Autodidactic Ambitions, photography, Thoughts On...

Growing as an Artist Through Doubts and Triumphs

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I have been up to my neck in photo editing the past several weeks. In fact, it seems like all my free time (aka, time when Raven is sleeping) has been spent either working on photos or reading (or blogging, obviously) in order to calm my mind from all the working on photos.

Stepping out and announcing to the world, “Hey! I’m a photographer!” is a funny thing–in fact, it feels awkward, like I’m wearing shoes that I haven’t grown into yet or like I’m getting ready for my school picture to get taken, thinking I look all cute, and there’s a blotch of concealer on my chin that hasn’t been rubbed in all the way. In other words, you basically feel like a phony at first, and like everyone is judging you all the time (at least that’s how I felt about it, and still do, sometimes). You see people who have been doing this for years and think you’ll never even get close to where they are, but then you look at your own past work and realize that you have improved, and are still improving every single week.

But it’s an imperfect process. It’s not like you suddenly wake up after a year of calling yourself a photographer and think, “Wow, I’m fantastic! I would feel comfortable taking photos for the Royal Family itself!” It’s more like, “Wow! I really think this represents my best work!,” closely followed by, “But why can’t I get it to look like it does in my HEAD?!” (or worse, “Why can’t I get it to look like the way SHE does it?”)

Growing as an artist is a journey through self-consciousness. At the beginning, there’s the thrill of learning a new skill and growing in the craft, which all but overshadows most feelings of inadequacy due to the sheer excitement of finding something you could be really passionate about. But then, as the foundation is laid and the study of the masters is your next step forward, your eye–developed now to become much more critical–sees where you’re weak and others strong, notices the bad choices or lack of good choices that you made while behind the lens, and starts to realize all that you do not know. This is the most dangerous stage of growth, I think, and as I’m still in the throes of it, I can’t definitively say how long it will last.

What I do know is this—this stage, where you’re definitely no beginner but definitely no master—is the most dangerous of all. On the other side, I sense that a burgeoning sense of confidence in your own abilities, acceptance of your own personal style, and surety at new shoots (because you’ve “done this all before”) will eventually come. But now–when you simultaneously see flaws and growth, when you want to both delete every photo you’ve ever taken while at the same time asking your significant other/mom/best friend to “check out this picture I just took”–now is the trial by fire, to see if your dedication and hard work can match your passion and your desire. Now is the time to overcome the external criticism as it comes up (slicing you through twice as deep because it often matches the criticism in your head), to learn to not expect praise or even acknowledgment from clients or other photographers or even your own family and friends, and to press forward, even when growth takes a lot more effort than it did before and your “ideal” style ever illusive.

This is where I’m at right now.

I know I’m worlds better than my first attempts at photography. I know this.

I know I’m worlds away from some of my photography idols. I know this, too.

But I’m pressing on through it all, searching for that shimmering mirage of surety and confidence on the other side.

(All photos in this post taken at a photo shoot I did of my friends’ baby last month.)

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