That is you.

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