It’s time for Part IV of the Ultimate 365 Project Guide!
The third part showed you some really great motivation techniques to keep going. On top of that, Part III demonstrated how your bad days are as valuable as your good ones. Part IV revolves around the most precious thing a photographer can achieve: a unique signature.
In the first part of the Ultimate 365 Project Guide I briefly described the four stages of growth. The final and most important stage is creating your very own style of photography. Let me show you how basically everyone can achieve a unique signature with the "Helsinki Bus Station Theory" and how your 365 project will help you here.
THE HELSINKI BUS STATION THEORY OR THE ROAD TO YOUR SIGNATURE
The theory was developed by the Finnish-American photographer Arno Minkkinen. At the Helsinki Bus Station there are two dozen platforms from which several different bus lines depart. No matter which bus you take, they all drive the same route out of the city at first. So just imagine you took the architecture photography bus for a couple of stops (each stop stands for a year of taking photos) and all of a sudden an experienced photographer or curator tells you your photos pretty much look like someone elses work. But you want your photography to be unique, right?
So you take the next cab back to the bus station looking for another platform, maybe street photography. You take the bus out of town and the same thing happens to you: it looks like someone elses work. But how do you create your very own signature if so many have taken that road before?
Simple! Just stay on the bus and be patient! Your signature may resemble other signatures after a couple of stops, but wait what happens once you left the city and your bus route takes you to the farthest place somewhere out there where only you want to go. To put it in a nutshell: a signature needs time and lots of shooting! There is no shortcut to your own style.
FORGING YOUR OWN STYLE
When you think about it, it totally makes sense. When you start out with photography, you usually capture everything around you and explore what's possible with your camera. After a while you try out some genres such as portrait, landscape, architecture or whatever you like at the time. The more time you spend shooting the more you develop a certain interest for certain genres.
Let's say street photography somehow draws your attention and you want to pursue it further. When you take your first street photography shots, they probably won't have your own signature. It's more of a remix of other styles you've seen or may want to have. That's absolutely normal and basically happens to everyone. For me the black and white 35mm shots in the heat of vivid street sceneries were my basic idea of street photography back then and I tried to "copy" that. But the longer you capture moments on the streets, the more they become your moments. Just imagine certain elements such as lines or strange perspectives truly fascinate you. You always pay special attention to these elements and try as many variations as possible.
You will come up with new ways to shoot them, because you've tried the regular ways often enough. Because only if you spend a lot of time with a certain subject, you'll develop your very own perspective on it. I, for one, discovered that I love very clean sceneries with only one or two people in it in a highly minimalist style with strong colors. It took me years to end up at this bus station in Marius Village - and there's certainly another route to Marius City I haven't even used yet.
HOP ON THE 365 EXPRESS BUS!
A 365 Project is so helpful for creating your own signature, because you will definitely drive the bus every day. No matter how many bus stops you've passed so far, the 365 Express Bus will certainly take you to destinations of your own signature you've never seen before. Just think about it, you have to come up with a new shot literally every day. It forces you to think about new ways to take your photos.
I remember after the first months of the project that I've tried many things, but I just didn't want to capture them again. And so will you. Believe me, when you walk down the same street for the 25th time, you won't capture the same moment. You'll also pretty quickly realize what you truly love shooting, because you gotta love what you're shooting if you do it every day. The project is just incredibly helpful in finding your interests and developing your very own style by forging it every single day.
CLOSE THE GAP WITH YOUR 365 PROJECT
The road to your own signature is a journey of a thousand miles, but your 365 project will at least be 365 miles. Once upon a time I stumbled upon this quote by Ira Glass, an American radio personality and producer, who truly found the right words to explain the process: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.
For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” Let your 365 Project help you close the gap and get you closer to your idea of amazing photography than ever before!
FORGET YOUR CAM AND FALL IN LOVE
When you feel you're stuck in your project, try this. Forget about your camera, compositions, the rule of thirds, colors and everything a great picture is made of. Spend some time thinking about yourself. What do you love? What fascinates you? Because passion and interest for certain things are the main drivers for innovative photos. The more you love something, the more you want to capture the true beauty of it.
In the end it's all about your view on life that determines your signature. Compositions, colors, lines, light are your tools to express that, but the heart and soul of these photos is what you feel in that very moment. I tried all sorts of techniques and genres till I took a step back and thought about what always fascinated me. Since I was little I always loved walking through the city and just observing people in interesting sceneries.
Up until recently I thought it was pretty pointless, but it was one of the few things that I couldn't get enough of. No matter how absurd your fascination is, pour your heart and soul into it and you will end up with amazing photos. It's your love for life and beauty that turns you into a great photographer, not your camera or a textbook.
MAKE IT YOUR 365 JOURNEY!
Whether you spend years taking photos or just for the first time, your 365 Project will be a game changer. You'll learn so much about yourself and your photography no other project could possibly offer you. No matter how you set up your project, never forget it's yours. It only matters what you feel and create, not what others expect of you. Make it your project and I'm sure it will take you to places you've never expected to be there!
I wish you all the best for your 365 journey!
LET'S STAY IN TOUCH