Fine Art Vs Fashion: Finding My Way In Photography & How I Probably Never Will

Now that I am almost three months into my second year photography degree, I think that it is now time to consider (or semi consider) my future within photography. The problem I find with this is that I do not know what I want to do. I know what I like and don’t like and I know what I enjoy shooting (and what I don’t) but how can I forge myself a career where I do something that I both enjoy and get paid (respectably) for it?

I first started photography alongside a fine art course whilst I was studying for my A Levels, and at no time in the 2 years whilst doing it did I even consider a career in photography. It was when I was attending a foundation course at university that I decided that I enjoyed photography a lot more than fine art. (I had planned to become a art teacher) and decided to peruse a career in it.

Fine art photography is the “genre” of photography that really inspired me to become a photographer. In fact, it is due to photographer Brooke Shaden, who through looking at her portfolios of her work, made me realise that photography is about more than taking pretty pictures of trees and people.

The idea that you can create stories through images in which you could arrange every aspect (such as costume, location, props, styling, post production) in whichever way you wanted to portray whatever mood, thoughts or idea that you wanted is so amazing and is something that I want to do photographically for the rest of my life. But there is a problem with this. I am currently doing a photography degree in which commercial photography is the main focus. What I want to do is not exactly commercial. Taking self-portraits and creating contrived images is not (necessarily) commercial to my tutors that are marking my work, these images would be seen more as personal work rather than work that makes money. This has led me to plenty of hours and days spent worrying about the work I’m going to produce whilst at university. Do I stick to creating images that I enjoy or do I create images that will get me a good degree?

Recently I have been trying to decide how I can utilize my time at university, particularly how I can get around to using the photography studios. When I do fine art photography, I normally go out on location to shoot images with natural light so I have little to no use for the studio, but I can’t help feeling that if I spend 3 years at university never having used the studio, would it be a wasted opportunity?

To combat this, I have decided that I am going to try and experiment with some fashion & beauty based images, which will get me using the studios and trying something different but, if I’m honest, I’m worried that I may enjoy it a little bit too much and decide that I want to be a fashion/beauty photographer. This itself leads to many worrying questions: What if I change my mind again and decide that I want to go back to being a fine art photographer? What if I’ve managed to build up a fan base around fashion related images? Will my audience be accepting of my seemingly random switch? Will I be able to sustain my career being a fashion photographer? How much of my creativity will I have to sacrifice for client demands? The problem is that these questions will be relevant to any genre of photography that I pursue. So what do I do?

I have decided that I am going to take as many images as I can, whether they are contrived self-portraits or fashion related and client based photographs. As for deciding which direction to go in, I’m not even going to think about it. (which is a lot easier said than done). I will let my images decide for me.

I will probably never know what I really want to do, even in 50 years from now, but you know what? That’s ok with me.

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1 Comment

  1. First time reading your blog, and as much as I enjoy it, It’s hard not to notice how different feel to our university we have. Its really interesting that you wrote that “commercial photography is the main focus of our degree”, as I feel completely opposite. I think that our university is everything but commercial photography focused, and I’m afraid, well I was – not any more, that my work is too commercial. I’ve been even told that if I’m a commercial photographer, then perhaps this course is not for me. Now however I enjoy the pressure our tutors put on the conceptual photography, and on the reasons behind our work and its meaning, making us conscious photographers. It’s look to me that they have an individual approach to every student and are pushing us out of our comfort zone – and now when I’ve realised it, I really appreciate that 😉

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