This article by Mike Johnston really came at a perfect time. Just two days ago, I was out on a photowalk with one of my photography pals, in what I felt was a pretty uninspiring environment. I couldn’t get into a visual state of mind, and was beginning to wonder why I was even bothering.
Earlier we’d had tea at a cute little tea shop and both of us were snapping away with our iPhone cameras, playing with apps, and really enjoying the fact that we could be with a friend who didn’t question why we didn’t care that our tea was cooling.
How can shooting with a beautiful Canon SLR be less inspiring that snapping away with a simple – and limited – camera phone?
I believe the answer might have something to do with the upcoming art sale I’ll be attending. This is my first attempt at selling my work, and I can hear my inner critic judging each piece I prepare for possible sale.
Will my work compare in quality and creativity with the other photographers? Do I have any right to present myself as an artist worth spending money on? Should I be shooting more of this or that? Am I getting out and shooting enough? Am I challenging myself enough?
When I originally picked up my first camera maybe five years ago, it was for fun, it was a hobby. I never intended to present myself as a photographer or an artist. But, as my enthusiasm grew, and my friends and family became excited about my work, I began to believe that I should take it more seriously.
As Mike said in his article, perhaps we should be playing closer attention to the role our personalities play in our photography.
I’m not that person who gets up at 4am in January to hike out to a frozen lake. I’m not that person who goes up to strangers on the street and asks them if they can photograph them on their pimped out Harley.
I’m not that person. So expecting myself to do these things adds stress and pressure that photography was never intended to add to my life. Berating myself for not doing these things negates what I have achieved in my photography.
It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t push myself beyond my comfort zone. It doesn’t mean I’ll never do those things. But maybe it’s time to dial back my self-expectations. Maybe it’s time to remind myself that should is a word best used with extreme caution.
Freelance photographer is unlikely to ever be a career goal for me, so it’s time to stop comparing what I am doing to what these professionals must do to succeed in a very difficult, very ambitious, very rewarding business.
Photography is, for me, a chance to indulge in sweet creativity; it is above all an expressive outlet.
When we come right down to it, it really is simple. How can I express myself, if I’m busy trying to change myself into some other photographer?
Something to keep in mind.