Taking it to the next level

It is the purpose of life that each of us strives to become actually what he or she is potentially. Each photographer, then, should be obsessed with stretching towards that goal through an understanding of others and the world we inhabit. When that happens, the result, like photographs, is really the expressions of the life of the maker. – David Hurn

In my last post I mentioned the concept of levels when it comes to my own progress as a photographer.  These are artificial constructs, of course, but they help me to achieve goals along the way.  I always find it easier to follow a path if there are milestones along the way.

If you like to do the same thing, you should define your own and not use mine, as they’re unique to each individual.

Right now I have a certain level of success.  I’m regularly in gallery shows, my prints are selling (albeit not as fast as I’d like) and my name is getting out there.  That’s all well and good and I celebrate that internally.

But I always strive to do better.  I study other photographers like crazy.  I see how they put together their portfolios, how they construct their photos, present them to the public (as well as galleries), etc.  I’m a research-aholic so this comes naturally.  I actually enjoy it.  I talk to galleries, visit them regularly, look at how work is presented, sequenced, framed, everything.  I’m learning that in addition to a very strong body of work, the details matter.  Framing,  matting, sizes, editions, naming and more.

By far the biggest thing though is that strong body of work.  And one of the biggest things I’ve learned about that is that it should be cohesive.  Cohesive not only as a whole, but also as individual series or explorations.  It should all hang together and become “you”.  So much so that when someone looks at almost any of your photos, they should know who it was taken by.

So that’s where I’m at.
I have the beginnings of series.
I have some cool individual pieces.
I have the beginnings of themes.

My next level?  Pulling it all together.  Going deeper.  Do in-depth explorations of a subject or topic.  I have a pretty clear idea in my head of what that looks like, now it’s a matter of fulfilling that vision.

Along those lines, I’m heading back to Africa in November.  I’m truly excited about the trip as I’m already visualizing the shots I want to take and how they’ll fit into my portfolio.  In the end, I’ll hopefully have enough to have a strong solo show.  That’s my goal – my next level.

What’s yours?

So much prep to do and so little time!





  1. Great post Mark. Interestingly I have gone the opposite way. My life – until recently – was so structured that Photography was a way of letting a little creativity and chaos back in, happy to wander where the urge took me, where the inspiration led me.

    That said, my better work comes when I have some structure or order to that freedom. No boundaries in the sense of this image or that perspective. I want to keep the pressure of capturing a particular shot, away. More a sense of purpose or a unified direction.

    Now I think of it, a sort of cohesiveness. Oh Damn. I have just gone full circle haven;t I?

    Well thanks for the free therapy then!

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