I always hesitate when someone asks, “What type of photography do you do?” For those of you that have followed along with me over the years, you can understand why this is a difficult question for me to answer. My first inclination is to say, “Everything!” But that doesn’t really do justice to the person asking, so it always feels like I’m fumbling around for the right words to describe what I do. Am I yoga photographer?
A photography teacher?
A fine art photographer?
A family portrait photographer?
A freelance photographer?
A nature photographer?
All of them apply and I hate being pinned down to just one, so I guess going forward I should call myself a generalist. That leaves me in a tough spot, though. In our world of specialization and niche markets, we’ve been conditioned to think that generalist equals amateur. That if we don’t hone our market down to a small, very specific style, we haven’t mastered our craft.
I’d like to go on the record saying that I disagree. I’ve found over the years that being a generalist has helped me time and time again. When my client wants a multitude of items – head shots, product shots, event photos, architectural shots and dynamic group images, they don’t have to hire 5 different specialists, they just call me. And as a generalist, I don’t have to put all my eggs in one basket. I can create images for stock, teach classes and make fine art images during the off-seasons of family portraits or when client work is slow. Another thing I love about being a generalist is that when something new piques my curiosity, I don’t feel like I have to keep it separate from my current Instagram feed or portfolio. I was once told that I need to curate what I put out on social media – make it look uniform and present a specific style – so that I could be known for a certain kind of work. I still resist that advice because I want to be known as someone who is constantly curious, creative and willing to try new things. I recently read an article on the topic of being a generalist that summed up what I’ve been thinking about in much more succinct and beautiful words:
To be a persistent generalist is actually to be deeply, relentlessly ambitious. It is the natural byproduct of curiosity, of engagement, of unwavering standards, of the insatiable desire for excellence. Commitment to generalism belies a keen and willing mind. Generalism is a pursuit of self. It’s how we strive. Driving us is the hope-borne belief that we will eventually design ourselves into the thing we will be.
Photographing in generalities, Angie