This morning I had a big gut-check moment as I drove my daughter to school. She sat beside me flipping through one of her many art books. She opened to a page and turned it toward me, showing me a drawing while explaining the intricacies of it.
The sketch was a bit odd and surrealistic. Quite well done. Arresting to look at. I wondered to myself where a 10-yr-old would come up with that idea.
Me: That's interesting.
Bekah (with an eye roll): Of course it's interesting. I'm interesting.
It was one of those statements that when I heard it, it hit me like a chest punch.
Her work is interesting because she’s interesting.
I spent the entire drive home dissecting that statement. Do I find myself interesting? Honestly? Yes, I do.
Then what keeps me from living it like I mean it?
I attended the WPPI conference last month with photographers from all over the world. I really love that conference, and highly recommend it if you’re at all interested in photography. It’s very inspiring.
There’s always the inevitable shmoozy moment where someone asks about your business. I don’t have a business, nor do I care to ever have a photography business. I’m in it for the art. I love taking pictures.
The dismissive reaction when I said as much (really, the succinct version: I don’t have a business) was heartbreaking. In some cases the photographer would literally turn their back on me and move on to someone who was “serious” about their craft. It didn’t matter that I’m as good a photographer as anyone else. That I’ve worked HARD to learn my craft.
I’d thought I hadn’t let it get to me, but obviously it did. Because I haven’t picked up my camera since that weekend.
And then there’s writing.
When did it become necessary to have a major publishing deal to be serious about writing? To know your craft? To invest your soul? To be taken seriously?
I know I’m projecting. That it’s probably all in my head that I feel treated this way.
But I can't count the number of times someone has given me that pitying look after they realize I’m still trying to get published. Then they suggest, “You should put your book on Amazon.”
As if that would make me legitimate.
I don’t have anything against self-publishing. I just don’t want to do it. Much like I have nothing against owning a photography business, it’s just not for me.
When did these things become the yardstick by which we measure success?
You know what? My work is interesting because I’m interesting.
Of course the flip side of that is that I have to BE INTERESTING. I have to make art (photography, writing, drawing, painting…) every day. I have to live life and enjoy it. Seek out what only I can see and interpret.
And stop letting other people decide for me what success is or isn’t.