If you had to ask yourself who you are as a photographer, could you answer that question? What would you say about yourself if all you had to do was talk about your creative progression?
Many artists and people go through this world trying to find who they are. As we travel down the road of life, we discover more about ourselves and develop our identity. Every photographer has a photographic identity. It defines who we are as shooters and the type of work that we try to put out. Our photographic identities can only come about by continuing to shoot and internalizing the work of other photographers. My mentor in college taught me that if you’re a photojournalist then you’ll have the skills to be able to shoot whatever you want afterwards. The reason for that is because of the fact that photojournalism has skills that apply to any genre of photography: landscapes, portraits, events, weddings, long exposures–you name it and it’s there. Years later, I’ve realized more than ever that he was completely right.
But every single photographer that continues to self-identify and work to develop their craft won’t necessarily work in photojournalism. Many will shoot food and stick to it while others will shoot portraits and continue to get better or give up altogether.
No photographer in the world should ever say, “I can shoot anything.” Sure, you probably can–but how much of it is really worth displaying on your portfolio? If you showed images from your most recent session, would you put the entire thing up? You probably won’t–and so photographers need to specialize to begin with. It’s important that you market yourself as a portrait photographer or a sports and outdoor shooter, or that you have a label of some sort. It helps you sell yourself to clients later on.
The argument that everyone is a photographer these days is true. But are they really a creative? How many of you have a creative vision to sell? Do you have an entire body of work showing off what your creative vision is capable of doing? If you do, you should be pushing that more than anything.
Inspiring and fostering creativity is the only way that we will survive and keep creating–but we need to know who we are ad specialize to succeed.