You are an artist ♥
Let me ask you a question - what inspires you?
If you’re a photographer, maybe you’re inspired by other amazing photographers. And that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that - I am too! But after a while, if that’s the only source of your inspiration, are you inspired - or are you copying? Looking at someone else’s photo, wondering how they did it and trying to apply that to your own work and hoping that it produces something similar? I think we’ve all been there and done that at some point.
But no matter how hard you try, or how long you do this for - you’ll never produce work to the same standard, and you’ll never meet your own expectations.
And eventually, you’ll burn out from comparing your work to someone elses standard, and from trying to be someone and create something you’re just not.
If you don’t know why you do what you do, if you don’t know what inspires you - where do you turn when you’re feeling unworthy and wondering why the hell you thought you could make a living out of taking photos? Where do you turn to reignite that flame, that passion you once felt all those months ago?
Friends, I’ve been there. A few years ago I hit this rough patch where basically the only other people I followed were photographers whose work was so incredible - I just wanted to be like them. But no matter what I did, I wasn’t producing work that I loved, or was proud of or made me go WOW – nothing I was creating was anything like what these photographers I followed were producing and I was sooo frustrated. I was genuinely questioning everything, my skills, my passion, and I felt flat, and uninspired. I realised that the comparisonitis was killing me, and so was the lack of diversity in my sources of inspiration. So one day, I went cold turkey and I unfollowed every single photographer I didn’t have a personal connection with on Instagram and banned myself from Pinterest for a while.
And there was just one question I kept asking myself - why?
Why am I passionate about photographing people? Why do I love this so much? What inspires me to do this?
And at this point you’re probably wondering what this has got to do with calling yourself an “artist”.
When you hear the word “artist” do you immediately think of a painter? Or a musician? And when you hear the word “creative” do you think of someone who knows how to draw or knit or create something with their hands?
If your only source of inspiration is other photographers, you might not feel like an artist.
And in case you’ve never bothered to look it up - this is the definition of an artist.
artist ~ a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.
Being able to pick up a brush and paint something is so much more involved than slapping some paint on a canvas. Do you use a brush? Maybe you paint with a palette knife. Do you paint with water colour or oils or acrylics? What colours do you use? Do you thin your paint or use it as is? Do you paint on canvas, or paper, or wood, or ceramics?
Being able to pick up a camera and take a photo of a pretty sunset isn’t the same as knowing what you are going to photograph, choosing a camera and a lens, choosing camera settings, understanding how light works, choosing how you’ll compose your image, how you’ll connect, interact with, pose and/or direct your model or clients, or how you’ll edit the image.
All those things are what make us artists.
And if you’ve never considered yourself as being creative, think again.
creative ~ relating to the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.
Not everyone can do what we do.
No one else can see the world the way you do.
And whether you know it or not, you’re trying to express something (your why).
There’s this incredible poem by one of my favourite spoken word artists, Shane Koyczan, called “How to be a Person” and the first few sentences about being an artist always hit me in my feelings.
How to be a Person
One: Find your voice. Know that all languages contain words, your voice could be music, it could be dance, it will be what what expresses you most sincerely. Your voice is an art. if your heart is broken, make art with the pieces
Two: Remember that you are an artist. Regardless of how constantly the world will try to drive it out of you, or how a “Real Job” will try to bury the part of you that communicates your feelings when language fails, you are an artist. Whether it is with food or building robots, you will know your medium the instant you realise how in love you are with what it brings out of you.
It gets better too, honestly you need to listen to the full poem to get the full impact.
Maybe you feel a bit wanky calling yourself an “artist”? That’s okay – me too sometimes. For me, acknowledging myself as an artist isn’t about feeling “legitimate” or validated, I don’t feel the need to run off and cover myself in tattoos or any of those other stereotypical things associated with “being an artist”.
It just helps me to accept that I have a voice, and to feel worthy of it. To lean into all the uncomfortable parts of my life that are part of my voice, and to know that I am actually trying to say something, instead of just taking a photo because I can.
It doesn’t have to be grand, or about world peace, or curing cancer.
For me, I have a deep need to know and understand love; to show you that love exists in your life in many forms (because we are so blind to it, and so ready to anger, and hate). It’s deeply impacted by my childhood and by my life experiences. And the way I do that is by connecting with people, and creating a relationship and space where people feel comfortable being vulnerable with me. And the medium I choose to express all of this, is through photography. Honestly I’d have no idea how to paint that. Or express it through dance or music, but I do know how to capture it with a camera.
Knowing that, tells me exactly what inspires me. I’m inspired by watching Oprah, or Ellen Degeneres, or Brene Brown. By music and films and tv series and books that revolve around all types of relationships, that explore emotions, and just people in general. By connecting with people , having a coffee or brunch with friends who light up my soul, and having deep and meaningful conversations with people to understand what makes them tick. I’m inspired by spoken word artists, and by films that explore people and relationships. I love other photographers with a similar passion, and I love how differently we all express this.
My “art” isn’t for the masses.
It’s by commission, and for people who connect with it (my clients).
PS: If you’re interested in finding your voice (your why) I cannot recommend these books enough to you:
What do you think?
If you connected with this, or have a different opinion, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!
Do you feel like a fraud or an artist? Do you know your why? What inspires YOU?