"Never give up and good luck will find you" ~ Falcor "The NeverEnding Story
Since the last blog, I've gone on somewhat a hypothetical journey. I've learned a lot and yet at the same time, found more questions to ask. Which I'm finding somewhat interesting in a way. I remember one of my previous bosses telling me (when I first started) that when you begin, you know what you know. Then as you gain experience you come to the realisation that there's more to it and you don't know what you don't know. This is the stage when things become difficult and overwhelming and people give up.
Well, if you stick with it and persist then you reach the stage of knowing what you don't know. For me, personally, I feel like I'm on the line between not knowing what I don't know...and knowing what I don’t' know. By that, I mean that I've come to the realisation that there's so much more I need to know (because I don't) but I feel that now, I'm able to articulate what this is much better.
Relating it back to my photography work, it's like visualising what I want one of my images to look like then heading onto YouTube to look for a basic tutorial for it...but not knowing what the hell to even type in the search box. That's where I was. Now, I'd like to believe that there's aspects of what I want to visually achieve, I at least now know what to look for when I jump onto YouTube.
I've also been thinking a lot about the differences between photography and art. Photography AS art. When does a photograph BECOME art? Do I want to just be a photographer? Or do I want to be an photographic artist? Is there a difference? Or are the terms interchangeable? Does it make a difference? And if it does, what is that difference?
Now, I'm not going to go into the long winded research of art, art history, photography or psychology but for me, I'm inspired by the quote from Cirque Du Soleil's show Allegra that states: "If you have no voice, scream. If you have no legs, run. If you have no hope, invent." The power of that quote still brings a tear to my eyes but my interpretation of that ethos would be to extend it to "If you have no talent, create" and that's what I've been doing.
The hardest part of being "creative" is to actually BE creative. I had become somewhat complacent with photography and aspects of creativity and I only have myself to blame for that. Creativity always seems to take a back seat to the rest of life's priorities but having had the opportunity to find some balance again I (once again) tried to be creative. Starting is always the hardest part. Taking that first step of doing something when you don't know how has been one of the hardest things I've done and with the added insecurities and scrutiny of social media, it can be extremely daunting.
Admittedly, getting past this somewhat painfully excruciating hurdle has only managed to be achieved with a lot of soul searching and a change of mindset. The recent "Winter" image series that I created was as much a personal development project as it was an artistic development project. I started off with a concept and from there it evolved into something I used as a process. Like with anything creative it will never be perfect but instead of looking at the finished product as an objective, I used the learning process as the objective. As if it were an assignment for a course - would I be happy to submit it? Would I receive a passing grade? I don't ever expect to gain 100% for it but if I'm able to demonstrate an understanding and application of the key learning objectives then it's been a success as far as I'm concerned.
And in doing so, that's where I realise that the difference between a simple image or photograph becomes something more. It becomes art. What am I doing to it that makes it more than what it was? What am I doing to it to make people pay attention to it? What can I do to it to make it stand out? And that’s when the creativity started. Turning a simple image taken in a make-shift studio to adding a virtual background, adding differing lighting filters and shading, retouching imperfections on the image - these were all things that I previously considered to be sacrilegious to the world of photography because it was a manipulation of the 'truth' - because a photograph (to me) was always considered to be the truth.
Photography - specifically photojournalism (which I have a personal love for) - will always be seen as the absolute truth to me. Like a work of non-fiction. Something based in the real world. But what about the vast expanses of the non-fiction world? The world of digital art and photo manipulation? The world, although based on the absolute truth, is able to be expanded on giving people the opportunity to travel to new worlds, meet an array of creatures, cast magic spells, fly interstellar space craft or whatever the heart desires. I had been closed off to this concept for a very long time and by (re)opening this door, I feel like the cogs of creativity starting to move again and with their movement, the creation of momentum…which in turn creates more creativity…which in turn (with application of that creativity) creates talent…which creatives more momentum…and so on…
"I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay. Ain't it sad. And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me. That's too bad." ~ Money Money Money by Abba
So this has been something that's been ongoing for a while for me but I've never really made a big deal about it - until now. As someone who's involved in the creative industries (or at the very least, someone who is aspiring to be involved in the creative industries) there seems to some expectation that the work I do can be done for free. I mean, how hard can it be to just point and shoot a camera? Doesn't the camera have an automatic setting that just makes the photos look good anyway? Absolutely! I mean, that's why I spent all that time getting qualified and spent all that money on an expensive camera so I could learn how to use the automatic setting properly. *sigh*
Since the beginning of the year, I guess I've grown up a little bit (in the professional sense anyway) and I've stopped taking on work people expect me to do for free - because it's really not free. It comes at a cost. To me. Basically when someone says "it would be great exposure for your business" I now interpret that to be: "I don't value your time - at all. Your time is worth far less than mine and that photography thing you do is literally worthless to me so why should I pay for it." Sure, it might sound somewhat harsh and exaggerated and I might be taking it to the extreme...or am I?
Realistically, if I don't value my own time then no one will. The costs for equipment, insurance, electricity, travel costs, education, a bunch of other incidentals related to running any business and of course - my ACTUAL time. These are things that all cost something. Something financial. I've paid to buy the equipment. I've paid to gain the knowledge and qualification. I've paid to gain the experience that I have to get me to the point I am now. I've literally put blood, sweat and tears to get to the point I am now and to do work for free (well, for the "great business exposure") negates all of that. It devalues my entire history, experience, knowledge and that of everyone else who is involved in the creative industry and that's not right.
I'm not saying I won't ever do the work for free because I will but it will be because I've initiated it and on my terms. It shouldn't be something that people expect or make out like they're doing you a favour by having the opportunity to work for them for free. Admittedly I feel somewhat nervous about making this stand and who knows how many opportunities I might miss out on by rejecting "free work" but I think for my own personal and professional integrity (and professional development and the wider creative industry community) it needs to be done.
"Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go." ~ Good Riddance by Green Day
Since my last entry, much development has taken place. Both personally and professionally. One of the biggest developments has been the addition / upgrade to a Canon 5D MkII (my dream camera!). This was the camera that I wanted when I was first getting started in the world of photography however (as anyone in the creative industries will attest to) funding can be somewhat...limited.
A few years later...newer models of cameras came out and you would expect the prices to decrease (even slightly!) but unfortunately the price pretty much remained the same for the 5D. Then they were no longer available which saddened me – more so because of the fact that the dream of owning that particular camera no longer would no longer be a possibility.
Through a series of random events, I met a fellow artist (a painter) who had acquired the camera and had only used it a few times and hated the complexity of it all. As it turned out, by a twist of fate he was eager to sell the (almost brand new) camera to someone who would make good use of it – and at an incredibly low price (with a lens too!).
Within a week of acquiring the new camera I was approached to be involved a significantly large annual sporting event and another sporting competition the week after. Both were significantly large photography opportunities and for all of them to have happened within such a short amount of time have left me somewhat photographically and physically drained. I don't think people really give much thought to how physically demanding event or sports photography can be – but still question their rates because "if shouldn't be so expensive to just press a button", anyway – that's a blog for another time.
In recent weeks I've also been getting a lot more involved in the social media aspects of running a business. It's far more in-depth and complicated than what I thought it would be and admittedly I'm grateful for the fact that I have the luxury of not having to rely on photography as my primary source of income. Maybe it's just me being a nerd or easily distracted but I'm far more intrigued (and excited) by the analytics that I'm able to acquire from various providers in relation to social media presence. Even that itself is an art form and I'm learning about that very much as well (yes, I'm a nerd I know).
By having a social media presence (regardless of capacity) has also enabled me to connect with people that I previously would never have had the opportunity connect with. It's given me the opportunity to literally connect with other people around the world who share similar passions or exchange and brainstorm ideas and concepts and it's been amazing. I've only just begun to have a whole new understanding and appreciation for how amazing technology and the Internet can be. Case in point: A photography friend in the UK has done a thing and found (SEVERAL!) online courses that she has purchased. As part of purchasing the course(s) she's entitled to also gift a copy of the online course to someone - and that someone has been me!! So I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you.
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Opportunity creates opportunity - and as new age as it might sound, when you change your perspective on things, you can see the opportunities when they're presented. Who would have guessed that all it would take would be for a change in perspective...for a photographer. Crazy, I know!
I recently just finished a "winter" themed photo shoot and I'm really happy with the photos that I acquired from it. I'm still in the stages of post-processing them and photo-shopping them into how I conceptualised them - but I'm very happy with them.
Whilst planning for that photo shoot, I was approached to do another one. This time a "black and white" themed photo shoot. But before I've even had a chance to finish the first project the opportunity for another one has presented itself. And just when I was starting to get into the flow of working on my photos from the last shoot, an innocent Facebook post has ended up becoming a future planned body painted comic book super hero photo shoot.
I'm really looking forward to these upcoming projects and with every photo shoot that I do, I feel like I'm learning something new each and every time. There's a lot more that goes on behind the scenes of a photo shoot than just setting up some lights, pointing the camera (making sure the lens cap is off first - pro tip right there for you) and pressing the little clicky button on top (not the power button...the other button...the one that makes the thingie inside the camera go *clunk*).
There's a lot of planning and preparation that needs to be done well before a photo shoot too. There's also a lot of research that needs to be done in relation to other similar photographic work that already exists within the creative world too. Research, planning, preparation, planning, scheduling, organising, more preparation and then some more planning. And lists. Plenty of lists.
"If you have no voice, scream. If you have no legs, run. If you have no hope, invent." ~ Cirque du Soleil, Alegria Poster
In the past month I've had a lot of time to think about and work through various things - some of it was photography related, most of it wasn't. It's not been an easy process overall and I admit I've struggled with it.
Now that I've had some time and space to clear my head and with a little bit of hindsight I've come to understand what the title quote actually means (to me). It means that you create the opportunities when there are none or quite simply put: being optimistic - even when things don't go well. Look for the opportunity in every situation and that's what I've begun to do.
I now have my business cards available at my local gym - which has given me further ideas on where I can distribute my business cards to other potential clients.
The canvas print that I ordered some time ago has also arrived and was surprisingly larger than I expected - despite the fact that I selected the size of the print when I ordered it in the first place (let's not even go there). I'm now currently investigating places that would be suitable to potentially display my work. This itself is a complicated process but in doing this - I've also become aware of other opportunities and methods for next time. I guess the point there is that it's only considered a failure if you haven't learned from the experience.
In future news, I'm currently in the early stages of planning a themed photo shoot for the end of the month. The concepts and ideas of it all and what I'm visualising in my head are probably something well beyond what I'm usually comfortable with (and probably capable of) but if I want to be seen as being creative then I have to get out of my comfort zone which is exactly what I'm going to be doing.
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