I just did a post on my photography blog about this, and then realized this idea expands out to life, not just photography. This is a lesson I need in my whole life, not just my photography. So, I've reworked this to include all of life, because I needed to hear it, and maybe it'll help someone else too.
Let me start by talking about photography and then expand it out to encompass more.
You would think that photography would be an easy thing to find a style, a signature with. You just take pictures a certain way, or have certain poses, or certain locations you turn to time and again because they are just you.
For some, finding their signature may be easy and quick. For me, finding my signature has been a long process. One where up until a little over a week ago, I still didn't see much progress on. And then a light bulb turned on. And I wrote a whole post about how this applies to my photography. And then I realized this applies to life. But I already talked about that in the beginning.
Photography has been a long road for me, a slow process. There have been times the progress was quick and times where, in the middle of things, it felt like I was going nowhere. Looking back there was always learning and progression, but it doesn't always feel like forward movement in the moments of frustration.
I never felt like I had a signature style though. I felt like I was trying out everyone else's signatures. Working on up close shots or trendy poses and shots. And they were pretty and I like them. But they weren't mine. I was signing other people's names.
For the Rising Tide Society Summit I participated in recently we had daily challenges. One was all about finding your signature and showing that. I didn't know how to do that...I didn't know what my signature was.
So I started by going through my shoots from the last two years and picking the one or two photos that just stood out to me most, the ones I loved the most. No rhyme or reason, just the ones that spoke to me. One by one they went in a folder, and at the end I looked at my collection. And there, staring at me and smacking me in the face was my signature.
Consistently, my favorite shots are the ones where I've pulled back, having the subjects small within their environment. I love these shots! I love the emotions they convey to me. To me, these show a whole different view of the story of the day and of the moment.
More recently I've done fewer and fewer of these shots during sessions. They aren't typically people's favorites, and they do take some running back and forth. So I changed my signature to mimic more of the "normal" and "expected" styles. Those styles aren't bad, or wrong. And I love including them in my shoots. But I was neglecting my signature. I was burying what helps to make my work different. What makes it my work.
So now my goal is to include at least one, if not a few, of these in every session. I want to work on developing my signature and making it truly mine.
And that brings me to life. We see so many ideas of beautiful living rooms, decadent meals, organized and meaningful family activities, dripping with cuteness relationships, elegant Christmas mantles, etc. It can be so easy to just go for what is big at the time, for what everyone else likes, what we see.
In this past year I've worked to define my fashion style (via Savers and other thrift stores...because that's how we roll), and for a few months I tried going for what was trendy and trying to make popular fashion work on me. For the most part, it really doesn't. I know that. I knew that before. But still, I wanted the current look. So I took some pieces home with me that I wasn't in love with but I was sure I could make it work.
Those pieces haven't been worn once. They sat in my closet until I did the latest purge. I wasn't true to my style. I wasn't true to who I am and what works for me. I'm happier and feel more like myself when I'm not trying to dress like fashion bloggers. Now of course there's nothing wrong with fashion bloggers. I just need to find one that rocks my style and get ideas from her! I know my style. I love elegant and classic. I love my style truly, and the more I embrace it, the more I love it and the more it truly is me.
The same thing can happen in our homes. I look around my little house and look at my inspiration boards on Pinterest and want "this" or "that" look. I've had decorating paralysis because I just didn't know how to make the space work for us with all the open storage we have. The board games on the shelf in the living room aren't pretty, and my sewing machine sitting on the metal shelf by the computer desk isn't very picturesque, and this or that isn't just how I want it. So I wasn't going to do anything until we were somewhere else and I could really make the space mine.
But that's a little ridiculous. I can make the space mine right now. It won't look like the blog I follow with the cute little carpenter style house with the gorgeous navy and peach decor. It can't. They don't live in my house. I do. My family does. Our house, our space, should look like us. It should have our signature on it. I can work around these "obstacles" and embrace our family style rather than doing nothing because I can't sign someone else's decorating style on my walls.
This can even translate to our relationships with our spouse, significant other, children, parents, family, friends, etc. I want a strong marriage. I want a happy family. I want healthy friendships. But my style is now showy. We don't have a marriage that drips with cuteness and flowers. And I sometimes get down about that because I see friends with marriages dripping with cuteness and a part of me really wants that. But that's not us. And that's okay. We can have a quiet and private relationship and still be just as strong. Neither approach is better or worse. But when I get down about how we're not as cute or when we push for a couple signature that isn't our own we just feel fake and weird and it's not us.
Breaking through fears is big. For many of us there is a fear in at least one aspect of our life about fitting in. We may not even think about it as fitting in, but we're afraid to be ouselves and we're afraid to sign our name to our style. With me and my photography, as with many photographers, this is my art. This is one of the places you can find pieces of my hearts. As artists, we want people to love our work. But, not everyone will love every shot. That's how art is. We have to be brave enough to be who we are and to show the art that speaks to each of us. In life, we have to be brave enough to be who we are with our homes, our families, our relationships, our actions.
As we do that, as we let our lives truly reflect who we really are, and not just reflections of trends and "normalcy", our work (be it in our family, the things we create, the food we make, the lives we live) will be full of life, and we will attract those who speak the same "language" of heart, and we'll feel more fulfilled with our progress. We have to be brave enough to sign our own names to our life.