Today is international photography day, 177 years since photography was first invented and what a science fiction world we live in now. Digital eyeballs are implanted onto all manner of affordable and ultra portable devices. It's one of the most accessible art forms from production to publication, the process that once took hours even days to complete now happens, from start to finish, in seconds.
I've had an eye opening year, it's been filled with high points and low points both creatively and professionally. I've had rewarding milestone publications and I've had jobs where people have failed or refused to pay. I've had amazing feedback from friends and clients and I've also had my watermark and credit purposely removed from my own work. I've recommended other creatives, based on their work, for jobs I wasn't able to commit to and had those same people bad mouth the photography I do behind my back, to my own friends no less. It's swings and roundabouts and in earlier years it would have crippled my spirits and creativity. I'd be lying if I said it didn't knock me at all anymore, but I've gotten used to disappointment and better at focussing on my next adventure. Like your palms do with deadlifts, the skin grows thick under stress.
My advice to friends and peers is so simple, it takes no education and requires no validation from anyone to be considered the right move. Find out what makes you grow into a better person, and do it again and again and again.
The friction that surrounds your activities, good and bad, is the result of your movement in that field. You're not static or standing still, you're creating some waves and sometimes those waters can get choppy. So keep your head up and eyes forward. Come up with three plans, one for the short term, one for the next five years, and one to carry you through to the finish line. You'll return to and review those plans several times, but keep the pieces in the right order and as long as you feel on track, you'll be able to stay the course. You're gut is telling you what to do, but you've got to learn to translate those emotions accurately.
We hear it all the time but you absolutely have to stay connected with people who are supporting you, and who you in return you love to support. That's networking 101, in both a digital and social context, you take from the node before to you and pass to the node after you, doing your part. I've made immense friends over the past few years and I've been massively fortunate to work with people who have boosted my confidence and helped me to flex my abilities. But even those relationships have not come smoothly and some have taken a lot of ego analysis to rekindle and cement. That personal review and the acknowledgement required is what forges stronger principles in your personality though, and both you and more importantly your contributions will be better off in the long run.
As a creative, each time you hit submit on some work, be it by email or on social media, you are doing exactly what that button says, you are submitting to the response of others. It leaves your hands and becomes public property in some way. Don't gauge yourself on the reaction of the few or the many, aim for specifics, what a certain person really thinks, the person you admire or respect. If you can cut through the noise you'll find value, not in the volume of the many but in the validation and critique you get from the few that really count. Let's face it, our mothers will always think we're the most handsome man/woman/child, but she's not the sitting editor of Vogue magazine, so cut through the pandering and find the quality breakdown, seeking true objectivity and look to grow against that stress with self-awareness and humility.
Most of all, have fun, be yourself, express yourself through art whenever you can using any medium available, and do it all for you. Bank each moment and add it to your pile because that portfolio is a prism to your past, where you've come from and it might even tell you where you're going.
Happy International Photography Day.
Woman in Black - Amybelle Hubbard