Remember the ’90s? Those were my formative years. The era when mainstream culture was adopting the grunge aesthetic. An iconoclastic revolution to both overthrow and undermine the excesses of the ’80s. The change in itself was viewed as originality, a break away from the establishment. Among my friends and the media we paid attention to, the push to be original was everywhere.
But that was also evident in the ’60s. And the hipster generation has a whole fresh take on this ideal. So, clearly, the drive to be original is itself anything but.
Insisting on originality is a farce: it’s simultaneously not enough, and too much.
We’ve always been trying to be original — to make a break with status quo. Part of the human condition is to never be 100% satisfied, with pretty much anything. :-)
And then again, we’ve never, ever able to completely escape the lingering frustration that we can’t be completely original: It really has all been done before, and we are still inherently creative beings.
Clearly, originality is a complicated mess.
The tools and the techniques have been democratised. In the world of photography at least, anyone can do pretty much anything anyone else can. The more images that get made, the harder it is for anyone to stand out (for long, anyway). But it does make the ones with a truly unique voice or message to stand out all the more.
And the unique voices that I’m drawn to are the ones which express love.
- Love of the craft.
- Love of their subject.
- Love of life.
So stop worrying about the timeless, impossible quest for originality.
Instead, dig in.
Explore more thoroughly.
You are an original.
Just like everyone else. ;-)