A while ago now Simon Sinek did a great little talk, called start with why. While he wasn't the first to talk about the concept, anytime we see "my why" on a website, we can mostly thank the talk above for the spread of this idea in small business.
It's a fabulous and potent idea, and like all fabulous ideas, it also opens up an opportunity in it's opposite.
As a wedding or people photographer, having a "why" can be useful in articulating what you do to other people.
But you don't "find your why".
It shows it's head when it wants to, through play, experimentation, and just "doing".
And then, if your senses are open, you notice it.
This isn't fluff, it's science.
Instead of asking what your "why" is in a given situation (whether it's in producing a shoot or writing your about page) - which can lead to inaction, moments of freezing and agonising over the intent of the idea itself, do this: pick a tool or method first, get to work, and then see what idea grows out of that.
If you're being told you need a "why" before you can take yourself seriously shooting weddings, just ignore that advice, and keep showing up and working hard for other people, and let it surface when it's good and ready.
There's a saying you'll see littered elsewhere on this site: "don't learn then do, do then learn".
Make more room for reckless play, without the rigid constraints of finding a "why".
The good ideas (and good "why's") aren't something we go towards.
Ever tried naming a new business?
You'll waste hours trying to think of the name... and then it will come to you when you're just actively engaged in what it is that the business is about.
Good ideas and our "why" come to us (by pursuing creating work at a high volume. Ira Glass talks about it in the popular video "the gap").
Our goal is just to notice those moments where we are aligned with something we did.
Turning this idea into a strategy you can use
If you're trying to find your "why" as a photographer, maybe just put that challenge aside and focus on the "how".
Get to work, play with some tools and ideas that make you uncomfortable, experiment shooting things you're used to shooting in different ways.
A popular G.K Chesterton quote comes to mind...
And... see what comes out.
If you're lucky, it might just be "your why".
And if it isn't, just know that it's ok to go against our cultural obsession with putting a label on anything and everything, and that i'm sure you'll be just fine without one.
When asked "what is your why", you can then respond like we did when we played in bands as teenagers, focusing on feel, rather than baking everything into words...
"Well, I could tell you, but it like, defies categorisation, man".
Wanna chat more about this? Hit up the Strange Atlas Facebook group.