In the world of 1,001 photographers, you need to have a message.
Photographer Alec Soth explains it this way:
I have a theory that everyone will say one sentence about an artist. “He’s the guy that photographs Weimaraners.” “She was one of Crewdson’s students at Yale.” “She took disturbing pictures of her children.”
He calls it “the sentence.” I think he’s right. And I think every “sentence” has a message. And my message is what drives my business.
From my point of view, it’s hard to grow my business if I’m not KNOWN for something. What am I really about? Can I explain in one sentence what it is I do well? Is it something no one else is known for?
Actually, I can’t always answer those questions, but I’m always trying. Through my work I try to shape my sentence and re-do it.
Photographers, it seems to me, should always be thinking about a sentence. I don’t mean that glibly.
Is “I’m a renowned photojournalist” a better description than “I’m
Victor Jorgenson, the other guy who photographed the nurse and the navy man kissing in Times Square?”
What’s more interesting to you? Which is more likely to generate a conversation?
The death nell of any online portfolio I see today is when it never gets to the conversation starter. Singles, News, Sports, Features and Stories just isn’t good enough. And neither is the traditional wedding book or formal portrait sitting.
Seeking out your own sentence, and changing the wording from time to time, is a healthy practice. If you don’t have a sentence or aren’t working on one, then it’s just plain hard to distinguish yourself.