Avoid Templates to Get Noticed: The Importance of the Original Thinker

Getting noticed is a goal for many photographers. To stand out from the crowd, be recognized, to get commissioned, win competitions, receive praise, get published and be respected by their peers. However, how to do this remains a mystery to many, a holy grail to others.Some of you reading this may not be interested in achieving any of these outcomes, even so I think you might find what I have to say is of interest.

Marketing is a dirty word for many photographers, it is often interpreted as promoting shallowness and fakery, work of little worth. I don’t agree, but standing out from the crowd is not defined by marketing, it is not a question of how loud you shout in a world of loud voices. It is about remaining true to yourself.

What that means in concept and reality can be very different. I often hear people say that their work is different, to which I always respond, different to what?

And that is the issue. Being different is difficult and requires an understanding of original thinking. It also requires enough confidence to put that original thinking into practice. To do this requires a willingness to step away from existing templates. The perceived wisdom to achieve success.

Unfortunately, such wisdom becomes weakened through repetition. It becomes a watered down version of what was initially original thought and a tired template on which to base an expectation of success.

Such templates exist in the choice of subject matter, approach, presentation, expectation and the avenues chosen for desemination of work. They are not wrong, but they are crowded and therefore will not support you in standing out. In getting noticed.

I am a great believer in the original thinker across all creative practices and see evidence of creativity in evolving and deconstructing traditional templates amongst writers, actors, musicians and artists of all kinds, but I rarely see it amongst photographers. Are photographers more conservative in their willingness to take risks? I don’t know, but I do know that in a crowded environment only the risk taker creates new ways of being and doing.

My suggestion is that if you really want to stand out and be different you need to embrace the risk taking side of your nature. Ignore templates and stay true to what you think could be possible. Do not be held back by the fear of failure and look to how others outside of photography have addressed similar challenges, but perhaps most importantly understand that you will never stand out if you do the same as everyone else.

Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 www.donotbendfilm.com. He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.

© Grant Scott 2022

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