Let’s talk about love

A photograph is an instrument of love and revelation that must see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live in all things. – Ansel Adams

 

In the last post I mentioned the lesson of photographing what you love – the one subject or passion that will lead your photography to a deeper level.  One of the comments struck a chord with me as I struggled with that for many years (and still do to some extent).  My friend Tommy Williams mentioned his frustration about finding that one type of photography or subject that will give that “Ah Ha, this is my passion” moment.  That comment inspired this post – thanks Tommy!

I know that finding that passion can be difficult as there are quite a few aspects to it that can influence how you feel.

  1.  You see a photographer whose work blows you away, so naturally you’d like to be that good as well.  That has to be the passion, right?  It caused an emotional reaction in you – thrilling even.  This is more akin to a “crush” or “puppy love” in real life.  The problem comes in when you try to duplicate that look and something is missing.  You may even spend hundreds or thousands on the same gear that they use, but you still can’t get that same rush, nor the same quality that they do.  The crush shatters as you go deeper, just as an infatuation with a person does.  There is no magic bullet.
  2. You find a whole bunch of things that you like and can’t nail down just one.  This is like walking down the beach in Ibiza – your eyes are everywhere.  A fear of commitment!
  3. You’ve tried a bunch of things but none of them fulfill you.  You get frustrated because you should know this by now.  You’re photographing like crazy, see the great work that other people are doing, but none of your photos give you that jolt of inspiration that will propel you down a particular path.  The pressure you put on yourself feels like a weight on your shoulders.

Here’s my advice:

First, stop being so hard on yourself.  This is supposed to be fun, remember?  Even if you’re a pro and having to do the business side of things, it should still be fun otherwise what’s the point?  Life’s too short and I’m sure you have enough pressure on other aspects of life for this to become yet another.

Second – PLAY.  It’s okay to try new things.  Mandatory even.  Rent new lenses or cameras from www.lensrentals.com , take a workshop about a topic that you don’t know anything about (not just one that will advance your skills), give yourself fun little exercises to try.  Stand in one place and take 20 unique pictures.

Third – stop putting pressure on yourself to become a pro.  Not everyone wants to or should be.  Do you know most pros spend more than half their time worrying about the business side of things rather than actually taking pictures?  Is that what you want or do you just want to do what you love and have it fulfill your creative side?

Fourth:  Shoot the pictures that you’d like to have on your walls.  YOUR walls, no one else’s.  You have complete creative control of your “interior design”, so take the photos that you want to see every day.

Fifth:  You wouldn’t buy someone a wedding ring on the first date, would you?  When you find something you’re interested in, take it slowly.  Don’t rush out and buy tons of gear for every possible scenario regarding that subject.  Like a relationship, let it unfold naturally.  True love reveals itself over time.

Love comes at you when you’re ready for it, not when you’re driving yourself crazy with stress to find it.  So go play, have fun, experiment.   And most of all, lighten up on yourself!

Ttyl,

Mark

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15 comments

  1. I’m glad I could inspire the post, Mark. As usual, it’s a good one. I always appreciate both the quality of your ideas and their manifestation in words.

    I hear the advice to lighten up, play, and experiment. I even tell it to myself when I look at the first digital photos I took back in 1997: I was having a blast back then.

    But I just have a damned hard time doing it.

    I have spent a lot of time and effort getting to where I am now and, even though I’m at a dead end, I can’t bring myself to back up and let go of so much that I have learned. I’m able to make photos at a certain level of quality, or appeal, or whatever, and stepping back to experiment causes me to lose even that.

    It sounds absolutely stupid when I write it out but there’s a big gap between knowing something intellectually and convincing yourself to actually do it.

    For those of you reading this who aren’t as rigid as I am, Mark’s advice is fantastic. Read this article again. And again. Maybe I’ll finally be able to make sense of it, too.

      1. I appreciate that, Mark. And that’s part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to let go and experiment. I’ve reached a certain level of competence and it’s scary to let go of that and go searching.

        But I know I need to do just that because I’m unsatisfied with what I’m doing with my photography now. It’s just not fun.

        And that’s really the only reason I’m doing it. It’s not my job, I don’t have a burning desire to leave my mark on history, and I’m not even sure I’m trying to say anything with my photography.

        So if I’m going to do it, I ought to have fun with it.

  2. Mark, you mention your own journey to discover your passion and I’m wondering what you’ve learned. What is the one thing that you’re passionate about that is now reflected in your photography? As you know I’m still on my journey so I’m a little curious as to what your answer will be. Thanks!

    1. I think the biggest thing I learned is to be true to myself. To do the photography that makes me happy. Yes, there are strategies I’ve learned about galleries and such, but the bottom line is that the only way I’ll be happy is to photograph what I love. For me, that’s photographing places, both near and far, in ways that haven’t been done before. A good example was photographing elephants in Botswana with the Holga. It was so much fun that when I saw the results it was just a bonus that they turned out the way I liked.

      Hope that helps,

      Mark

    2. Sabrina: even if you don’t think you know what your passion is, your photographs on your blog are lovely and you have a real gift for storytelling–both in your pictures and with your writing. Maybe the blog just feels like part of your discovery process, but I sure hope you don’t dismiss that as its only value.

  3. Mark- great post, I can totally relate to the problem with “finding my passion”. I think I eventually want to do photography full time, not sure because I don’t want to lose my passion for it when running it as a business- I already have an unrelated business I am running.

    Thanks

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