Len Metcalf has some really interesting ideas about photographic style.
"Style is what we observe in others that we use to group for similarity and for difference. Style in the art world can be seen in how we group artists together and associate them together as art movements. Many art movements share similar ideals, techniques and mediums. They are often bound together in a particular time frame.
"We have these in photography too. We have the Pictorialists, Photo Secession, Group f64, Dusseldorf School, Surrealist Photography and the list goes on. Traditionally, the art historian is the one who labels such artworks and artists together for classification. They are looking for similarities and for differences. It makes their job easier if they can lump art and artists into easily described groups. They are looking for a distinctive manner which permits the grouping of works into related movements.
"Yet style can be observed in more minute ways. Imagine a group of photographers who are all friends and you know well. They visit a location together and all photograph it. They each pick a handful of their photographs and make small prints. We spread them all out on a table and examine them. When we look at a photograph, we know who took it. We can even start to group photographs together in little piles of who took them, based on assumptions about similarities and differences.
"When we look at each photograph, we get an intuitive sense of who took it. What we are noticing about each photograph and linking it to the photographer is style, its voice and its look. Style is what you can see in the work of others. It is like answering the phone and before the person calling you can say their name, you recognise them. We have so many clues, like tone, intonation, attitude, words, cadence etc. Each a clue that tells us who it is.
So, how do you develop your style? Read more of Len's thoughts in the current issue of Better Photography (Issue 105). Click on the link below to subscribe - plus you get immediate access to 50 back issues full of informative material and inspirational ideas! Use coupon code BP40 to get 40% off - just $29.80 for an annual subscription.