1) With your new camera in hand, all you want to do is go outside, and shoot photos. Random things: Friends, family, the streets, you might be taking your new camera everywhere, which will annoy your friends because you can’t spare a minute without pointing that damn thing in their face. And you shoot more photos. And more. Most of the images you take look quite bad, but you don’t care.
Here the road divides forks: most people might stay at this stage. Taking photos when on holidays, or at birthdays. Some however, will start reading up on past masters, “legendary” photographers, and maybe even buy photobooks. For those folks, the journey continues…
2) You start imitating the styles of your favourite photographers. That black and white image in Paris by the Eiffel Tower. A hobo somewhere in Manhattan. A long-exposure photograph of a train station. Your photography starts to become more advanced, while not really being unique, still. Whether this is macro photography, ethnographical documentation, self portraiture, or images from the streets – you will be hoping to create the feel and look of “that” image you saw somewhere before (online, in a photo book, or elsewhere).
As with the first stage, many will remain at this level. While their skill will increase over the time and their knowledge of photography will grow, the style they are aiming for will be instantly recognizable by connoiseurs of the art. Many will actually be happy to stay at this stage – even as professional photographers, selling their work as something that we’ve all seen before. Which doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. The pictures are slowly starting to look good, and people are complimenting you for your efforts. However, if any art from remained at this stage, there would be stagnation, and this would eventually lead to the demise of said art form.
Then, there is a small handful of people that will be trying to find their own style, technique, and message using the creativity and tools at hand. And that would be stage 3.
3) When you have reached the final stage of maturation, your images will slowly become less accessible to a wider range of people, while others might slowly see a respectable effort and unique style in your work. You abandon the homogenous pool that you’ve been comfortable in for a long time, and start going down your own path, saying “I don’t care if you don’t like my style”. A very small number of these people will eventually influence and push the whole field of photography forward.
I would place myself somewhere in the second stage, being aware that many of my images taken are directly influenced by pioneers, or artists and friends whose work I appreciate. The photographer who probably influenced me most recently is Walker Evans. His raw, simplistic street photography was the push I needed to finally realize that the world is out there to be photographed and that we often look further than we should for our next motive. Therefore, while I was in Mallorca, as part of self-exploration, I made a little personal hommage to Walker Evans.