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Towards a Personal Style - part 1 of 1 2 3 4

by Ruben Buhagiar Published

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Imagine this scenario: You have just home from an interesting photo shoot, grinning like a Cheshire cat. You are sure that you have just bagged an award-winning shot and really can't wait until you've got onto your computer to download and tinker around with it until it results in the image you had envisaged. Just perfect.

And guess what? The image is even better than you thought. So, a rubbing of hands and a couple of minutes later (which, more likely than not, would have actually been half an hour at the very least) and you call your wife, the one person you always want to impress most: "Hey, Marlene, come and have a look at this!"

Now Marlene is no photographer, but she is very sharp, impulsive, and certainly not political. No corners cut, she lets you immediately know what her first impressions are. But she likes photography (let's face it...

Who doesn't? - the medium has so much appeal, so much that cameras are a 'can't-do-without' feature on all our mobile devices). Marlene is immediately taken by images which give her a new outlook, a new perspective, though she then leaves it up to me to make an argument or discover exactly what she likes or dislikes in any image.

"Is this why you called me?" My heart sinks. It is naturally very normal to be emotional about your imagery and, anyway you look at it, your eyes always seem to see things others don't. But then imagery is there to transmit your emotions to others, so Marlene's verdict is indeed fundamental.


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I call her my Quality Manager, and it is my job to understand why she reacted the way she did at first viewing, and my job to either heed her indications or explain to her the motives of the image 'directly from the horse's mouth'. It is then up to me to make the decision, and it is important, though indeed hard, to be as objective as possible.

Why do I start? Well, the question should be: 'Does the image fulfill any of these functions?':

1. Communication: does it communicate the photographer's idea to the viewer?
2. Personal statement: does it transmit a personal statement, a vision of the world as the photographer sees it?
3. Technical record: is it an accurate record of something which exists?
4. Personal record: is it solely for the use of the photographer or his circle of relatives and friends?

Which brings us up nicely to the most fundamental question, which every photographer, viewer and judge must ask: Why has this image been created?

A) If it is immediately obvious, and if the treatment enhances it, then it should be regarded as a successful photograph.
B) If it is not immediately obvious, but it is interesting enough to arrest the viewer long enough to ask questions then not only is it a successful image but it is timeless. If it does so by use of a particular style, it really also describes something unique about the photographer who took it.
C) If it is immediately obvious, but deja vu, then the shine comes off the image. It is more likely that this image gives the wrong message: more geared towards being a general crowd-pleaser than saying anything on a particular way the photographer looks at things. These images tend to be successful in competitions...but,
D) If the image has no effect whatsoever or does not provoke any reaction, then the best place for it is the bin.


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