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7 Photographers on Finding Your Voice

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about process and development this year, and we decided to bring some of our favorite photographers into the conversation. We posed the question, “What is one thing that has helped you find your voice as a photographer?”, and here’s what they had to say:

Mark Steinmetz

“At the risk of coming across as a smart-aleck, I would say that the one thing that helps me to find my voice as a photographer is my voice. My voice is something inside of me that insists on coming out  – it will have its way.  We are surrounded by the voices of others (we live in a world of examples) and my voice crisply informs me what’s right for me and what isn’t. You could really replace the word voice with the word heart (some might go with the word intuition, I prefer heart). Sometimes like a river suddenly leaping its bank, my voice shifts course and goes in a new direction – that’s a decision I leave up to my voice – my voice is in the driver’s seat and I’m just going along for the ride.”

Website / Instagram

Kathya Maria Landeros

“Finding one’s voice is a constant process of inquiry and reassessment. I’ve been photographing for over 15 years, which means that I’ve changed and grown quite a bit during this time. But what has remained constant, and I believe this to be true for all photographers and artists, is a desire to communicate something about the lived experience. So, along the way, it has been important to stop and reflect on what I value – to ask myself what I want to communicate with my work. What makes me angry? What brings me joy or comfort? What are the things I’d change if I could – the things I wish were different? The artistic voice is quite literal for me. It’s an expression of who I am that moment in time and what’s on my mind. Even if I fail at my articulation of those thoughts and feeling in images, I’ve never felt that the process of doing so is unsatisfying.”

Website / Instagram

Janet Delaney

“I would say that the two years I spent in graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute ( 1979-1981) were the most formative years for me in terms of finding my voice. Attending seminars and often brutal critiques as well as slogging through theoretical texts and attending enlightening lectures by inspiring artists really helped me to shape my own practice. The faculty worked hard, my fellow students showed up to hold me accountable and encourage me to continue. Once I had earned that degree I knew that I had crossed over, leaving one world for another.  I had the tools to create my life as a working artist.”

Website / Instagram

Gioncarlo Valentine

“One thing that’s helped me to find my photographic voice is love. I know it sounds cliche and for people who know my fatalistic ass, that may feel strange, but I love Black people. I am deeply in love with and concerned for my people and my people’s history. My biggest desire as a photographer is to always be in service to our collective story, by both lifting up our boundless, perseverant history and dedicating myself to telling stories and highlighting true luminaries making work today. I am committed to a life of research, of looking back and communicating with our elders as well always looking forward, always nurturing relationships, and lifting up the important voices of our moment. I want to make all the Black people that spend time in front of my camera feel loved on, lifted, and heard. That’s the fuel that keeps me committed, that’s how I define my voice.”

Website / Instagram

Tommy Kha

“It’s easy to have your voice be drowned out by others but it’s always been there. Where you are at sea is never going to be the same trajectory as everyone else around you. Photography isn’t always immediate.”

Website / Instagram

Caroline Tompkins

“The most pivotal part of finding my voice has been an education in photography’s history and theory. I had the privilege of learning this through an art school, but I think this can be achieved through a general curiosity about the medium. Start with a movement like the Pictures Generation, Group F/64, the Dusseldorf School, and let the Google suggestions take you from there. Watch as many Art21s as you can. Watch the Yale MFA photo talks on Youtube.  Watch all of the Virtual Assembly talks for more contemporary examples. Look at books on the photographers you like at the library. Photographers exist in tiny hierarchies – reach out to the ones that don’t seem so far away. Eventually, you’ll learn that every photograph is made in conversation with centuries of other images, and then you get to decide where you want to fit in.”

Website / Instagram

Jason Fulford

When I was in my 20s, I used to have an existential freakout twice a year. I would question all of my motives, and sink into a depression. After a week or so, I’d start phasing out of my life the things that didn’t feel right, and try to concentrate on the things I still cared about. Over time, the freakouts happened less and less. Now I get one about every three years. They seem to serve a similar function as when you prune a plant—you cut it down to the shape you want, and then let it grow wild again for a while. Hopefully the shape you end up with is one you feel good about.

Website / Instagram

“Tomorrow’s Talent Vol. 4” Art Book

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