Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Overcoming the Fear

       "If I knew how to take a good photograph, I'd do it every time" -  Robert Doisneau

For the past several years... really, until quite recently, I have suffered from a form of photographer's stage fright. What I mean is - literally pulling out the camera in order to capture an image... even a personal image not intended for a client was an act that produced a very real and mild form of dread. Thinking about it now, I realize that this dread was an inner competition with myself. Would the picture be as good as what I was seeing in my head? Would it be as good as my last shot? Would I be disappointed with the results once I got the image back to the darkroom or computer to process it?  A lot of this fear has no doubt developed, in part, by my decision to immediately become a commercial photographer from the moment I first picked up a camera. Photography as a business is quite a competitive arena in the first place. Professional photographers are expected to produce, if not predictable, competent and technically well crafted images above and beyond what the average snapshooter makes. Add to that the pressure of delivering the goods, so to speak, each and every time out of the gate because your income depends on it, your client's budget and campaign depends upon it, the art buyer-photo editor-account executive depends on it and most of all, your reputation depends on it. There is a saying in this business is ... "'re only as good as your last shot...".

What I've come to realize is that making images makes me happy and even more than that, it is no longer a job but a passion. Yes, I know that most photographers get their start in exactly the opposite way. I didn't and now most of the time, I come back with images that please me. Still, I struggle with attempting to anticipate what images might help further my career, increase my income, be recognized as artistic. The struggle has less urgency for me now. I've come to realize that as much as we learn, as much as we think we know, as much technical prowess we have developed, ever picture making opportunity is a brand new deal with it's own set of challenges and we do our best to figure it out on the fly and pray for a satisfactory result. Keeping that simple truth in mind has helped immensely in overcoming my fear. It's still there, but it no longer stops me from stopping, looking, capturing something. In terms of unassigned, personal work, there has been an even greater discovery in that what I think I had captured often tends to be completely different than what I had originally intended. It's as if my unconscious secretly takes over and operates the camera, revealing itself to me in quiet and subtle ways.

One of the goals of this blog is to be able to show work that is outside scope of what I can put up on my commercial website. As to whether or not anyone sees it is anybody's guess. Still, the effort is worthwhile in making me think about the images I make in a very different light and without the commercial pressures of the business end of photography. The blog, I have found, is also forcing me to create new content in order to have new images to post here. It is forcing me to reevaluate some of the things about photography that I previously took for granted. Whatever the motivating factors -  boredom, creative blocs, complacency - I am really enjoying what I'm doing now in a way that I never did before and this brings me great joy.

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