As a narrative writer, even in school, I was told I had a strong voice. At first I didn’t understand what that meant … should I be less opinionated, use a different choice of words, hide the angst I feel against the world? It was much later, when pursuing my master’s that my advisor explained having a voice was a good thing … and a strong one even better. It was something I didn’t need to learn how to develop … just polish, smoothen out the rough edges, and most importantly, recognize.
I had a distinct style … a way to write from the heart such that it resonated with my audience. “That’s what you should stick to,” said my advisor. “First-person essays are your strength.” Taking her advice, I wrote my thesis as a personal journey into the lives of the differently abled. Needless to say, it was a unique approach, but one that paid off. The thesis committee was impressed and I was told to send submissions to The New Yorker. While that never happened because of a multitude of reasons, I did garner a following on this blog when I launched it a couple of years ago. The theme has always been “the world as I see it: uncensored, unbridled, unapologetic.” And something about it seems to attract old and young, conservatives and liberals, men and women from all over the world.
Then the iPhoneography bug bit me. Hard. Juggling a full-time job, career transitions, world travel, a home and a social life didn’t allow me to pursue writing and iPhone photography at the same time. Something had to give. Writing took a back seat. The blog languished (I still got over 300 unique visits a day while I wasn’t producing new content). My iPhoneography, on the other hand, flourished handsomely.
Given the scope and possibilities of charting a new course in a yet-to-be-widely-appreciated field of art, finding my voice was critical. I struggled. Experimenting with every new app on the block. Producing contorted imagery, speckled with landscape art, still life study and street photography. Jennifer Bracewell (@_jenbeezy_) turned me on to self-portraiture. I had found a niche. An area I was good at. Self-portraits were easy. They were liberating. They allowed me to fly as a free creative spirit. It was almost as if my self-portraits were a parallel to my first-person essays. But I needed to do more than present a commentary on my life, my being.
I’d look at images from Carlein, Ryan Coleman, Cindy Patrick, Steven Lester, MaryJane Sarvis, Ginger Lucero, Frank Nitti, Rebecca Cornwell, Clint Cline and Lanie Heller and immediately know it was their work. Did people know to identify mine in the same way? Could they spot my work in a plethora of other images and say, “This is a Mansi!“? Perhaps … perhaps, not.
I wanted to find my voice in this world. Something distinctly recognizable. Something undeniably mine.
In reflecting on my iPhoneography journey, I realized I loved grunge and portraitures the most. And there were some apps I was more comfortable with than others; apps that repeatedly found their way into my hashtags list on Instagram. I knew what I loved … I just had to find a way to do it.
And find it, I did.
Into the setting sun
The Isolation Series I recently started has received some of the most favorable feedback since I started my iPhoneography journey. The images resonate … they tell a story … a visual commentary on our collective being. Most of these images had been sitting in my camera roll for months. I hadn’t known what to do with them.
I feel like I have found my voice … I will need to strengthen it, keep it exciting, evolve it in time, but for now, I have found what is uniquely mine.
This post originally appeared on WeAreJuxt.