It is a common known fact that we need to get specialized in photography. In order to deepen its secrets, characteristics and to be the best we can in a certain field of this visual art, it’s more profitable and efficient to get specialized in, let’s say, one type of photography. Like Portraits, Weddings, Architecture, Travel, Street, Landscape, Food, Fashion, or Product photography.
I think photography and the need for specialization are somewhat similar with what we see in different types of jobs, work, crafts, hand-made manufactures. You cannot do everything as best as possible. You need to find a path that suits you, where you are good at, something you love to do, that you improve, test and practice until you reach a certain level of perfection. Or close to perfection.
So, it has to be the same with photography. You cannot be the best wedding photographer, as well as the best landscape photographer and also the best product photographer and so on; the best in all kinds of photography – from macro, to boudoir. Don’t take it ad literam – I guess you could be, if you could live several lives, being reincarnated over and over again only as a photographer (repeatedly, without exception). At the end of this chain of lives, if we take into account all your achievements in photography from all your incarnations, you might be “the best” (such a relative notion) in all genres of photography.
But at any moment, there could be at least one other photographer, better than you, in at least one type of photography. But enough with this going-nowhere story. To be fantastically good (avoiding the concept of pure perfection, which is only theoretical), you choose, let’s say, one branch of photography and you specialize yourself in this direction. You go on this road, working hard and building a reputation, a strong portfolio, a method to achieve the most pleasing and successful results to your public and clients. You start to think, feel and see photography in those specific terms. You begin this journey as a passionate photographer and later, you become a professional photographer. At the beginning it is the amateur passion, then all of this becomes a job.
I don’t want to state that at this professional level of photography, when what you do can honestly be called “a job”, there won’t be Art and Passion anymore. It is up to you, your dedication, talent and effort to keep alive the passion and the artistic value in this job. But this level of performance means photography specialization. You are a wedding photographer for instance. You might like, love to do landscape or street photography in your spare time, while on vacation, but what you do best is photographing a wedding. That’s your profession and your specialty.
And here comes the subtle danger. To your art, in general, to your spirit and soul in particular. To this whole process of growing up as an artist, as a true unique identity in this universe. What does it mean? When your time, passion and energy are consumed on only one type of photography (this is what professionalism in specialization will do to you, eventually), there won’t be enough (or any) time, passion and energy to be manifested in other branches of photography, or art in general. I guess we only live one life (as a photographer) and we will always face the unstoppable issue: “There is not enough time. If only the day would have 48 hours…”
We need to make the time and create the resources to break this self confinement that professional specialization did to us and begin to discover new things, re-discover ourselves. Step on new grounds of artistic expanses and grow up by embracing the new.
The moment you step outside your garden, you commence to understand your limitations in your photography education. The moment you accept you don’t know things, it’s the moment when you start to learn. And we have so much to learn.
I think every photographer should do it. Why not, every artist! Because the art where you dedicate your energy is That Path where you can express your inspiration, your message, your Ars Poetica. For some, it is photography, for others it is music, or painting, sculpture, ballet, acting, poetry and so on. But each poet should try to paint something, each musician should try to write a poem and each sculptor should try to photograph. Why? Because there is more than one way to express who you are, even if for most of us, there is mostly one way where we are the best at expressing ourselves.
Now, getting back to photography, I strongly emphasize on the fact that we need to explore uncharted territories in photography. I am not saying that the need to get specialized in one type of photography (Architecture, Product, Weddings, Portrait, etc.) isn’t useful and profitable for each of us. But exploring the New, makes you more mature as an artist, it gives you Perspective over life, things, people, it offers the real perspective and understanding of who you really are. Each artist, apart from his, or her quest to obtain perfect inspiration and perfect ways of expressing that inspiration, has another perpetual quest: finding his, or her true identity (and by that I mean who you are and what are your destination on this earth).
This is why, a portrait photographer will surely enhance the skills in portrait photography by shooting landscapes and street photography, by getting out of the “comfort zone”. We only grow through challenges, facing the unknown and getting out of our comfort state. The fate smiles to those with courage! And as much as I would like to get specialized in one type of photography, I feel that if I follow this endeavor only, I will limit myself in the ways I try to express my vision through photography. I love landscape photography and portraits and travel photography and street photography, too, both in color and black and white. I’ve always felt I need to explore more paths of expressing myself, so yes, I welcome the challenge of exploring the new. May the Light be with you!
All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2017 / www.sebastianboatca.com