Sometimes I Have Tremendous Self-Doubt, but Then I Think: Nah Man, It’s Cool.

I’m pretty sure most artists feel this way from time to time, no matter the level of their success. It’s the feeling that makes your gut turn, makes your eyes burn, and makes you want to sleep forever and never see daylight ever again. It’s the feeling known as “Not Being Good Enough.” Capitalized for seriousness and universality.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of wonderful things happen to me. My work is in the GRAM for ArtPrize. The same piece was awarded an Honorable Mention in the International Photography Awards (which is one the most ambitious competitions in the photography world.) I currently have work on display in California, work that is going to be displayed in California, have been published numerous times this past year, and my peers look forward to what I make next.

But the little devil called NBGE (given an acronym to once again emphasize the toxicity of the expression,) continuously knocks at my door. It tells me that I’ll never be able to produce something as profound as my Home Sweet Home series (which has mainly been the source of my recent success.) It tells me that no grad school is going to want me. It says that all this work is nothing, don’t get ahead of myself, don’t envision an ideal future where I am successful because it’s not going to happen.

NBGE is a real party-pooper.

Sometimes I believe NBGE for a short while- and only ever a short while. Because then I get angry at it, and I like to tell it that it’s wrong, because arguing that you will not be a failure is empowering, even if you’re really just arguing with yourself. NBGE likes to try and inhibit me, but in effect it actually motivates me. When I’m feeling sorry for myself, I do a few things:

1.) I look at other photographer’s work for inspiration and motivation.

2.) I look at my own work and try to remember what it was I liked about it.

3.) I think back at how many people I have made happy by asking them to model for me, and how many people who came up to me at ArtPrize and told me their childhood stories.

4.) I pick up my camera.

5.) and I try, try, try again.

Maybe I won’t ever make it. But, better yet, maybe I will. Whenever I create something good, like Home Sweet Home, I get the crippling version of NBGE that tells me that I will never be able to replicate that success. I agree with NBGE in that respect, but I’m thinking of that concept in a different way. I will never be able to replicate success, because each success is different from the last. Of course they’re not the same. I make myself remember what the last “best thing I ever did” was, to remind myself that as I grow as a photographer and an artist, my ideas will too.

So, take that, NBGE. I’ll prove you wrong again and again, because I am good enough and I have the drive to prove it.

On that note, go prove your inner NBGE wrong. Happy Shooting.

I Don’t Want To Go

I don’t want to go.

London has given me so much these past six weeks. It has given me a reason to wake up before noon. It has given me inspiration behind the camera. It has reawakened my passion for writing. And now I have to leave.

It’s proved to me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I want to do a photo shoot at the Cliffs of Dover? Sure, why not? Done. I wonder if I can pull off a series surrounding the colors one finds in London? Check. I have this pretty dress I packed- could I do something with it? Why not do something with it in Bath? Boom. Oh, your camera bag weighs 30lbs and you need to hike up that cliff side? Bring it on, endurance.

I learned that my passion for photography is not annoying, and I shouldn’t hold back. So many times this trip I started rambling about something photography related, realized that I had been going on about it for quite a while, and would stop and apologize to the person I was rambling to. And this is another thing London has given me: an understanding of who a friend is. These people who I would apologize to would smile and say, “No, it’s okay- I love seeing someone so passionate about something they love.”

So, I won’t apologize anymore. I have friends who listen to me ramble, and I’m going to keep them. Why shouldn’t we be excited for the things our friends love? Why not encourage them instead of making them feel like their passion is silly or stupid or uninteresting? Hey, you love watching slugs? Go for broke, man, and let me know if I can get you a lemonade or something while you tell me about the different species.

London has given me this.

And I don’t want to go.

I learned that I can take a stranger’s picture and not spontaneously combust. I learned that I can stand in the middle of a crowded sidewalk and take a picture of a picture of Big Ben and somehow survive. I learned that the world is not that scary of a place and that I shouldn’t let a fear of judgement prevent me from getting the shot I desire. I’ll still have my moments when my finger will stutter over the shutter button, but I have the evidence that I can do anything as incentive to go ahead and take the picture.

Relationships. Navigating. Problem solving. Team work. Delegation. Compromising. Surviving Belfast on July 12th. These are all things that London has either given me or reminded me that these are things I knew how to do all along.

I don’t want to go.

But I must go. I have to return to the United States because that’s just the way things are. Little pieces of my heart will be stuck in crevices and cracks in the sidewalk of this beautiful (albeit polluted and overcrowded,) city. And I don’t mind one bit.

London has taught me that I can do anything. And I can’t wait to bring this knowledge back to the USA and show the photography world what I’m made of.

Until next time, London.

Chills

Looking back on the past few months, I’m so fortunate. I’m fortunate to have people in my life willing to help me achieve my goals, whether it be through modeling, helping me carry heavy things, or driving me places on a whim. I’m lucky that I’ve had wonderful teachers and great peers to guide me through my work.

I’m so pleased with how things went this semester, I feel like crying tears of joy.

It was a really hard semester. My dad had a heart attack. An old friend of mine passed away. My dog of fifteen years passed away. It was sad, it was frustrating, and I was really down for a lot of it. But I had my photography. I will always have photography.

I will always have people in my life willing to help.

The first two weeks of the semester, I had a terrible feeling that things weren’t going to go well in terms of photography. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything that I wanted to do, and as any creative person will know, that puts a damper on things. But I knew had to keep pushing, I had to make it work. And I did.

There are times where I get discouraged. There are moments when I think “I’m not going to make it in this field.” I have so much left to learn and I feel like I’m always staring at the back of someones head who is far in front of me. But times like this, times right now where I’m feeling good and I feel like I’m heading in the right direction… Moments like these make me feel really good.

I’m glad I’m tenacious. I’m glad that I haven’t stopped working hard. It’s going to come to something.

If you’re reading this and you’re feel discouraged, it’s okay. But please, no matter what you do, don’t give up. If photography if your passion, don’t stop. If writing is your passion, don’t stop. Whatever your passion is- DO. NOT. STOP.

Odds are that if you stop, you’ll stop right before you break through and make it.

Keep going. I’ll see you all on the other side of the finish line.

Trying my Hardest

I just really, really love photography.

When I signed up for my photography class in high school, I had no idea that I would fall so in love with it. If you asked 15 year old me what I would be doing as a career someday, the word “photographer” would have never escaped my lips. My passion for this craft has become so deep, I sometimes feel ill.

Sometimes there’s this crushing weight on my chest when I can’t seem to get it right, when I can’t edit something just the right way, when I have no idea how to translate something from my mind to the lens. Sometimes when I see people who are younger than me producing work that is mind-blowing and creative and filled with wonderful technique I just want to curl into a ball. It gets painful at times because the thought of quitting never crosses my mind. I know how I have to keep going, and sometimes that’s scary.

I can’t focus on things. When people are talking, my mind wanders. I think of props, places, people, costumes, compositions, series… Instead of paying attention in classes, I make lists. When I’m not thinking about anything in particular, my mind wanders and somehow ends up on photography. When I’m on the computer I have my wordpress, my fb page, lomography, flickr, and tumblr open. I’m always looking for inspiration, trying to find out new things I could try. Tutorials and experiments are a few of my favorite things.

Sometimes I sit back and think, “I’m doing a good job.” and other times I say to myself, “You’re terrible. This is no good.” When I see something someone did and I don’t know how they did it, I try and try and don’t stop until I know how they did it. I want to be good fantastic. I know I could be.

It’s hard to have this sort of passion and no one to share it with. I wish I had close friends who were fanatics like me, someone who I could bounce off ideas with and talk the lingo and figure out new things together. Because, sometimes, I don’t think the people around me get it. They just look at my pictures and say, “Wow, this is really great!” They don’t see the hard work, the sweat, the hours of photoshop. They don’t see the layers, the developing, the anticipation of waiting for prints. They don’t know. And I want someone who does. I want someone who will kick me when I’m comparing myself to others and remind me I don’t have time to waste.

I’m not going to stop trying. I’m young and ambitious and I dream big. I may not have the resources that fantastic photographers my age have, but I have a lot of heart. Sometimes people say that’s not enough- but they haven’t met me yet. I’m going to get it right. I’m going to pick myself up off the floor when I can’t fathom how people can be so talented. I’m going to keep trying and trying until I can get the lighting just right, until I can make that surreal image look crazy enough. I’ll keep learning about photography and all the things it has to offer. I’m going to be one of those names that photographers bring up in conversation.

I’ve been trying so hard, and not for naught. This past year alone I have improved at an incredible rate. I might not be where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. I started this blog, I update my facebook page weekly, and I just started using my flickr more regularly. I’m getting my stuff out there- I mean, here you are, someone I don’t know, and you’re reading my blurbs and looking any my work. That makes me ecstatic.

So, when I’m out there trying my hardest and getting discouraged and getting inspired and not quite making it but almost making it, I will remember why I love this craft so much. I love it because I can’t stop.