There was a time when I started photography that I thought I would be taking the exact same pictures forever. When I picked up my camera for the first time and made something, without anyone telling me what to do or how to do it, I felt free. I felt like I had expressed my truest voice, and it was there in physical form for anyone to see. I put it online. I shared it with co-workers and family and friends. I was proud. Not a day went by that I didn’t feel like I was creating what was true to me. During those first few months I began to receive emails telling me how awful my pictures were; it was only fuel to my fire. I thought that made it so much more interesting and fun, to have differing ideas of what “good art” really was. But then something happened. My art didn’t change, and the feedback didn’t change (good or bad), and my love of art didn’t change – I changed.
I let my art change with me. I started thinking more deeply about why I create and what I wanted to say. I began introducing color into my wardrobe, symbolism into my props, and more robust locations into my work. I was ready for change and I let that reflect in what I created. It wasn’t the first time someone didn’t like what I did, but it was the first time someone who had previously enjoyed my work no longer did, and wanted to let me know.
This is the crazy thing about creating: we start creating for ourselves, because we are the only motivation in the beginning to create at all. But then we share that work and the pressures of other people creep in. Will they like this? Will they give me motivation to create again?
Suddenly there is a huge emphasis put on THEY, when in fact your passion started out as simply YOU, and the sometimes elusive I. Will I like this? Can I motivate myself to create again?
My work has changed three major times over the course of 7 years. It started out quite dark, monotone, indoor locations, no props, and often nude or in a bed sheet. It transitioned into simple yet slightly more colorful works that often took place in nature, yet were still quite dark. And then it transitioned again into a fascination with fairytales and creating characters to portray in the works. These have been the 3 directions in my work, and I love each of them.
I am currently creating my 4th style.
I have let the infamous THEY slither into my mind on too many occasions. I find it embarrassing to admit, but I wonder if everyone feels that way, and so I say it out loud. I have had internal struggle with wanting to produce something of value, while also wanting to produce something that can be immediately digested and spit back out by the collective internet. This is the plight of shoot-edit-release; I want it done quickly, I want feedback immediately, and I want to move on to creating more positive affirmation.
We are addicted to opinions. We are obsessed with hearing what someone else thinks: of our clothes when we shop, of our decisions when we falter, of our art when we create. The number of questions to our friends and families, even near strangers on the internet, of how we live our lives and what we produce from them is staggering. It would seem that the only opinion that gets buried is our own. A thought appears and we second guess it. A desire wells up and we question it. For what? For whom?
Toward the end of 2015 I made a promise to myself. I would be creating fewer images with more meaning, taking my time in putting them together and releasing them at a gallery show. I would be creating for myself, in whatever way I want, with no regard for reception. I would create without apologies. I would create for myself.
I had to rediscover what that meant. I have created many images, and I could even argue that all of them fulfill a vital part of myself. But sometimes it isn’t enough to create an image for yourself and then immediately give it away. I wanted to keep hold of what makes it mine; I wanted to revel in that process, and not cut it’s life short.
It is a terrifying thing, to create in one way and suddenly change the way you work. It is even more scary, if I am being wholly honest, to not only change how you work and question how it will be received, but to change how you share and risk your community forgetting about you. If we are being real, that is my fear. I am in love with this community and I fear it will disappear if I do not create new works of art every week, militantly.
This is a risk I am willing to take. I create art for myself and for others, but for now, it needs to be on my own terms. I must create with the heart I have developed and the mind I have questioned on many occasions. I am ready to dive in to my new style. I am ready to manifest a new vision. I am ready.
I will never tell you to be unafraid in the face of change. It is scary, and it does look like a black hole. But you’ll find that when you get close enough to that change you have been so fearing, time stands still. The world exists for you to create. I was told recently at a dinner that, though I could not yet understand, being 12 years too young, when a person turns 40 they stop caring, intuitively, about all of the mess of lies that the world spins – vanity, jealousy, etc. I decided that, while it was a nice sentiment, and certainly true for some people, I didn’t need to wait that long. I could change whenever I felt the need. And I feel the need now, to let go of how my art is received; to let go of how I am perceived; to let go of my fears, doubts, and nightmares.
Create how YOU would create, not how THEY would have you create. Share YOUR opinions and do not let THEIRS interfere. Tell YOUR story, or the stories of the world in your way, instead of telling your story in a way that would make THEM more comfortable. Make someone uncomfortable. Make yourself uncomfortable. Challenge what you do and question if you are truly on the path that ignites your world. Set it ablaze. Write love notes on paper airplanes – leave caution to the wind.