Nearly every creative endeavor I’ve ever embarked on has been preceded by some existential array that generally starts modestly with simple questions like what am I doing? and then ends up drunk in the weeds of holyshitIcan’tfuckingdothiswhydidIthinkthiswasagoodideasomeonepleasestopmefromcreatingnewthings.
Ya know, casual.
But over the years of living with this lovely song and dance on literally every project from portrait sessions, to performances to whole documentaries— some of my greatest innovations in how I create my art come from solving problems while I’m living in them. Some of the most commented or remarked upon features in my work have not come from some mythical, timely spawn of talent or genius we all believe exists in the universe but somehow always fail to recognize in ourselves—unsubtle cough. No, rather it comes from the sweaty heart palpitations of a 24-year-old quietly muttering ah shit how the f*** do I fix that.. beneath a nervous, dead-eyed smile. Now that’s not to say I never learn from my mistakes— it’s the exact opposite. That because I am constantly making mistakes I am therefore always learning.
These two photos blended together on their own were unremarkable. Each photo on its own held a piece of what I desired in the final product. Instead of scrolling past them as I might do in any stack of hundreds of photos, I sat with the hunch of wanting something more.
To be fair, most of us that are exposed to the American education system are conditioned to see right and wrong as the only true capitalist mode of existence. I was no exception, though I had many great teachers along the way. But sadly, perfection doesn’t make good art. It also doesn’t exist so that's kind of awkward when you think about it. And so this risk-averse, judgment mongering, knee jerk reaction almost comes natural—as best as something unnatural like this can be— as if we are to know how to do something before we’ve ever done it.
It’s so easy to stress. About everything. All the time. But when I’m able to step back from all the static that anxiety bludgeons me with, there’s always a path forward and more times than not, I’m better because of it. The important thing, for me at least, is to always examine the process and to cut myself some slack. Re-conditioning the instinct to sit and be present when things that go AWOL, beyond its investment in stretching me as an artist, is just a good life skill in general.
One of my greatest inspirations as a photographer and probably the reason I started understanding the value of this art form as a platform is Lynsey Addario, a conflict photographer for the New York Times. Not that getting held hostage by the Taliban is a #CareerGoal for me by any measure, but it certainly adds some context and depth to her work. What I admire most about Lynsey, aside from killer composition (holy god), she very comfortably walks her readers through her fumbles is open about how and why those missteps were formative in the development of herself.
And that’s true for us all. We’re always developing, all the time, in everything we do forever, even when we think we’re not so like stop being stubborn.
Also, I bought a cinema camera so hire me for your cool video projects.