I have the flu. I’m not sleeping well. As a result, this may make no sense. I apologize in advance.
I have had, very recently, 3 nearly identical conversations with photographers. They go something like this.
Other Photographer: I am so frustrated. Why aren’t I any good. I see other people’s work – they’re good. When is that going to happen for me?
Me: You’re work is really good.
Other Photographer: Really?
One woman I had this conversation with is so fabulous I have blocked her from my Facebook feed because her images make me neurotic. This repeated conversation got me thinking, in my feverish, flu-y way that only vaguely approximates coherent thought, about how absurd it is that we are so hard on ourselves. We, as photographers, look at the work of the greats and think “Oh, well, I’m no Diane Arbus so I must suck.”
This, I say to you, is not reasonable. We need to shut these voices up in our heads.
If someone said to your child, “Hey kid, why are you bothering to play Little League? It’s not like you are going to pitch for the Yankees” you would tell that person to shut up, aghast that they would speak that way to, well, anyone really. And yet we speak that way to ourselves all the time. We compare ourselves to other photographers – often people who have been shooting longer – and decide that we come up short and so become profoundly unhappy with our work. I mean, if we aren’t in the permanent collection of the Met (if we don’t have 10,000 Facebook followers, if we aren’t featured in Shots, if we aren’t booked through September already, if, if, if…) we are clearly failures. Comparison, as they say, is the thief of joy. And we COURT that thief. We BEG her to come into our lives by following blogs and Facebook feeds and message boards and looking at other people’s greatest hits all day long. I mean, I get it. I do the same thing, and it makes me batty too. We all need to stop.
Back away from the endless stream of other people’s work. All it does is amplify that voice in your head that you are not as good as (insert name of person you admire here). And that voice is irrelevant. Put down the computer, pick up your camera and go shoot something and who cares if it’s “good”. It’s probably a lot better than you are giving yourself credit for anyway based on all the critiques I’ve done and all the conversations I’ve had lately with people. You are better than you think you are.
Oh look, it’s time for more medication. Wheeeeeee……..
(also a picture, because I iz a fotograffer and therefore blog posts should have pictures in them. That’s what the “How to Be a Professional Photographer Handbook” said. Of course, the handbook ALSO said I needed to have a designer camera strap and a giant bean bag so I’m already not following instructions well. Go figure.)