I still remember my first vocal lesson and the conversation I had with the teacher. We talked a little bit about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish through the course. I said something along the lines of…
“I would love to be able to sing like Jeff Buckley with a pinch of Thom Yorke and perhaps a dash of Nick Drake. If we could just combine those into one super vocal, that would be perfect.”
She smiled and said something along the lines of…
“I don’t think I can help you with that super vocal request or make you sing like any of those artists but why would you want to? Just imagine what the radio would be like if every artist sounded like Jeff Buckley. You have a unique voice and that’s what the world needs to hear. How about I help you strengthen the voice you already have and teach you to use it to the best of your ability?”
“Word,” I replied and nodded my head up and down as if I had just had an epiphany.
That’s a very literal way of describing what I mean when I say it’s important to harness and use your own unique voice. Apply this principle to almost any creative industry and the idea is very similar. So how does a person discover their unique voice in reference to photography?
I’d imagine there are variances as to how a person goes about defining and creating their own voice and style, but I do believe two of the main factors are life experiences and inspiration.
It was those years of finding comfort in solitude, when I spent all that time on my own as an only child, that draws me to quiet moments. It was my job as an engineer that brought out the need to use lines in interesting ways and also to be thorough and meticulous about framing a photograph. It was the strength and love of my family that made me want to capture the true spirit of people and their relationships with loved ones. Throughout life you’re constantly defining how you see the world through your own personal experiences. This becomes a part of your unique voice.
Inspiration is also incredibly important. When I started my journey in photography, I began with weddings. So naturally my inspiration came from wedding photography. I soon found how limiting this was because it seemed that everything I was creating had been “done” in some fashion. Then good friends of mine began introducing me to amazing photojournalists, as well as editorial and fine art photographers. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on. I also fell in love with cinematography and film. The works of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton, for example, both have a huge impact on how I take photographs. All of these influences seeped into the way I viewed the world and contributed to creating my own distinctive style and voice.
So how do you find and unlock this voice?
You don’t have to find it because it’s already there just waiting for you to take full advantage. You just have to be willing to embrace it. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Over time, additional life experiences and inspiration will continue to help your distinctive vision mature and grow. Once you start shooting from a personal place and stop trying to imitate other works and styles, your true voice and vision will come to life.
– Nirav | Nirav Patel portfolio
Portrait of Nirav by Fer Juaristi.
Our “What I Have to Say” Wednesday series features established photographers and artists with messages they just can’t keep inside. Authentically and honestly, our writers share words of wisdom to challenge, encourage, and inspire.