I remember a time during my career when photographers were encouraged to focus and specialize in one form of photography. Diversifying your skills was considered to dilute your title as an expert. What you photographed, as well as how you photographed, defined you.
I would never hire a heart surgeon who also does brain surgery as well as delivers babies. I get it.
But it appears those days are gone. It’s difficult to find anyone who thinks like that anymore. Photographers know that in order to stay afloat for long you must expand, or reinvent yourself. Over and over again. And in the end it is far more beneficial to have some diversity as well as other artistic outlets to complement one another.
But what does reinventing yourself really mean?
Is reinventing the right choice? Does it mean one day you're a portrait photographer and the next day a war photographer? Does it mean you need to learn some new computer software to make your images look even better?
For some, maybe. But that's a choice, not a requirement.
I started my career in photography as a newspaper and magazine photojournalist, and switched to event photography in 2001 while living in Chicago. I waved goodbye thinking I would never miss my journalism and editorial ways, mostly because print journalism was nose diving and it was made clear to photographers that in the new world order we were expendable. I was angry, I admit.
After focusing on events for a solid seven years, I found myself spending the next five entertaining the idea of returning to documentary and editorial work but this time have it complement my event work. Each validates and satisfies a creative urge that isn't met by the other. My lesson in the past few years since moving to Los Angeles is finding the different types of photography that interest me actually make the other work stronger. Street photography, weddings, events and editorial work all require a different muscle, set of eyes and way of thinking. As a friend put it the other day, “It will make you more agile and free.”
I am not reinventing, but I have allowed myself to rediscover and open myself up to a broader spectrum of photography now that I am in LA. It feels great and refreshing, and needed. The daily grind of event work can take a toll on creativity. And while some people might pooh-pooh me for saying that, the positive spin is combating that and finding a new way of seeing.
Being an “expert" and knowing your shit makes complete sense. That is any professional's insurance bank. But an expert can work beyond one specific subject, such as weddings.
It’s important to have a peerless eye, strong style and unique visual communication skills that carry over and connect the different jobs. A wedding, birthday party, anniversary, portrait, baby shower, editorial or commercial assignment should all look like Kevin Weinstein took that photograph. And while not every image is as strong as the one next to it, having that be my mantra makes me sharper and consistent. It gives me a visual goal with my work.
Not until I made the transition to Los Angeles did the doors reopen to documentary and street photography, which then led to opening a few other doors to editorial and commercial opportunities.
It is time to finally separate the two types of work.
I am launching my new site to house my parties, editorial and commercial jobs. I will also be sharing my street photography on the blog which has become the most important glue that holds my personal and professional photography together and lifts me upward. But more on that later.