[Originally posted at the blog]
Oh, hey, look! An actual blog post! [And an extra from the last shoot so you have something pretty to look at it if you’re part of the TLDR crowd.]
Without going into too many details, life has been a bit tumultuous for me lately. Everything’s changing, and I’ve both HAD to as well as wanted to reflect on a lot of things that I’ve done, haven’t done, etc. And i figured that, at least with the photography related stuff, i might want to share it. Because if I’ve noticed anything about watching a lot of artists online over the years, it’s that things never seem to be easy for any of us. And 9 times out of 10, we’re helping make things harder for ourselves. At the very least some of you will relate, but maybe in my voicing my issues and how i plan on dealing with them it can help someone else.
So, here are some of my “problem areas” if you will:
Self confidence. Not rare, i know. Never going to claim i’m a special snowflake.
My lack of confidence, both in myself and in my work, expresses itself in different ways. There are times a failed shoot or idea results in my pulling back from shooting anything at all because “oh my god i suck!”. Sometimes it stops me from even trying. It stops me from putting my work out there, promoting myself “properly”, because i feel silly trying to sell something i don’t always believe in myself.
So first I’ve been trying to dissect the why, go to the route of the problem. Part of it is definitely a general thing, it’s a part of me as a person, not just as a photographer, which means dealing with it from that end as well. I’m not sure how confident you can be in your work if you’re an artist when you’re not confident in yourself period. But the other part of it, or i guess other two parts of it, are this:
1. I’m a perfectionist who over thinks things.
2. The type of work i LOVE and long to create isn’t necessarily the type of work I’m best at creating. This one is big, and something i just recently realized and am trying to come to terms with.
Now, with #1 i just need to let go. I shouldn’t NOT shoot just because i don’t have every exact detail perfect or within my grasp. [I also need to sit down more and figure out “is this detail necessary at all?” because i often spend a lot of time [and sometimes money] on bits and pieces that are so small they aren’t noticed or needed.] I also can’t expect every idea to translate perfectly from my brain to the end result. My brain can create a perfect reality, where as reality is anything but.
I’ve let ideas sit for years because of the above things, and that’s just dumb.
Not to mention something not working out right doesn’t automatically equal my being a failure. Sometimes it *might* be my fault, but it doesn’t mean it always it. And it doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time or a lack of talent or whatever.
Now, #2. Everyone has their strengths, and their weaknesses. I’ve been able to recognize this in others for years, because you can usually tell when someone is trying to be something they aren’t, or force themselves in a direction they weren’t suited for. It’s just not something i was willing to apply to myself in regards to my photography. And probably half the ideas that fail and then depress me in doing so, are the ones where i was trying to do something else. Trying of course isn’t bad, i think everyone should explore whatever they want to, but you can also usually FEEL when you’re trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. I could, but i kept trying, over and over again, to the detriment of myself. And likely my sanity, at times, as well.
So it’s a tricky thing. Because often i am disappointed by my work because it’s not what i ultimately want it to be. The obvious course is to do what i can to get myself there, but with all this I’m realizing it’s maybe not where i am meant to go. I guess it’s going to be a matter of continuing to try, but with less pressure on myself. I’ll have to attempt to consider it experimenting, and hopefully i can find a happy balance. [And honestly, just acknowledging that maybe I’m not meant to shoot what I’ve repeatedly tried to, and failed at, is kind of a relief. I already feel slightly less pressured in a way. But we’ll see if that lasts!]
One other facet having to do with the above things has to do with my lack of technical expertise. It goes back to everyone having their own strengths and weaknesses really. My strength lies in my ideas and my resourcefulness. My weakness lies in my technically abilities. I won’t claim to even know that i 100% understand how to work my camera properly, and i have the most basic flash system ever because the ones that require me to actually work with settings [within the flash system] and making decisions might make my brain explode. I might shoot in manual mode but that doesn’t really mean anything. And in post processing, well, I’ve talked before about how it took me forever to even try Photoshop, and i only recently just started using layers in the past year or two. I know enough to get by, and i know enough to be aware i don’t do things “properly” or the way most do. And I’ve tried changing it, tried learning every last bit, and you know what? My brain won’t retain it! So I’ve stopped trying to force it. And that is fine. I’ve given myself permission to stop feeling guilty about it, and to stop thinking i am a shit photographer because of it. I’d much rather be stronger “artistically” anyways.
Fear has governed my life for a long time. Anxiety too. I’ve created an awesome shitstorm of fear and anxiety that has resulted in me holding myself back in so many ways, again, both personally and creatively. Over time it’s lead to a wonderful little bubble of isolation, which isn’t so great when you want to get out and be a productive photographer, especially when you’d prefer to shoot with other people. If i even got brave enough to schedule a shoot with someone new I’d be so sick to my stomach i couldn’t eat beforehand, could barely breathe, and I’d be mentally and physically exhausted for days after. Leading up to the shoot I’d even fantasize about canceling it. FANTASIZE!
I’ve even let it ruin my shoots a few times. Not in the way that i behaved weirdly while the models were here, because somehow i manage to come across fine, if not maybe a little silly and talky. At least i assume so, pretty much everyone has expressed interest in working with me again. No one has told me i came across neurotic and scary. No, instead i was so busy freaking out in my head i couldn’t really THINK about settings or lighting it right or changing backgrounds, things like that. Plus i was trying to rush through and get it over with as quickly as possible.
For me at least, these sorts of things are “easy”, or as easy as they can be. It takes forcing myself to do them, and time to get used to it. That is pretty much the formula to overcoming fear, isn’t it? These days I’m much calmer, and i feel like my results are much better, which makes me more confident each time a shoot comes up. It’s not GONE, i think if you’re prone to these anxieties they’re never really gone. But I’ve also been lucky enough to never have my anxieties be all encompassing. I’ve never needed medication or anything like that, I’ve never had anxiety attacks out in public. It’s more just uncomfortable and unpleasant. It’s more my personality flaws [and maybe the way i was raised] plus the anxiety just being a bad combination. I’m capable of being a social person, of doing certain things just fine with little to no freaking out, but I’ve gotten used to living this way, and it’s just usually easier for me to fall back into what has become my default position, with the anxiety and fear and letting them hold me back.
So, I’ve thrown myself head first into scheduling as many shoots as i can. This has been a little slow going, though it’s more everyone else’s fault, not mine! =) I’ve done more locally than i ever have before, which is sad since I’m really just talking about sending work to one local gallery, emailing a local photographer just to say hi and posting listings on craigslist [though this was about being for hire for portraits. Something else I’ve held myself back from doing.]
The gallery thing is kind of a big deal, i guess. I’ve stopped myself from doing this, even with galleries within the same state, because i have a lot of anxiety when it comes to the idea of having to go to an opening and potentially have to talk to strangers about my work. People keep telling me it’s no big deal, but i don’t like talking to people i don’t know, and i feel like i have little to say about my work. I’ve talked about this before, but here i go again: unlike a lot of conceptual photographers i don’t actually approach each piece conceptually. In fact i think I’m only a conceptual photography by default, or maybe just part time. And i know when people ask me “what is this about?” or “what made you shoot this?” they don’t want to hear “i just thought it would look cool”, which applies to a lot of my images. So either i pull a Jack White and start making up stories or i tell the truth and likely come across as a “difficult artist”. Fun.
Anyways, i live in a small-ish area, so i figured if i get accepted to show something there it’s a good way to take baby steps.
Putting myself out there to be available for hire is hard. It sort of brings up ALL of the above in me when i think about it. I don’t feel like I’m good enough. I don’t feel like, given my limits as a photographer, i should be charging people when i need to give them what they want, not necessarily what i want and know i can do, which is how I’m used to working. I know there are people who’d love to have portraits, the way i do them, taken by me, and would happily pay me for them, but i feel like all those people live far away! Maybe one day I’ll be able to travel around, but it’s not a reality right now. But it’s something I’m putting out there, and if anyone is interested I’ll deal with all the details and feelings then. I’m going to try and not freak out about it in the meantime.
Alrighty. Well. I’m starting to get hungry so I’m losing my train of thought, and i guess this has covered enough already. =) I feel like there was more though, so don’t be surprised if there are more super wordy posts in the near future.
Also, any suggestions, personal reflections and experiences or helpful words of encouragement appreciated!