I remember being absolutely mesmerized when I saw Jen Huang’s photographs for the first time, and the fact that she almost exclusively shoots on film. Using a medium format camera, today, in a genre like wedding photography, is quite unheard of. Here is someone who uses film, not for its novelty aspect, but because she understands what shooting with it stands for and has imbibed its qualities in her line of work.
Jen’s presentation at SILK Inspire last year, was one of the most interactive and fun talks. As she walked amongst the crowd, and handed out props (several velvet ring boxes), she mentioned a few things that we can all stand to gain from.
Being Open to Inspiration
During the course of her talk, Jen mentioned a provoking statement that Thomas Keller (founder of The French Laundry) had made… “People also talk about inspiration, and where they find inspiration or creativity on a daily basis, or week to week, or month to month, and my point of view is that there really is no true creation. Everything is here for us to be inspired, so how do you become inspired? Certainly there’s no definition for that. There’s no formula for becoming inspired, and it really amounts to how aware you are of what’s going on around you, so that you can open yourself up to catch those moments, or think about them—and then it really just becomes awareness and inspiration. What happens after that is interpretation, because two people can be inspired by the same thing but interpret it differently. That certainly is very important—how you interpret something and how it relates to what you do. A painter and a chef can see something, and that one thing inspires them, but they interpret it differently because of what they do.”
It’s so easy to fall into the loop hole of repetition. It’s a known and comfortable territory. How do you change that then? How do you find inspiration? Don’t just look in the obvious places. Jen for instance, derives a lot of her inspiration, for her table setups, from the designs of wine bottles, found in her local supermarket. This only goes to show that you have to be willing and open to accepting ideas in whatever shape or form they may come in.
One of the things that Jen spoke about was how shooting on film helped her slow down and enabled her to pay more attention to her photographs—the composition, the lighting, and the tiny details. While film functions as a good starting point and a strong base if you really want to understand photography, it can be an expensive ordeal, especially today. Jen, however, did not stress on the fact that all wedding photographers should take up shooting on a medium format camera. However, what she did speak about was the importance of slowing down, every now and then, and taking a few steps back to see the work you’ve produced so far.
When starting out, we tend to subconsciously imitate the pictures we’ve seen. It’s natural. We take inspiration from these photographs to see how we can recreate them or make them better. And when enough of photographers do this, it becomes a trend. We often forget that trends are momentary. What will always remain is your own personal style, a thought that Jen emphasized on, during her talk.
Grow, Mature and Evolve
As mentioned earlier, it’s easy to get comfortable working a certain way. Take a moment and look at all the pictures you’ve made. You may find that you have been photographing all your brides in the same way. Why is that? Is it because it’s the easiest way to get the right, perfect image, one that you’re sure will please the client? While there’s nothing wrong in doing so (at the end of the day you are providing a service), but how are you progressing photographically? “You’ve got to push yourself and not settle for just ‘good’ photographs,” Jen mentions. Strive to be the best possible photographer, at all times, and look for ways of how you can make the best possible photograph of a moment.
Finding People/Clients Who Appreciate Your Work
Sometimes you may receive requests from clients that do not match your style and aesthetic, even though they have approached you because of your work. It’s very common for photographers, especially the ones just starting out, to not let go of such an assignment. But it’s so important to stand your ground, and refuse work that does not align with the brand of photography you’re representing or helping build. This does not imply that you should shun away projects that are different from what you usually do. It’s always great to accept a challenge, and find a way where you can incorporate your aesthetic along with creating something new.
Have you attended SILK INSPIRE 2017? We would love to read your comments below.
SILK INSPIRE 2018 will take place in Bengaluru on October 3rd – 7th. Tickets start from ₹7,500. Book your ticket now.