on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

A Fool’s Errand

The Futility of Looking for Vision

Guy Tal

Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US.


A unique style emerges in photography by ignoring it, concentrating on the subject, and allowing care, passion and knowledge to bubble to the surface through a lot of hard work over a long period of time.
~Bill Jay

A common trope in photography is that you need to find your vision (or voice, or personal style, or some other personally-unique quality). Logically speaking, this is an impossible task since, if a person’s vision is different from other people’s visions, then there is nothing out there for one to find. And if you search within but don’t know what your own vision is, how will you recognize it when you find it? If this sounds a bit like a Zen koan, it’s for a good reason. As explained by D.T. Suzuki, “We look for its [Zen’s] secrets where they are most unlikely to be found, that is, in verbal abstractions and metaphysical subtleties, whereas the truth of Zen really lies in the concrete things of our daily life.” Vision, personal style, voice, etc., are not things that you find; they are things that you are. 

..if you search within but don’t know what your own vision is, how will you recognize it when you find it?


I never looked for, let alone found, a personal style or a vision. I always assumed that, by virtue of it being my vision and nobody else’s, there is no point in looking—I already have it. So long as I create my photographs according to my own instincts, interests, and aesthetic sensibilities—rather than attempt to imitate others—whatever vision I have will naturally ensue out of my work. Rather than criteria by which I create photographs, I think of my vision simply as a byproduct of creating photographs. Put another way: style, vision, voice, etc., are not things I strive for; they are things that, if I properly express myself in my photographs, other people may find in my work.

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