Vision: Opening Our Eyes to the Everyday around Us
My creative journey has traversed many ups and downs. I know I will encounter more. Those close to me have witnessed the times when I was so frustrated and dissatisfied with my work that I pondered whether I’d be better off selling all my cameras, shutting down my website, and forgetting about the existence of photography all together.
Lop that creative struggle clean off!
This always sounds freeing to me. No more wrestling within myself over what to create, how to create, and whether my work is good enough. No more agony over my best photograph always being the one I have yet to make. But it always feels like chopping off my right arm and going through life with one less limb for no other reason than I thought life would be simpler with one less limb.
You see, I unknowingly took a turn along my journey onto an unmarked path, and I want to go back and set up a sign at that fork in the road that reads:
“Warning: Pathway to the Barren Wasteland of Creativity and Drive”
When I was starting out and so eager to learn and grow in my photography, I would pour over other’s work for hours, studying and learning. I began taking clients and before long was consumed with shooting for them and delivering what I thought they wanted. Before I knew it, I had stopped shooting for myself all together. I became intensely dissatisfied with my work because it never looked like the photographers’ work that I loved. My life didn’t look like theirs. My area didn’t look like theirs. My subjects didn’t look like theirs. My photographs didn’t look like theirs. The pocket of the world I live in didn’t look a thing like the work I loved.
While it is important to study the masters, be inspired, learn, and to produce work that will please clients, when I become consumed with the latest fads in the industry and only documenting other people’s lives, I plummet straight into the Barren Wasteland of Creativity and Drive.
After a long, unpleasant stint in this barren wasteland, I finally spotted a faint glimmer of a trail in the dry, cracked dirt leading out. It may seem obvious and simple, but for me, it was a long, hard process to figure this out.
I had to open my eyes. I had to open my eyes to my life again. To my little pocket of the world. To the people dear to me. Shoot for myself and only myself. Create for the sake of creating alone. Silence the voice in my head that declared every image had to be a masterpiece awing the masses.
My world may look different than everyone else’s, but that is exactly the point. It is unique. It cannot be duplicated. I was struck with the conviction, “If I cannot find light and beauty and story within the seemingly mundane and everyday of my life and family and corner of the world, then how can I possibly go into other places and others’ lives and have eyes truly open to see the light and story in theirs?”
I needed to go back to what I knew. Exactly where I was. Even though at the time, I did not like where my life was at all. And that was the point. To hunt through my everyday and to celebrate the light and stories that were so close to me I overlooked them.
I embarked on a journey of personal projects. These projects documenting my own life, opening my eyes to my everyday, and shooting purely for myself and for the sake of creating now carry far more meaning for me and my family than I knew when I began. It has completely altered my vision, which overflows into all my work, both personal and commissioned.
While we need to know the rules of photography and have strong technique, photography still comes down to a creative process and without vision, what do we have? A plethora of technically strong images that all look the same and lack soul.
So my bit of advice is in the midst of learning and working, make a habit of stepping back, creating only and completely for yourself, and opening your eyes to the seemingly mundane and everyday in your life, regardless of whether you like or cannot stand what your life looks like. There is a story to be found there, an image, a bit of light.
GUEST BLOGGER: Katelyn Rich