We are almost into June! That means that the first half of the year is almost over. In some ways I don’t like counting down or up throughout the year, always trying to get to the next big event. But in other ways it serves as a great way of checking in with ourselves to ask the simple but profound question:
Am I doing what I love?
I made a vow this year that I would not create unless I felt compelled in some way to do so. That means no more creating because I think I should be, or taking pictures because I need to keep up with social media, or to keep myself relevant. If it doesn’t serve me, I don’t spend my energy on it. I’ve learned, slowly, to value my energy – physically and mentally – so that it truly serves my greatest purpose rather than serving someone else. When we let ourselves be fulfilled, we can better serve others.
Looking at the images I’ve created so far this year (plus three that I can’t share yet!) I feel energized. I don’t think I’ve achieved all of what I wanted to do yet (for instance, creating a more vibrant color palette, and incorporating locations I’ve never seen before). I do see progression though, specifically in “Percussion” and the two images following, since they utilize techniques and visuals I have never tried before. There are some “old hat” images, like three underwater pictures, but that isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes we as artists feel like if we aren’t changing (often confused with challenging) then we aren’t truly creating art – but to me, sometimes the things that make you happy stick with you, and there is no shame in manifesting that through your work.
How do you feel your portfolio is shaping up this year? Do you see a clear progression or style emerging for your 2016 portfolio? Are you creating as much or as little as you want? Does what you create reflect who you are or does it reflect someone else – a client, peers, etc.?
If I had to describe my work so far this year in keywords I would say: interaction/motion, isolated colors, searching, self-portraiture, ambiance, whimsy, feminine.
If I had to describe what I want my work to look like in keywords: dark, other-worldly, conceptual…so those are things to work on!
“Withdrawal”, self-portrait, May 2016
“Vibrations”, self-portrait, May 2016
“Underground Discoveries”, model Stephanie Perez, March 2016
“The Silence”, self-portrait, March 2016
“Revolve”, self-portrait, April 2016
“Pierced”, self-portrait, March 2016
“Percussion”, self-portrait, February 2016
“Mirage”, self-portrait, April 2016
“Heavy Hands”, model Jen Brook, May 2016
“Fleeing, pt. 3”, model Sara Silkin, April 2016
“Fleeing, pt. 2”, model Sara Silkin, April 2016
“Fleeing, pt. 1”, model Sara Silkin, April 2016
“Brittle”, self-portrait, April 2016
“Breath”, self-portrait, February 2016
“Finding Your Place Among the Stars”, self-portrait, May 2016
Have you ever accomplished something and then immediately felt guilty for your achievement? Or been praised for your accomplishment and then felt like you had tricked the world into giving you praise, when there is no way that YOU, of all people, could deserve it?
That is the work of impostor syndrome, something that I, along with many creative people, suffer from. It is our way of letting self-doubt pierce our confidence. It is the excuse for not accepting our greatness. My video below says it all, or at least all of my thoughts on the matter. The bottom line is simple:
What is causing the thought that we don’t deserve to be successful, and how can we stop it?
What do you love about yourself?
How can you be that person even more?
Share with me your experience with impostor syndrome below!
“Finding Your Place Among the Stars”, self-portrait, May 2016
A lot (and I mean an alarming lot) of people I know feel like they have no significance in this world. I’m not saying they are depressed necessarily, but that they simply don’t know what they are meant to do. They try out hobbies here and there but never commit to a passion. They complain about not knowing what they are good at without really trying. And the biggest thing connecting them all? They are unique individuals, but none of them see themselves that way.
I think there are two problems at play: laziness and lies. The biggest lie is that we are told we are meant to do something special. How is this a lie? Because it indicates that we are meant to do one singular thing with our time; we are meant to find our greatest passion and the thing we are best at and transform that into a life-changing event. It puts pressure on us to narrow down our being into a singularity, when in fact no one is so one dimensional. We should be encouraged to find anything that makes our hearts sing and to pursue all of those things no matter if they ever change the world or not. Success takes momentum, and we get there by acting on even the smallest things that give us joy and letting it build.
How are we lazy? Simple. We rarely really and truly try to find what makes us special. We are spoiled into thinking our talents and passions come to us rather than us having to chase after them. We have hobbies that are fun but we don’t ask ourselves how we can take that further. We have things that we love doing but we assume we can’t make a living at it. We are chronic low-ballers. We choose a life free of risk in the hope that safety will provide us with what we want. We expect everything on a timetable, and that isn’t all our fault. We are taught what we are supposed to do by certain age brackets and if we don’t make it, we think we failed.
There is no time limit to finding your worth. Take as much time as you need.
The biggest life-changers are those who are multi-faceted. They channel their interests into serving a greater good.
Take Oprah for example. Would anyone believe that her greatest passion is hosting a talk show? Of course not! Her passion seems to be bettering others through honesty, healing and health. She has a greater mission, one that all of her endeavors aim to satisfy.
I won’t put myself in Oprah’s category, but my interests are photography, writing and filmmaking (so far!). Are those my great life calling? Definitely not. I want to inspire others to create the lives of their dreams through imagination and fearless art. My interests serve my greatest passion.
If you are someone who feels insignificant, you might be questioning right now how anyone gets over that hump and feels that they have something to offer. I promise you I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, being told that I was going to change the world (still working on that, though). For me, the proof is in the action. I can talk about doing, or think about changing, or want to be different, but until I do it the rest is just folly. The moment I started creating the art I wanted to create, with the message I wanted to send, people started responding. When we find our authentic voice it is not easy for others to ignore it.
My biggest fear in life is not living up to my potential. I would rather fail countless times than get to the end of my life never truly having tried. People lead by action. You doing something that takes risk or moves you closer to your passion is a mirror for everyone around you. It makes them want to take action and achieve their passions. The best gift you can give to someone is to simply do. It is the most powerful word in the English language to me. DO. It is an action, a command, a calling. It is what happens when we stop making excuses or believing the lies we’re fed. It is our journey. Chase it.
Image: “Finding Your Place Among the Stars”, self-portrait, May 2016.
Available as limited edition prints on fine art paper, 20×20 inches & 40×40 inches. Contact for more details about print purchases or image licensing.
Can I just take a moment to say how much JOY I am getting from building sets and creating images using my hands? I am having such a good time physically building and creating and taking my time doing so. I’ve shifted how I work slightly – not in everything I create, but in this new series that I’m working on that I’ll debut in early 2017. It has been a labor of love, and when I say labor, I mean it. First I played with yarn, and after 100 hours of “yarning”, and another huge chunk of time dedicated to building the walls for the set (and 4 hours sewing into my sister-in-law’s hand) I was ready to shoot.
For the next shoot we carried 800 lbs of sand into the studio, assembled a bed, and I even found a model in my local grocery store! But more on that shoot later. For this one, I got a very, very heavy bathtub into the studio (re: “I” as “I hired two people to do it, because I was vastly unqualified to be lifting anything that heavy.”). I ordered 100 lbs of wax, though we only ended up needing about 25 lbs worth! And then I got to melting, and covering my friend who was laid in the bathtub naked. All in a day’s work, right?
I’ll be revealing the images in their entirety later as well as a big writeup of their significance to me, but for now, I hope you can enjoy this little peak of the hard work that went into my studio last month. Now that the wax is all cleaned up, I can’t wait for the next shoot!
Assistant: Kelly McGrady
Model: KD Stapleton
Music: “Moonlight” by Message to Bears
After the photo shoot ended, despite having brought about 25 trash bags, we had no real way of cleaning my dear friend who I had just spent hours covering in thick wax. It took about four hours at home – scraping, pealing, heating, bathing – and any other “ing” you can think of, to get the wax off. I think it might have broken my record for messiest photo shoot yet! And that is really saying something.
What is the messiest thing you’ve done for art?!
Please note that we looked into safety precautions before doing this photo shoot and I recommend you do the same if working with materials on skin.
For months, maybe even years, after I started taking pictures I longed for a day when my style would be consistent. Just when I thought I’d reached that point a gallery would tell me they are too different. And on days when I felt all over the place, someone would email me to say that all of my images look the same. It forced me to question why I so longed for images that were consistent from one to the next. The answer is one that most artists feel – a need to accurately convey their message. That ability often comes in the form of creating consistent work.
As I continued journeying through photography, my goal of creating works that were tightly related changed. I started putting more value on creativity and less on art. I put more emphasis on what it felt like to make my imagination come to life rather than thinking only of what it would look like in the end. I became obsessed with the idea that art does not have to look like any one thing. It should not be dictated by the people viewing it or buying it.
A couple years ago I looked at my portfolio and it felt stuck. It felt like someone had put up a roadblock and instead of finding a way around it, I simply built the same image over and over again. I hoped to find a way around it but instead I wasn’t able to see anything beyond it.
No longer did I just want to be creative, or express my imagination. I wanted to do so bravely. I would rather create with bravery than with fear. I wanted to create in ways that made me nervous, or that made me fear being misunderstood, or that invited criticism. This new image reminded me of that in the simplest way – visually. I have always been afraid of photographing backlight – such a simple thing, but something I was never comfortable with. And so I started last year and I continue on that little journey as a personal kick-in-the-pants.
I know that I, as an artist, get so caught up in doing things the “right” way or producing work that is consistent that I forget not to take it all so seriously. Who cares if everything we produce isn’t perfect? Or even good? Who cares if we experiment? Are we any less an artist because of it? I would say we are even more so.
Find your style – yes. Find your voice, and use it. Find the message that, beyond all other messages, is yours to tell. But never let yourself be trapped by those constraints. Let them be guides in the darkness that is the artistic path.
Surprise yourself. Let yourself down. Pick yourself up. Search. Do.
When was the last time you challenged yourself, and how?
This is what my Promoting Passion Convention is about – putting the journey before the image. Growing. Experimenting. And finding others who are on similar paths. I hope you can join us!