Originality – Are We Overthinking It?
Sometimes as photographers we place a heavy burden on ourselves to be original. Discussions abound on the internet about whether in this visual age where we are bombarded with images on a daily basis originality is even possible any more. Some will go as far as to argue that the digital revolution means that whilst never have so many photographs been taken, the art of photography is dying as a result. Personally I don’t find myself in this camp. Yes, we’re seeing a revolution in photography, but maybe we should stop feeling threatened by change and instead embrace the evolution of our craft and the endless possibilities new technologies bring.
Do I believe it’s possible for a photographer to be original? Absolutely — it is possible and yet we would be foolish to think that it is easy to take a unique photo or avoid the influences of artists and photographers who have gone before us. For me, being original in photography is more about trying to think independently and creatively and less about having uniqueness as a goal.
Lake Bled is probably one of the most photographed locations in Slovenia. A client recently told me an image of Bled island was dismissed by a judging panel for being “too postcard-perfect”! Yet that is the reality — it is a beautiful location and it’s almost impossible to come to Bled and not take the classic shot. And why shouldn’t you? Who am I to say that the shot of this island has been taken too many times before and is therefore no longer worth capturing?
Instead of worrying about issues of originality and duplication in photography, I prefer to remove that pressure and think instead about honest expression. What do I find beautiful about this moment? Why do I want to photograph it? What do I want to say with my composition? How do I feel about where I am at this particular moment?
When I take clients out to iconic locations such as Bled, my advice is always ‘just be yourself’. Don’t think about what others around you are doing, what kit they’re using, what they’ve included in their composition — find your own creative way here; you can’t go wrong. Yes, of course go ahead and take the classic shot — I always do! But then look around you. It’s an incredible spot! The less obvious can be just as inspiring.
I come back to this ‘over-photographed’ spot time and time again, both alone and with my clients, and each time I try to find something new or experiment with new ways of capturing how I feel about this place. Out of season; a new way to frame the island; a change of perspective; different times and weather conditions — it’s never the same shot…
Maybe it’s time to stop overthinking originality and ownership of creative ideas and start thinking instead about harnessing influence, inspiration, shared experiences and new technologies to find a way to stay true to our personal creative pursuits.
Luka Esenko owns and runs Luka Esenko Photography based in Slovenia and is Co-creator of SNAPP Guides, a series of smart photography guides for photographers. Luka and his partner, Jules Renahan, are seeking to establish a growing network of leading photographers around the world to bring together like-minded individuals who have a passion for photography and travel and a joy of sharing incredible photography spots. For more information or to discuss the co-creation of a SNAPP Guides with the team, contact [email protected]