A few years ago I had opportunity to go on vacation in Italy. While planning the vacation, we wanted to make sure we hit all the attractions that one "should visit" while in the area. Spending time in the Chianti wine region, Florence and out on the west coast, there were a lot of those attractions along the way to make sure we hit. Now this isn't a post about the "top 10 things to do in Italy" or anything like that, so just stick with me for a little bit.
We would be traveling within 30 minutes or so from Pisa heading from Cinque Terre to Florence and decided that we should stop by and see the famous Tower of Pisa. I am all about seeing unique architecture, especially ones with interesting stories. Upon arrival however I quickly realized how much of a tourist trap it was to visit. From the carts selling magnets, postcards, t-shirts and any other product they could put the tower on to the multiple people selling counterfeit products, this was a haven to sucker any first time visitor. Now this isn't a post about commercialism and people making money off of useless items, just a little bit longer until the point.
After making our way through the "market", we crossed into the square and there it was the Tower of Pisa in all of its glory. But that is when I saw what would end up being the point of this post.
People taking photos as though they were holding up or pushing over (or sometimes couples doing both) the tower with a little magic of perspective. I had seen this photo before and have to admit I thought it was kind of clever, that was until I was actually there. The edge of grass was lined with people all doing the exact same pose. Following the motions of everyone else so they could have the "shot" that apparently shows that you were there.
I don't like going with the crowd and decided that I was going to do my own take on the their posing. I took pictures of people from angles not showing the tower so they just look like they are posing in a weird position for no real reason at all.
I had an absolute blast taking photos of these people, so much though that I almost forgot to take a nice landscape photo or the building for me. Seeing hundreds of people pose the same way, following a formula for what I guess they believed to be creative.
Reflecting back on this moment made me realize that with as much creativity we have in our culture, that there is that many more people just imitating. They are sacrificing being unique in order to fit in with the mold that is "in" at that time. Yes I know I am taking something as small as a typical pose at the leaning tower and making a large correlation to lack of uniqueness but here me out.
How many people do you think planned out to have that exact shot when they arrived at the leaning tower? I think it is far less than the amount of people that saw others doing it and thought "I bet I could make the shot more clever than they did". Posting it on the socials with the hashtags #leaningtower #pisa #holdingitup.
I think this goes far beyond a tourist photo of the leaning tower, Eiffel tower or really famous structure with point. I have many clients that when I ask what they would like me to capture just send me a Pinterest link and say "this". It's not that they want something in that style, they want exactly that. They want me to have that couch (or something close), that wagon for the child, that specific way that the light came through that very specific tree that doesn't grow in Ohio.
Early on, I tried to accommodate as much as I could, purchasing props to make sure that their session with the rocking chair in the woods was better than their friends when sharing on social media. Like I talked about in my last post, I quickly grew tired of the lack of creativity and uniqueness with my end products. I had to make a change and that is what I did.
Now don't get me wrong, I know that people like certain ideas, poses or styles of photography and I encourage my clients to send me over what they like so I can make sure one that I am right fit for what they are looking for and that I can be on the same page with them. But one thing I will not do, is just copy another photographers idea. I will take what they like and find a way to make it unique and something that when they share it viewers will say "I've never seen anything like that before". In the end that is really what my clients want. They want to stand out among the noise and that is what I strive to achieve.
This is more than just me talking about me. I think everyone could use a little more "be unique" moments in their life. Take a step out of your comfort zone and experience a little discomfort. Push yourself to think of something that seems out of left field and be crazy enough to try it. Find something that everyone takes as "it's just always been that way" and flip it on its head to understand it your own way.
Be willing to take risk and do things an unconventional way, you'll never know what you will end up with. What I am really saying is, don't follow the crowd.
Be yourself. Be unique.