finding your voice

I’ve always loved singing. When I was a boy I was a boy soprano [insert nervous mocking laughter here], my clear crisp voice would turn heads wherever I went. When puberty hit and my voice broke I was suddenly lost. I wanted to sound like Bono and tried my hardest to sing exactly like him. I couldn’t really, my voice had turned into a deep bass and Bono’s high tenor was out of my reach.

But boy did I try.

If you’ve got the skills you can copy anything, make it sound almost like the original as long as you don’t push it too far.

So I did.

It took me years to be comfortable with the sound of my voice. It didn’t sound at all like Bono’s, but if I covered it up, I could make it sound almost similar.

Then one day I picked up my guitar and started singing some lyrics I had written the night before. I tried my faux Bono, but it felt wrong. After a while I started singing with my own voice and all of a sudden everything fell in place. All the nuances I had missed trying to sound like mr Paul David Hewson finally bubbled up to the surface. I was using my voice the way it was meant to be used and all of a sudden I had a whole new range to play with. My voice was different, but it was my voice and it was more honest than anything I had ever tried to copy.

I had found my voice.

So why am I telling you this?

Well, I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Madrid. I’m on a whirlwind tour around the world and I get questions all the time about how I edit my images or why I compose images the way I do. People want to get under my skin and even though I find it absolutely ludicrous, I do understand the urge to sound like someone else.

But do you know what?

It’s absolutely ok to do so, but it’s not until you start trusting your own voice you’ll reach your full potential.

It’s as simple as that.

Don’t be a copy, you’ll end up being  a Jasmine Star Light, a [p]ecker or Shit Sean Flanigan.

Be you.

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    На волне грандиозного успеха прозы Миллера (а он был единственным суперпродаваемым автором Grove Press), в конце шестидесятых годов издатель Барри Россет продал права на экранизацию двух произведений — Tropic Of Cancer и Quiet Days In Clichy. Первый фильм решилась ставить Paramount, за второй же проект взялся датский художник и авангардный киноэкспериментатор Дженс Йорген Торсен. Самое интересное, что оба фильма снимались в одно и то же время в одном и том же месте — летом 1970-го года в Париже, разнились лишь подход к делу и бюджет :)

  2. I think it must be said that people have to try a lot of roles in order to find who they are, be that Jasmine Star, Sean or Jonas for that matter. It takes a lot of time, like you would know, to find your voice and I am sure pushing yourself to sound like Bono helped you greatly in finding something uniquely your own in the end. It is a combination of all those little things that add up, the learnings, the life experiences the snippets of clarity in nutting something out that added up to making your voice, your style ….. you so to speak. In order to find your own voice sometimes you just have to use the strength and experience of someone else’s. I think you should feel flattered that people look up to you the way you yourself looked up to a music icon, they just want to be guided in some way along this path, to try and piece all those fragments of knowledge together into something they can call there own and feel proud of. My two cents ..

  3. It’s true. We’re still working on finding ours, but it gets closer with every shot. Time behind the viewfinder seems to be the key.

  4. I don’t think Jasmin* is in the same league as u are. She might be a great marketer but u r the true artist. The same goes for inspiration Sean and U no Becker or *

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  6. I found your post thought provoking.

    To the Point of “find your own voice” that is important but we must not forget that even the famous old masters in the art world even copied and recreated art from their Peers, teachers and other masters. Rembrandt and Degas were just 2 of the well known and honored artist to this day that did the very thing that we are putting down. Copying!! Hasn’t it always been part of the art world to brainstorm an Idea most always using the influences in your life and turning it into a part copy part original. Truly to find an ORIGINAL anywhere most often is to find a Copy of something else with a Twist!

    just a thought.

    Happy Creating everyone!

  7. LOL you said it perfect! But then again Jasmine and [p]pecker (hilarious) have made it their business to take money from wanna be photographers.
    I’m still trying to find my voice. And the only way to do that is shut all the other photographers out and shoot for me. Thank you for the reminder to not follow the crowd. To be me. You’re amazing photographer that doesn’t care what the rest of the world is doing. And I applaud that.

  8. Well said … a blogspot I should read before beginning any edit project. I’ll leave the singing to you … I’m afraid my singing would only rival the likes of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Cheers!

  9. People can’t help wanting to be a Fauxnas Peterson.

    I can see people asking questions about editing – when I want to learn how to do something to experiment with it, to see if it fits with my voice, I might ask others how they do it. But to ask about your mouse? Or what you’re thinking? Yeah. I totally agree with you.

  10. i still try to sing like bono. exactly like him. really doesn’t work, probably even less than your attempts.
    meanwhile, i’ll just try to shoot like myself :) enjoyed your writing, as always…

  11. @sebastian. I’d love to see a before and after shot. Jonas if you have the time this would be something im sure we’d all like to see. By The Way Jonas i think you’re brilliant, just picked up a camera for the first time a few months ago and loving it….. trying to find my own voice (eye) now. x

  12. Well, people DO want to be Jonas…if Formspring, and articles on the net, and the chit-chat of photographers is anything to go by. So, acknowledging this isn’t doing any harm, given the message Jonas is trying to share. I thought it was a brilliant post and really struck home the way we like to emulate others and forget to emulate ourselves. I also immediately understood the message about Jasmine Star, [b]ecker and Sean Flanigan. It makes a lot of sense, because as Jonas has said a few times here, you don’t want to be a weaker version of somebody else. Great work, Jonas, on a really inspiring and thoughtful article!

  13. So so so true! I’ve never been able to find my singing voice, but I’ve definitely found my writing voice. I think people sometimes find it easier, oddly, to copy other people’s style and technique, but it’s just not the same. It may be good, but it’s not all it could be.

  14. Personally, I found this blog entry to be very arrogant. Especially when the unedited post said ” people want to be me ” . Possibly some people do want to have your talent but I think the majority of people admire your work and ask questions to get an answer from a professional.

  15. Am I the only one here who is a hell of a lot more interested in seeing Jonas’ RAW-images before any of his special sauce is added? I remember something about a before-and-after post. I guess time is short nowadays, but I would love to see one sometime.

  16. Ok, I obviously need to clarify what I meant.


    The last lines are no stab at Jasmine Star, Becker and Sean Flanigan.

    At all.

    Don’t try to be someone else, you’ll end up being a bleaker version of the originals.

    You can never be Jasmine Star, Becker or Sean Flanigan.

    Instead you’ll end up being a Jasmine Star Light, [p]ecker or Shit Sean Flanigan.

    A copy.

    Don’t copy.

    Be yourself.

  17. Jonas, I have liked everything I’ve read on your blog until now. This post is great up to the point where you introduce an air of negativity with your comment about Jasmine Star, Becker and Sean Flanigan. Please keep positive. Vitriol (even as diluted as it is in your post) is never good. You could have made your point without your last comment. Your work is amazing. Please don’t sully it with comments like this. Keep positive and people will respect you and admire you for ever.

  18. Hear, hear!

    People should start trusting themselves and their own voices instead of copying others. Yes – to get inspired by others and wanting to learn stuff and evolve is good, but copying? That´s the Big Bad in my book.

  19. Jonas,

    Finally i get the chance to write my first comment on your blog. Im always get inspire by your work, must as an Artist that the excellent Photographer your are. I was getting for a unique moment or history that i can feel really connect it. An you have accomplish it.. Keep been you!!!

    Thank you for sharing with us your history.


    Pedro Gil

  20. I must’ve read this post before you changed some stuff, because I swear you had a line that said, “Do you want to play covers your whole life?” It tied everything together and it was THE line that hit home for me. I like the replacement line (I truly love Jasmine, for the record, and I get what you were trying to say there). Either way, I came back here today to quote you in my journal, but noticed the entry was edited. So now I’m typing this comment to tell you that you inspire me. And thank you. Please keep writing like this … I don’t follow many photo blogs any more, but the photographers who write beautifully are the ones I have kept after.

  21. I’m wondering – what keyboard did you use to type this?

    Just kidding. Great message, you’re dead on.

  22. That last sentence is (apart from very, very funny) probably the most true thing I’ve heard since I started in the wedding business. THANK YOU.

  23. Great said!

    I have been trying for a long time to find my voice and it’s an up and down journey but as long as you aim to be true to yourself, it’s fun and exciting. I might be a pretty mediocre photographer yet a decent writer but the only way to learn is to do it.
    Many times when I look at your pictures I get the urge to buy a better camera, or get a new lens or buy a book to read to figure out the rules but then I see through that instant urge and the thought goes away. It’s not about rules or gear or what textures or actions you use, it’s all about trying, experimenting and most of all to be Present in everything you do.
    Thank you for this inspiring post!

  24. I think you misunderstood me, Patrick. The three mentioned are great photographers. What I’m saying is, don’t try to be weak versions of the original – be yourself.

  25. @Jonas, just outta curiosity, are you friends with Jasmine Star, Becker or Sean Flanigan? It was so funny to read that line but it was a nervous laugh cause it sounded kinda harsh. =P BUT I totally get what you’re trying to say. I guess everyone wants a quick fix to improve but there really is no other way of improving and finding your style without day after day of just hashing it out and shooting. I loved what Jonathan Canlas, a respected wedding photog said about seeking inspiration. He said to look outside of your niche. If you’re a wedding photog, look at fashion, photojournalists, the newspaper, still life, etc. I have yet so far to go until I get to the coveted “10,000 hours”, but I’m getting there. Let’s all stop yapping and get out there and shoot!


  26. One of my favorite quotes is “Be a voice, not an echo.” It’s a value I carry very close to my heart. It keeps me from becoming another echo in the chamber. I am continually striving to find my voice in my work. I’m getting close, I won’t stop now. Thanks for the encouragement to keep going!

  27. Always inspiring… Sometimes it is hard for people to trust their own instincts and vision. It takes time but once you let go and trust your got and follow your own path, you will be rewarded greatly…

  28. Still finding my voice, still learning, but trying to keep it all true to who I am and how I see the world. One thing is for sure– when I see a Jonas Peterson photograph on some wedding blog as a feature, I know it’s yours before I see your name. Because it’s all over your images. So you definitely have found your voice– All the best as you stay true to who you are and what you see!

  29. So true Jonas! I have been thinking about this a lot. I also get emails from people who wants to know the recipe of my images and think it’s just so easy to copy. A good recipe takes years to develop, it’s not about a simple press of a button. /erika

  30. Very well said and probably the best way to put it for all to understand. Thank you, Jonas. I needed that.

  31. @Jonas – Well, that is pretty bizarre when you put it that way, and hopefully these people who want to be in your head find their own paths. I guess similar things would happen to ridiculously talented artists in any craft (the fanatical obsession if you want to call it that), and within the photography world, you’re the guy. Thanks for sharing and safe travels!

  32. @Cole: Dude, people ask me what mouse I use and what I think about when I take pictures. Getting into my mind won’t help anyone. You need to get into to your own mind and find inspiration there. Maybe people don’t want to be me, but they want to know exactly how I do things and even that won’t help people in the end.

  33. So true, but as Gemma has said, it takes time to find that voice, and I think it’s normal that, while you look, you experiment trying on different people’s style, until you get the one that works for you – the one that becomes who you are. Plus, I think, age has something to do with it (for me at least) – as I get older, I get more and more comfortable in my own skin, and I start to see that it’s OK to be me. In fact, it’s pretty damn good most days!

  34. Couldn’t agree with you more, and you’ve explained this in (once again) a very eloquent way.

    However, this part is a bit much, isn’t it?

    “People want to be me”

    You had me up to there :)

    But let’s be honest, I’m pretty certain any photographer with half a brain and a dusting of talent would want to produce your work!

    It’s (obviously) unreal and you’ve definitely raised the bar for photographers around the world!

  35. wow, jonas…you hit the nail right on the head! as a singer and fellow photographer (who follows your formspring feed), i totally get it. thanks for being so awesome. have a good trip!


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