Finding Your Voice

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Finding Your Voice, it’s a term that gets thrown around within creative disciplines a lot isn’t it. And photography is no exception, in fact we have a day workshop called just this. We ran another one this week, and it’s made me think about a few things, as a few recurring conversations happen every time we run them.

You’ve probably heard a lot about finding your why, a buzz term at the moment, but one we keep coming back to. We like a good Ted Talk like the next person, and you may have already seen the Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, if you want to watch it again, here’s the link. I got goosebumps when I first watched this with a marketing mentor a few years ago. And it’s something we share with our retreaters and workshoppers too. “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” He repeats it, and I can often hear his voice saying it.

On our workshops, we’ve had so many conversations about Instagram, curating our feeds, and the mythical beast that is the algorithm. I know I’ve posted photos that I think fit the criteria, seen the little red hearts beating before my eyes, my dopamine fix sated, for now, until I crave that next hit. And then a feeling of hollowness. Because I didn’t really FEEL that photo in the first place. I’m trying to quiet that voice that says, in a bit of a high pitched Yorkshire accent, ‘Ooooo, that’ll look nice on the grid’.

Why are we taking the photos we are taking? Who are they for? Surely, ultimately they’re for us. Only when we feel something in our images, will our viewers feel it too.

If something catches your eye, don’t overthink it. Take it. Show it. If we’re drawn to a pile of toys lit by the sunlight in the corner of the room, or a peg on the washing line glistening with rain, take it, and try and stop that niggle that might start questioning if it’s ‘right’ or not. We felt something just before we pressed the shutter. If it makes you feel something - BINGO! Surely that’s all that matters, and not creating something we think people want to see. People want to see you.

Let’s ditch perfection.

We’ve had a few people messaging us this week saying that they feel in a creative slump. Sometimes it’s a push to pick up your camera, it’s as if all our muscles in our body are conspiring against us to create, due to fear of failure. But these times of resistance are the times I encourage you to pick it up the most, if you feel you can. The camera can sometimes become a conduit to what you want to say with your images, and a rope ladder to bring you out. When I feel most stuck, I look at an object, say a bowl of fruit, and think about how I can take 10 different photos of it. Setting the scene with a wide shot to show it in the environment, and then a close up of a detail, maybe the stalk on an apple. I’lll try different light and perspectives, maybe holding one in my hand, and if I’m feeling energetic enough, maybe set the camera up on a tripod, set it onto a long exposure, and put myself in the frame walking behind the bowl to create motion blur. When I set myself to do something like this, it nearly always shakes me out of a slump, and gets me thinking about all those things I want to do, and maybe spark a few more ideas too.

We wondered if you’d like to do a week long project, making a commitment to pick the camera up at the same time each day for the next 7 days, that hopefully is manageable? As our monthly Stories Of The Everyday theme is HOME, we thought we could base it around that. When you have a theme, or limit yourself in this way to a time or word, (or even a combination of the two), it can lead to stronger images. If you’d like to join in please hashtag your images on Instagram with #storiesoftheeveryday_home if you want to show them. And I guess we’re all trying to bring it back home, to find what is right there inside, the gems that make our work, and our viewpoints unique.

It feels quite pertinent that Instagram are trialling hiding likes on posts in some countries. We’d love to hear from you if you’re in one of those countries, has it influenced what you’re showing or want to show in the future? I think it’d be great to roll it out here too.

So, are you in? Will you join us for the next 7 days? Just pick a time of day when you think it’ll be most convenient to capture a photo that symbolises home (maybe set an alarm on your phone). We hope it’s a gentle way of just picking your camera up each day to create, and if you feel those niggles, we’re here to encourage you to push through it, and take those photos that make you feel something. Let’s get creating!

We’re going to be running another Finding Your Voice retreat day in October. If you’re interested in joining us, please send us an email to express your interest and you’ll be the first to hear about the next date - info@sarahmasonphotography.co.uk.

For now, we hope you have a lovely weekend, and have fun creating!

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If you're in the mood for a bit more reading, I wrote a post last year about not being able to please everyone. If you’ve got a cup of tea on the go, and you want to put your feet up for a few more minutes, here’s the link.

S L I D E S

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In those in-between days, before Olive was born, we had a chance to catch up on a few Netflix box sets and films. We drew the curtains, switched the lamps on, and settled in for film nights. One of the ones we discovered is Kodachrome. The write up really spoke to us, and the trailer reeled us in. Have you seen it? It’s about a photographer and his son making a road trip to a photo lab in Kansas during the final days of the development system known as Kodachrome. It’s moving, poignant, and beautifully shot. Straight after the film, I rummaged in the top drawer of the cabinet in our lounge. Mum and Dad had given me a box of slides when they were moving house, and I thought I recognised the branding. Sure enough, they were Kodachrome. Suzi’s Dad gave us a slide duplicator that can be mounted onto our cameras to take photos of slides. It’s something I had on my to do list to complete, the film just acted as a catalyst. Suzi’s Grandad and Dad were, and are ,prolific photograph takers, so Suzi also had a stack of slides that we’d also wanted to look through.

These bright over saturated photos from our formative years were revealed. I’ve seen one from my red bonnet days before, but the others had been waiting patiently in the slide box to be discovered. We loved the everyday feel to Suzi’s family photos, and were baffled by my family seemingly erecting a row of deckchairs by a pile of building rubble!

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But I guess this is what we both love about family photography and that these unexpected moments can be discovered years down the line. We love the colours and tone. When we rebranded a couple of years ago, we looked to old film wallets and slide cartridges for inspiration. Our work has that nostalgic feel, and we wanted the brand to reflect that too. In this digital age, we still wanted to hold a hand with the past, so we created our photo wallets for our family clients. Here’s a short film about them.

‘’We’re all so frightened by time, the way it moves on and the way things disappear, but that’s why we’re photographers. We’re preservationists by nature. We take pictures to stop time, to commit moments to eternity. Human nature made tangible.” (from Kodachrome).

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If you get a chance, we’d really recommend Kodachrome. And if you have any other suggestions for movies/docs about photography or film, we’d love to hear them! We’re trying to watch a few more inspiring things when Olive allows ;-)

Where do you Keep Your Photographs?

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When I lived in London, I probably didn’t visit home as much as I should have done, but when I did, there were a few things I could always rely on. The temperature dropping by a few degrees whilst travelling up the M1, my sister moving more stuff into my old room (the slow take over), and a roast dinner on the Sunday before I set off back down south. And then another routine started on one of these visits.  After the plates were cleared, washed and dried, Mum would open the dresser and out came the old family photos. Kept in a 70’s Quality Street tin, I still love the sound of the lid being lifted, and the rustle of the photo packets inside, like a lucky dip, which era were we going to pick out first? Will it be the 80’s Franki Says T-Shirts phase, holidays on windy Scottish beaches, building dens in the woods, or would we go further back to when Mum and Dad were growing up?

Over the years, the photos have been even more mixed up, which adds to the surprise element of this little ritual. All the ‘best’ photos have made it into frames on the walls, or displayed on bookshelves and the mantlepiece. But it’s the snap shots in the tin I love the most. Not technically perfect in anyway, but just shots of us on location in places we visited, and almost always looking straight at the camera. Mum had a terrible habit of cutting Dad’s head off in the frame when she was the designated photographer, and there are a collection of these shots too, like little gems amongst the muddle of photos. Mum always has the tin on her knee and passes us the photos. I can always tell when she’s picked up one of the ‘where’s Dad’s head?!’ shots, as her face scrunches up and she lets out a laugh! It’s not even about the photos maybe, it’s about these predictable, yet cosy moments that bring us together as a family.

I know so many of us say how much we should print our photos, and it sometimes takes a bit of effort to do this. We have just had some photos printed and we’re going to be going to our framers soon to get the first images of me Suze and Olive on our walls. And for all the other shots we’ve taken over the past 7 months, we’re going to create albums and print out a bunch of 6x4s. We’re just going to print them so we have something tangible. The thought of Olive sitting there with an old tin on her knee passing them around to her family is such a strange thought right now, but this is why we want to do it. For us to enjoy them now, but to provide those moments in the future where she can just stop for a while and take a look at them with her loved ones.

On one of our visits a couple of years ago, me and Suzi wondered if we could make our own photos wallet, so our families can take away this tangible product from their shoot. We launched our photo wallet last year, we love it so much. It’s a trip down nostalgic lane, for those of us who grew up on taking our films in to be developed, but also provides that tactile product for a family to hold. Maybe some of them will make it into frames, or maybe they’ll stay in their wallet to be looked at over the years.

Do you have a place where you keep your printed photos? Are there any more Quality Street tins out there stuffed with photos? We’d love to hear where you keep them, and how you display them.

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Not wanting to be outdone, Dad showed Suzi a few of his favourite photos he’s taken of trees over the years.

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As it’s Sunday, hows about getting those photos out and taking a look together after lunch, or maybe making a promise to yourselves to print a few in the next few weeks?

Here’s a blog post you might like, Don’t Let Your Images Grow Up To Be Jegs, written by Jonas Peterson

We’ve created a Pinterest board with a few ideas on ways to display your photos in your home.

And if you’d like to see more about our portrait packages and our photo wallet, here’s a link to that page.

Sarah Mason Photography Family Photography



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