In a post on Medium, content creator Josh S. Rose shared his tips for “cultivating originality”. Hot on the heels of the now-infamous “Photogenic Mass Tourism” video—in which hundreds of people’s travel photos are spliced together to reveal how astonishingly similar they all are—Rose wants to reassure creators that originality is not, in fact, dead. It just might not be where you thought it was.

Equipment and Access

Originality in photography, Rose argues, had previously relied on having good equipment—giving your work a unique, professional feel—or having special access—a la Andy Warhol being able to photograph a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. But with the “democratization of photography skills,” he argues, as well as the increased prevalence of fame, these two factors are no longer enough to mark a photographer as original. So what is?

Your Own Life, In Your Own Way

“The last bastion of originality,” Rose says, is how and what you see.” Unlike a kiss under the Eiffel Tower, or a margharita pizza from San Giovese—images that have been captured countless times—one’s own “private world of thoughts” remains “fresh as ever”.

He gives two examples: Christian Watson and Paul Heaston (above). These “quirky” artists, Rose says, made a name for themselves by inviting viewers into their own tiny worlds. While Watson often posts images from inside his studio (“the core of his uniqueness happens right at his desk”), Heaston’s sketches are typically POV drawings of his home, his street, or his favorite cafe.

The “key” to originality, Rose concludes from these cases, is a combination of “your life and your way of looking at it.”

Missions and Values

Outside of one’s physical environment, the people an artist surrounds themselves with has a large impact on their work’s originality; and this includes the artist herself. So in developing one’s style, Josh recommends considering two distinct questions: What is my mission? and What are my values? 

A common mistake in defining one’s mission, he says, is looking inward. Instead, one should seek to answer three questions: What Do I Do? Who Do I Do It For? and Why Do They Need It? Once you’ve determined, accordingly, a mission which “fills a group of people’s needs,” he continues, “you will have your canvas set.”

Mr. Rose

As for values, this should be something like an answer to the question, “What has life caused you to believe in most?” Working with a belief in mind, he says, helps narrow your focus. It’s kind of like “having a rudder in the water”: without it, you’re adrift.

Once you’ve reached a point at which you find your work satisfies both your mission and your values, he concludes, “you’re ready to create.” Originally.


Find Josh’s full post here

To see Josh’s own work, click here