The Path to Authentic Photography

Navigating the creative landscape of photography presents unique challenges, especially when it comes to finding and maintaining a personal style and connection to one's work. For many photographers, the struggle isn't just about capturing images but creating photographs that resonate deeply on a personal level.

Coming to you from Rick Bebbington, this introspective video discusses the uncomfortable truth of feeling disconnected from the art of photography despite being deeply embedded in the creative process. Bebbington candidly shares his realization of not taking photos that feel authentically his, despite his involvement in photography-related projects. This revelation is not uncommon in the photography (or any creative) community, where the pressures of producing content can sometimes overshadow the personal joy and fulfillment derived from the craft. Bebbington’s admission highlights a crucial aspect of photography— the importance of personal connection and the quest for a distinctive style that makes one's work recognizably their own.

Bebbington's approach to overcoming this creative rut involves setting a dedicated schedule to practice photography, exploring different genres, and studying the work of other photographers to find what resonates with him. His plan to separate his photography from his professional projects serves as a reminder that personal growth in art often requires intentional effort and exploration outside of one's comfort zone and paid work. It underscores the necessity of continuously pushing boundaries, experimenting, and dedicating time to personal projects to foster a deeper connection with one’s art. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Bebbington.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

Log in or register to post comments

You mention being on the line of being a extravert the part where try to make a living and introvert the part where you plan about what to capture and it is basically alone time as you show yourself out amongst nature and using your photo eye to see what others do not. I am a big introvert and lucky to be married to one where the both of us have our own thing, mine photography. If you watch many youtube travels videos you will notice the makers are alone with all that gear on their backs but stopping to set up a camera to record the journey then getting to the destination and sharing the thoughts of the place. I wonder how they have the time to process it all. I mean time out somewhere then in front of computer! This where I believe is lost the joy of photography BUT I understand the need to make $ to continue. I was kinda lucky without friends and after schooling became a machinist (a lot of alone time) for a year but I was a military brat (40 moves and 30 schools) and joined the Navy where I was in aviation electronics where you study for advancement when not repairing then in 80's the IBM and apple computers where put on ships for admin work but no one knew how to repair so great alone time while solving things. But I got lucky to have a 20 year man to show me Photography to record with a time machine box. He recognized I was not like others who drank their way from port to port. Remember it was film days where you sent rolls of film for be developed and you got prints writing where you where on the back prints. Every port visit I went on my own to see the cities and countryside, most where low cost tours like a $10 dollar tour of the dead sea or Rome tour and I was the only one with a camera. The point I was making a living in the Navy and did for some 24 years getting a retirement small but able to find employment of computer repair in a company still alone time but again a retirement before the digital cameras. So I was comfortable with $ so my passion of photography was seeing as I traveled or as I went but always with my friend the camera. What photographers want to be's do not understand is there is a lot of brain work with knowing the camera inside and out and the programs needed to make an image come to life both a lot of alone time but fun time figuring thing out that true extraverts just like to party and be with others example a sporting event of say football 4 hours long even basketball even racing cars aways 4 hours with thousands of people in stadiums every weekend I see as followers not leaders. But the workers all and camera operators are making $. But the weekend workers some or most other jobs BUT some a free week to play some doing alone time with a camera. I find that weddings are done on weekends and those photographers are editing and producing prints and digital disks so much so they forget some freedoms. I have mentioned before, I go to the hottest place for weddings 4 to 5 every weekend I am there for the dark skies and astro milky ways but never in the 10 days available during a new moon see a wedding photographer with a couple let alone the family on the beach with the milky way as a backdrop next to some driftwood, I am there alone with the surf lapping a clear night sky full of stars and shrimp boats and buoys green and red to the horizon and if a high tide I can go to a hotel and capture above it still all alone with deer eating the grass next to me while everyone sleeps never to see or experience the night.
Lastly I must say a true leader in photography has to see what others do not and that means seeing and daydreaming some while driving but planning a time of year the lighting or position of the sun or moon for sunsets/rises understanding where in what months things may be perfect for a capture. Still a lot of brain work while doing other things.
1st in '15 used the E 10-18mm f/4 OSS APS-C in full frame at 12mm before there where 12mm. The second image can you see the rider to the right and the horse head to the left - thousands pass through the entrance to Antelope Canyon and never see it even when I ask someone if they can see them in the photo. 3rd while doing a MW capture a loggerhead comes ashore laying eggs at my feet 4th Nature makes ice sculptures I spotted on my way to a deer stand stopped and stayed till sun melted most.

"Authentic" in whose eyes? Remote trigger cameras, drones, high speed autofocus, low light shooting, etc., etc. The tech has made just about anything possible. I can do a portrait without looking at my subject, literally just point and shoot and eye tracking will do the rest. With all the tech, you would have thought that the visual vocabulary or awareness of composition and elements of an image might have progressed, but I don't think so. In my area, the moose in a swamp on a misty morning with the sun just in the mist checks all the boxes. Variations sell endlessly. Then there is the minimalist pseudo black and white "look". There was a day when photographers truly crafted a landscape image. You had your loupe and hand held meter. You used filters for drama in black and white. Green for foliage, red/yellow for skies, polaroid for reflections and saturation, etc. Today, dial up the menu and blink done! Or in post, choose the formula and blink, done.

There isn't a subject, region or time of day that has't been photographed to death. In a recent "Wildlife Photographer of the Year" awards, in the "youth" category, a teenager was using a Z9 with a 600 f/4 to capture an image in a remote polar region. I wonder if it was paid for with an allowance? Today, I increasingly take "mental" photos and focus on the moment rather than taking a picture. Scenery and wildlife have been photographed endlessly so what does it prove to add one more picture to a vast wasteland of them? I realize this sounds quite grim and depressing, but I don't see any growth in the visual vocabulary of viewers or creators.

So in the end, do it for yourself. "Focus" on your core personality and ignore the rest. People who make good money from their images are also good at business, have connections, choose their subject matter and present it in a manner that connects with current design trends, put in the time to take decent images, just like hundreds of other photographers. Less is more, so don't think the next great camera or lens is going to make the difference. Put that money into travel or other toys.