• Justin Key

Behind the Title - Go Your Own Way

"Go Your Own Way" - by Fleetwood Mac

A desert landscape of scrub brush just outside Death Valley National Park extends for miles to the base of distant mountains under an overcast sky.

While some photos are titled after songs with a deep connection to the lyrics or melody, "Go Your Own Way" was a shallow selection for this western landscape that barely scratches below the title's surface. The line, "you can go your own way" was the message embedded in this moment and served as a mantra for me during the early days of this journey. Paired with the roadtrip inspiring melody to accent the vast American west, the Fleetwood Mac hit demanded naming rights to this photograph.


My initial pursuit of being a landscape photographer was weighted in hesitancy. Wrestling with the plausibility of this career path hindered my confidence. The possibility of failure was the greatest hurdle to overcome. It loomed like a storm cloud constantly threatening to pour. I relied on a mental drill sergeant to beat that uncertainty out of me by using motivational material such as songs like "Go Your Own Way".


While the early days were an exhaustive mental war, the task of developing a portfolio helped break up the battles. Newly rooted in the west, I was inspired by this new frontier. Just like my future, this land of possibilities and unchartered territory was ready to be explored. During an expedition to Death Valley I found myself on the side of the road pacing the desert.


The jagged formation in the center of the scene had spoken to me. The stripes of shadow covering the symmetrical landform made it the perfect centerpiece to compose the panorama around. The overcast clouds broke just right, hovering over the faded mountains on either side. The soft field of blue and grey nicely contrasts the chaotic foreground of brown brillo pads extending to the horizon. The muted, cooled tones paint a calming scene in a harsh, blazing desert.


Before I even started looking for potential songs to pair with this landscape, "Go Your Own Way" popped into my head. The song encouraged freedom and sounded like a car commercial. The sound spoke to the scene, and the repetitive encouragement spoke to the moment, it was the perfect fit. The problem was, it was already being used by another photograph.


I'd never renamed a photo before and wasn't convinced I should so I sought out alternatives. The search didn't last long. It wasn't that I couldn't find a song to fit the scene, the problem was I couldn't find one that fit it better. "Go Your Own Way" wouldn't go away, it had claimed this photograph and refused to surrender it. Ultimately, "Go Your Own Way" won out and the original is now "When I Paint My Masterpiece".


Naming my photos after songs was a decision I've debated for years. Some photos reject the process and wait years to join the gallery. These photos test my patience and make me question whether the effort is worthwhile. Then there are photos like "Go Your Own Way" that demand their soundtrack. The debate always returns to the beginning, when I was trying to go my own way and came up with the idea to tell my story through a song concealed as a title. The process can be extensive but I didn't set out to blend in. In order to go your own way, you have to do it your way.


"You can go your own way

Go your own way"


"Open up

Everything's waiting for you"


There, one other line that doesn't just speak to the drama within Fleetwood Mac at the time. Depth!