In anticipation of some of my new work being released I began to look back at some of my old work. I posted an image of Britney among some dead flowers in the dead of winter on my instagram with some words that I desperately wanted to get out.
The post was about success and how we perceive success. At the time I shot that image of Brit I was really in the beginning stages of photographing concepts with models. I was always nervous before each shoot and sometimes I found it really hard to sleep the night before. I was bursting with ideas and concepts to shoot and I always wanted to be photographing. I styled the shoot on my own with vintage and costumed clothing and some from my own wardrobe. I was excited but still felt that sense of nervousness that I could muck the entire shoot up.
Back then it was all about awakening my creative vision and watching it come to life. There was that feeling that I was the only one who could do what I did. Full of so much doubt about whether I was shooting with the right camera, lens, equipment, if my directing of the model was strong enough and whether or not I'd be able to go home and retouch the images perfectly were always looming in my mind yet what wasn't there was this need to compare myself to other photographers or even to anything at all.
It's bizarre how things switch. Now I have no worries about what gear I am using, or the logistics of how to take a photograph. I'm comfortable with my camera and my gear. I have worked with hundreds of models, and I feel like I can really explain my vision to the team I am working with by using my words and gestures. I am confident in my retouching skills (but always learning) yet (and here is where things get weird) I have completely lost that sense of "I am me".
Now I am flooded with images. Beautiful images by talented people. I turn on my computer and it begins. Facebook, instagram, photography sharing sites all of it starts and then I see the successes of others. Now don't get me wrong I love looking at other creatives works. It helps for inspiration and to fuel me to get off my bum and keep shooting. Plus I have become friends with many of the artists that I see on a day to day basis and I respect them and their art and love being able to watch them grow. I am happy for their successes and I want to remain friends with them as I think we can all inspire each other.
But, I think this is something that we just can't escape these days. I know it's true. There will always be someone better then you and someone who isn't quite there yet and maybe we just get lost in that bubble.
I spent an entire morning basically reading about 10 other creatives successes. I was interested in reading some of their interviews and getting ideas of which magazines to submit to next. I even enjoyed looking at their images and praised them in my mind for great lighting or just an overall awesome shot. However, something started to happen within me. It was a gloomy feeling in the pit of my tummy and I knew I was looking at someone else's successes for far too long.
Though I know better I just couldn't seem to not start the comparison game. In my mind my success just wasn't enough and it never would be enough. Though I know I have absolutely nothing to complain about one thought just kept leading to another. I had to cut myself off and remind myself of these things:
1. We don't really know the full story. Social media will have us thinking that people live their lives a certain way. Especially those in the creative industry. We see their high's and many times not their lows. Or just enough of their "lows" that show us that they are human like us but look how much they have overcome.
No one really talks about how they sit quietly at night and cry because they feel they will never be good enough. No one tells you about how many times quitting was a serious option in their mind. They just say "I've struggled, but look at me now". The majority of what we see is the successes the highlights of this persons career. Heck, I know I do it. Because who wants to look at a failed photoshoot or a project that went south? Also, I am excited when my hard work finally gets noticed and it propels me to want to share that with the world and who wouldn't want to do the same?
However one thing we seem to forget is that we compare our lows to others highs. That is just not fair. It's completely not fair to us at all. This is such a way to just completely abuse ourselves. It's like taking an apple and comparing it to a bicycle. It just doesn't work.
2. Looking at all this other work can be the thing that kicks my ass into gear. I'll be honest it usually does. When I see other people living my dream it makes me want to get up and continue pursuing. However we need to do this in moderation. Too much is just that. Too much. That's where I think things get bad. When we spend all this time lost in other artists worlds we forget we have a world too. It's not a bad thing to get lost in their world. I personally love doing it. However our world is just as good. Just as creative and magical. I have to remind myself of this. My little creative world exists and it's time to give it some love.
3. Enough is enough. I will never be someone else and why would I want to. Neil Gaiman once said "We only find ourselves after we have sounded like a lot of other people". I love this quote it's so true. We definitely find ourselves by watching others and other elements build us into what and who we are. It's true for art. We take in so much from what we are constantly seeing that we get pulled around in all these different directions. Running through this maze of creativity. We eventually start to piece it all together and we can then walk around this maze navigating it perfectly.
I always wondered am I not photographing fantasy enough? What about fashion I love doing editorials, If I am doing Secret Garden and conceptual work can I still do fashion work? What about client work? Does any of this make sense? Am I supposed to be this type of photographer or this type of photographer? What are other people doing? How do their blogs look? Their website? Let me tell you how liberating it is when you just throw all of that away and just do and be you.
There is only one of me. How I see is how I see. My successes are unique to me. They will never be someone else's successes and I will never ever walk their journey. It's time to stop comparing my journey to someone else's highlight reel. I am getting better at it and hope you will too. xx