Personal style or self-repetition?

When does personal style morph into self-repetition?

My query paraphrases one posed by Varga in his book Three Questions for Sixty-Five Composers, but it’s obviously equally relevant for us as photographers.

In pondering the dilemma, I was reminded of an overseas photographer whose work I followed with interest for quite some time. The photographer lived in a struggling rural settlement, home to marginalised people with few worldly goods. Their faces were furrowed with the hardships of their lived experience, and they made wonderful subjects for the photographer’s lens.

The resulting head-and-shoulder portraits were powerfully emotive, the solemn demeanour and direct unsmiling gaze of the subjects thrown into sharp relief against incongruously bright-coloured backgrounds. Technically the images were very good, and the photographer’s engagement with the subjects was clear.

The photographer’s personal style of portraiture was instantly recognisable, even from small thumbnails in mixed online galleries. So recognisable in fact, that I felt somewhat guilty when I realised I’d become bored with the work, despite its obvious merit, and I soon stopped following their portfolio. It seemed to me the photographer’s personal style had morphed into self-repetition.

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Street photographer – Rui Palha

Further to my earlier post about the legal issues surrounding street photography, I’d like to share what I think makes the genre so compelling, together with the work of a great street photographer

Street photography is challenging because shooting candid images in public spaces means you have to leave your comfort zone, to make yourself vulnerable somehow. And it’s rewarding because ordinary, everyday things often make for extraordinary images.

A photograph tells a story and with street photography that story usually remains untold/unknown but never unthought-of – because I made a photograph to remember it by…
Errol Lyons-Rainey

Great street photographers instinctively see the moment, seize it, and yet their presence never intrudes on the scene.

One such example is Rui Palha, an award-winning photographer from Portugal. There’s so much to like about his work – the gorgeous tonal qualities; clever framing; dynamic points of view; his intuitive use of available light; the way he makes the viewer feel present…

Here are some random samples of his work – what do you think?