What’s Your Specialty?…

      One of the most frequent questions that I, and I assume most photographers hear is,

     “What’s your specialty? What do you like to shoot?”

     I grant that this may be a legitimate question, but it is also one that I don’t have a ready answer for.

It is akin to asking me what my favorite color is….

That would be….blue, for sky…

well, sometimes grey…

green for grass and trees…(except in Autumn, and then orange and red and yellow for trees)…

reds, or pinks, or maybe…. purples for sunset clouds…and so on…

As clear as a Seattle fog, right?

     There are many realms of ‘work’ or occupations that do have specializations.

An attorney might answer, ‘corporate law’, or ‘criminal law’….

     I think you would rarely have an attorney answer that their specialty is ‘Justice’… although that might be refreshing to hear.

     Same with doctors….’sports medicine’, ‘pediatrics’, ‘gastroenterology’…

Not simply ‘making people whole’….

     So, having said that,

     I think I hold to a preference rather than a specialty.

     My preference through photography is to attempt, albeit usually subconsciously on my part, to capture images that the viewer is drawn into as a participant, and only after viewing and studying, the viewer MIGHT have the inclination to say,

“Oh, that’s also a good photograph!”

     E.H Gombrich, in Art and Illusion gives a description of this, “the beholder’s share”, stating that

“…the spectator brings an image into existence by perceiving and understanding it.”

     Or, as Michael Freeman points out in The Photographer’s Mind ,

“By nature, we like to see that the components of an image are going to be resolved rather than that they are actually resolved.” (My emphasis)

     Whether it is a portrait, a still life, a social event, a concert, a race or the activities behind and around these moments, my preference is that ‘I’ am not a part of the photo, though I do try to put myself, or more correctly, my viewpoint… my observations of interest…  as unobtrusively as possible, within the picture.

     Now obviously, when I take a bad picture, I expect ‘my hand’ in the image to be the first thing noticed…

So in that respect, I especially hope to hold my anonymity….

     Musicians are probably asked this question also, and there are those who definitely have specialties…

     I mean, George Jones is categorically NOT a ‘Head-Banger’ and Motley Crue would only be typecast as ‘Classical’ in a Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland dream sequence.

     But, there are others who defy classification, who transcend, or scoff at,  the labels of genre.

     In commercial photography, there was a mind-set years ago…(I hope it doesn’t still exist) that if you couldn’t come up with an answer to the specialty question, then you ‘must not be able to do anything well’…

  “What is your specialty?”

“Well, Whatta ya got?!?   This particular moment holds many inspirations!”

     I have, in the evolution of my artistic endeavors, experimented with numerous photographic techniques, both digital and analog…sometimes planned and often accidental.

     I can’t say that there has been any one approach or execution that caused a ‘Eureka!’ moment of, “This is it !”…Forever and ever will this be MY style!”

     No, it’s too much fun to climb each and every tree, even if it means falling out of a few  most.  (And of course, going out on a limb provides a unique vantage point…)

Commercially speaking, when contracted to photograph something,

     I’ll shoot it my way and capture the image that I want, hopefully using every ounce of the perception, acuity, and perseverance  that ‘you’ hired me for


     I’ll shoot it your way and capture the image that YOU envision, utilizing only my technical knowledge and equipment to bring about your concept…

And THEN shoot it my way!!….just for ‘mean-ness’…

(BTW, Pardon me for using the hateful rhetoric ‘shoot’ and ‘capture’  and ‘execution’  and ‘aiming’ in this post.  I hope I don’t cause anyone to, well, you know…)

     So here I have posted several different styles of subject matter and technique.  I can’t say that my next photograph will resemble any of these….but I’m okay with that!  (Of course I have just opened myself to the possibility that someone may critique this by saying….., “Uh, maybe you should develop a style!!!”)

No specialty?  I suppose I’m ‘guilty as charged’.

I’m still aiming for substance….! 

And sometimes a saxophone may say what a violin may not….

If any of these photos has  ‘conjured up’ questions in your mind, well, then I’m satisfied.

No, I take that back.  To borrow from Steve Earle,  “…I ain’t never satisfied…”

That’s why I keep trying.


~ by rkpowers on February 27, 2011.

One Response to “What’s Your Specialty?…”

  1. when people ask me that, i like to say street photography. but if im being honest, even though thats where my passion lies, i think i take better pics of landscape and other stuff.. my street shots are improving though. but i like to keep it diverse. i dont know how that works, but yeah…


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