Friday, September 4, 2015

Why is everybody following the same path?

I decided to scale back my social media presence this year for one main reason: to keep my vision as an artist clean, clear and pure.

You see people, some of you might find that a very snobbish or egocentric notion. But if you think of it, I – excuse me – we, are getting bombarded and outsmarted online by work and thoughts of other photographers.

How do you expect us to be virtuous when most of your own thoughts, notions and inspirations are not your own? Our creative minds are getting lobotomized and we are smiling in the process! We should start thinking for ourselves people. And don't let these social media heroes do the heavy lifting for you. It amazes me how many people can't answer the simple why-question, why they actually photograph. Or simply are willing to put in their time. You know to study photography and become better at it. Most of them want to be spoon-fed with information. Sometimes I wonder what happened to hard work and doing your research and learning yourself. You know at your pace with your interests.

Here's the thing though. Greed, but mostly vanity and envy have turned this photography universe into one big ugly black hole. Everybody wants to get the notoriety of being a master. Not tomorrow (God forbid they need to wait or work for something) but right now!

Especially envy I reckon is - in my opinion - an easy trap to fall into. It makes us think some crazy stupid things.
  • We envy other photographers when we see them posting pictures of awesome areas that we've never visited. 
  • We envy other photographers because they get to use the latest and greatest gear, sponsored by company X. While I'm still using this crummy 5D mk II. 
  • We envy other photographers because they got the cover of some fancy schmancy magazine. 
  • We envy other photographers because they won some prestigious photo-award somewhere.
  • etc etc, I mean you get the picture.   
Let's be honest. We've all thoughts like these before. Right? Am I right?!
And what do we mostly do? We follow the same path as the photographers we aspire and envy to be. Because the path is easy and the way has been paved. We go to the same places as them (Iceland anyone?) because obviously Canada has no beauty. Buy the same cameras as them (anybody needs a Sony A7R II? I hear that's the shit right now). You send out photos to Outdoor Photographer or Popular Photography or whatever magazine you read, in hopes of getting cover features for little to no pay other than 'exposure'. You spend money on some dumb photo competition's entry fee where everybody and their dog enters in hopes of getting a prize or nod of some sort, by a jury of people nobody has ever heard of or cared about.
Let me tell you. I'll be the first to admit. I've done it all! And you know how that made me feel?
And disillusioned about my own capabilities as an artist.

One day I thought I was the best I have ever been, because I won 3rd prize in some international award I don't even remember where I put the printed certificate of. The other day I realized, my work is worth nothing. It's all shite.

Because I listened to my own voice, I photographed this road side memorial a few months back.
I felt the story had to be told. I felt the photo had to be made.
This will never be a popular photo of mine. But that's not the point.

Envy is one of the more darker valleys you will have to cross I think on your journey to mastery. Inevitably you will start thinking things like 'why do I even bother doing this?' because you just realized how bonkers this photo universe has become.

And in that dark place, lay interesting answers my friends.

Do you really think anybody in the long run cares about all the awards they got with their work? Praise and accolades are merely bull-sh*t. Photo competitions pop up allover the place and they have diluted the photography landscape with their fake praise and admiration, to a landscape where mediocre drab is uplifted to what it is not, good photography.

Awards don't make you a better artist. If you think they do, than you are a vain SOB. Awards don't mean anything. And that is the end.

Now I hear you think "Geez what's up with this dude?" He's envious and jealous of other photographers. What a prick. I don't see you doing what they do. 

You see the problem with these social media heroes these days is that they don't 'see' past the obvious. These vain people NEED the attention to make them feel good about themselves. They want to feel that the world envies their lives. But in reality, there is nothing real about their so called 'adventures'. All those junk hashtaged posts are fabricated lies, put up to promote things or destinations but mostly, let's face it, promote themselves. Not as an artist. But as a vain, greedy, attention-seeking wh#%^, I mean person.

I believe in standing up in what you believe in. If nobody in the room is willing to say anything, I'll be the first to say something so we can all get the true conversation going. 

Even if the things I am saying are kicking people's chins and egos. Just like probably a lot of people will – yet again – take offense with this post. I'll keep saying the things that I feel need to be said.

I am a sucker for the truth. I absolutely hate fake people and liars. I cannot stand it when these so called 'guru teachers' descend from their high pedestal to teach us peasants the photographic ways. How the heck did they get placed on the pedestal in the first place. Who decided that they were good enough to teach? One browse through their portfolios show composition after composition that have been regurgitated over and over and over. They don't have talent. They just follow their own little system. They teach what they know. But are afraid to educate themselves properly. So yeah, I run my mouth in posts like these. I don't care who gets to see these nor do I care who takes offense. I do my very best to call it the way I see it. Maybe that is pride or vanity of my part. But I've seen too many gifted and original photographers ripped to pieces by ruthless 'gurus' in their pursuit of empty accolades. When I write posts like these, people will regard me as a jealous ass.

And I don't care. I say, let the work do the talking. And not your skewed egos. 

Don't get me wrong. Envy can be used in a positive way as well. For example, I envy the work of Ansel Adams, Edward Burtynsky, Minor White, etc. I envy their careers and the hard paths and sacrifices they made to get to where the whole world considered them to be masters at what they did or do. To this day this is a huge mental driver to get stuff done. I don't want to be like them. I just respect what they did for the photo community.

You think Ansel gave 2 sh*ts about fame? Absolutely NOT. He couldn't care less. All he cared about was that the work he showed, was the best HE could produce.

He stayed humble along his journey all the way to the end. He felt very fortunate to receive the admiration people where giving his work. And that is something I have an incredible amount of respect for. He tried to change the world. And he succeeded.

So stop weighing your careers against other photographers. We are all unique beings that see the world around us in unique ways. Therefor we don't need to seek out new destinations to create meaningful work. Get to know yourself first and go explore the world around you. Quite literally. Stop photographing for the masses and start photographing for yourself. Listen to yourself and ultimately make a stand for yourself, no matter how small and insignificant you think you are. Believe in yourself and never give up in what you believe in.

But most of all. If you take away anything of this post, let it be this. Be a glutton for knowledge. Knowledge is what makes the world go round. Not envy. Not vanity. And definitely not greed for more fame and more money.