We didn’t do a ton this past week between homeschooling and my working on the novel and stock images, but last weekend we spent some time with my parents who celebrated 56 years of marriage, visited a re-enactment type event near us, and attended a family reunion. Here are some photos from some of those events at the rest of the week.
About a year ago, I started to give up on photography as a full-time business. This may sound like a sad thing but sometimes it’s better to not transform something you love into something you make money from.
When I stopped caring if I got clients, I stopped trying to change my photography, and myself, to get business. Because I changed my mindset, my photography went back to capturing moments that made me happy and not capturing moments that other people considered “frame worthy.”
In the last year, I have started focusing only on moments in my photography that bring me joy, and much less on the scenes others might call “pretty.”. I prefer capturing visual memories not photos if that makes sense. If my personal photos come out blurry or dark or “imperfect” I don’t care as long as I feel something when I look at the photo. What some see as imperfections in a photo are what I see as perfections because the moment was what I was after when I clicked the shutter – not the perfection.
Like anyone, I’m more inclined to feel strong emotions about a photo if the subjects are one of my children or a family member but I can also look at a photo taken by a stranger, featuring their family members, and still feel happiness, or sadness, or nostalgia because of how the moment was captured. Many photos trigger an emotion in me because it reminds me of something or someone in my own life. The image being technically perfect is irrelevant to me if it creates a strong emotion for me.
With personal photos, there is always going to be a memory attached to the photograph but as important as the memory is the feeling the image invokes in the viewer. Personally, I can look at a technically beautiful shot of a high school senior and say “oh, that’s nice,” especially if I know the high school senior, but those photographs, no matter how well lit or sharp or colorful, rarely sparks any kind of passion or emotion within me. It doesn’t inspire me to live a happy life or enjoy the little moments or dance in the rain – it just inspires me to say “oh, isn’t she pretty?” or “isn’t he handsome?” or even “lovely lighting.” But I can walk away from that photo and not feel much of anything inside. I can scroll past it pretty quick.
If I see a photo that invokes emotion or offers something different visually, though, it will stop me in my tracks, hold my attention and make me want to photograph something similar or write something about how the moment captured made me think about similar moments in my own life, moments tucked back in the corner of my memories.
Zalmy Berkowitz recently said on a podcast on Outerfocus that the photography industry, especially the wedding industry, sells on the idea of “pretty”, that everything has to be “pretty”. His photography, to me, is beautiful but it is beautiful because it captures moments and feelings over the idea of magazine perfection. And he’s right – the photography industry, especially in the area I live in, is focused on poses and smiles and heads tipped just right. It’s not a bad thing – it just is.
Clients in my area truly don’t want documentary photography. They don’t want to pay a photographer to capture moments for them because they have a cellphone and they figure a snapshot of their kid on a swing is all they need and that’s fine, that’s good, if it works for them, then I’m happy.
As late as last year it irritated me that people, where I live, don’t enjoy the type of photography I produce. I used to be depressed I couldn’t get hired for the photography work I wanted to produce but lately, I’ve realized I don’t want to try to sell someone on something they don’t like so I am content in taking photos for myself. It may mean our budget is tighter, family trips are almost non-existent and my children don’t wear fancy clothes but in the long run none of that matters as much as feeling like I’m creating the art I want to create.
Photography has never been “just a job” for me. Yes, I need money to help support my family but photography started to become something I hated instead of what it used to be for me, which was a way to document my family’s life, but also a type of therapy to calm and focus my racing thoughts. How can I calm my racing thoughts if every morning I wake up and try to think of a new way to make clients who have no interest in my work suddenly love it and want to hire me?
So I stopped trying.
And it’s been the best thing I could have ever done for my art and for me.
We haven’t done anything very exciting so far this summer, other than my husband starting a new job and our family looking at houses in the area where he’s now working. We have had some nice family time with my parents, especially on the Fourth of July, and my son helped my dad install a pool at his house and start construction on a new shed.
I thought I’d share a collection of photos from our summer so far since I haven’t shared a photo post in a bit.
What are all of you up to this summer so far? Or winter, if you are “down under”? Let me know in the comments!
My kid flops on the couch on his stomach, face smashed into the cushions and lets out an exasperated sigh.
He turns his face toward me, eyelids heavy and his words are full of whine:
“I’m sooooooo booooooored.”
While I once thought filling my children’s days with various activities was the key to keeping them out of trouble, and their mind engaged, I’ve started to embrace what I’ve heard others talk about – the importance of allowing ourselves to be bored, especially if we are a creative person.
That’s right – actually having nothing to do can be a blessing to us, not a curse.
When we are bored we stop, look around us, and find inspiration. When we are bored our brains wander and when our brains wander, they often stumble on creative, interesting ideas.
It’s no surprise that some of the greatest innovations of our time came during a time in life when things moved slower and there were fewer distractions from technology.
Technology is a double-edged sword for creativity. It benefits us by connecting us to so many, getting our creations seen by others, and by adding a different dynamic to how we create. But technology also hampers us by filling our brains with so much information and distraction that we rarely slow down to simply listen to our own hearts and visions. And if we are too wrapped up in technology it will actually completely suffocate our creative voice.
Many of us are guilty of being addicted to social media. As easily as we can find ourselves trapped in a Youtube spiral (where we jump from video to video until we are bleary-eyed) we can find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole of comparison when we follow several artists in our particular medium. Even if we are not comparing when we are on social media, we are easily distracted on sites like Facebook and Instagram, so much so that we may find ourselves wasting most of our day on our phone or sitting at our computer and that is time we could have been using to create and truly experience life.
I recently downloaded a book into my Kindle by Manoush Zomorodi, a journalist who found herself face-to-face with boredom in 2007 when her first child was born and never wanted to sleep. The iPhone had just started to become popular (can you believe it’s only been about 10 or 11 years since the iPhone/smartphone started taking over our world?!) and she found herself walking several miles a day to help the baby sleep. As she walked her mind wandered and she began to dream of what she would do when she could sleep and work again. She came up with ideas of how she could work at home while also being a mother and all went well until she started using the smartphone everyone else was using; to help make her life and work easier.
She found that every “down moment” she had was filled with wasting time on the phone and that left little time for imagining or thinking about new ideas. So when it came time to create for the podcast she had conceived while at home with her baby, her brain was empty. She realized that one reason she didn’t have any more new ideas was that she was never bored. She never gave her brain any time to rest.
After talking to neuroscientists about what happens when we are bored, she learned it is during those down times that our brains create new neural connections. When our brains are quiet they look back at our lives, create a personal narrative, and make plans for our future and for future projects, she was told.
The problem is that many of us never give ourselves time to be quiet and let our brain decompress, Zomorodi points out. We keep our brains busy constantly. We don’t simply watch a television show anymore. We watch a show while doing reports on our computer or listening to a podcast and scrolling through Facebook. Not only is this detrimental to us from a mental standpoint, but it’s also detrimental to us physically, for a variety of reasons, which Zomorodi details in her book and in her TED Talk.
When it comes to creativity we need those moments of boredom even more. We need periods of boredom to think, to imagine and to hear our inner, creative voice.
Many of us, myself included, equate boredom to laziness. This could not be further from the truth, as Zomorodi learned and many researchers are learning. And beyond what “experts” are learning, you can learn it yourself.
You’re not being lazy when you’re contemplating, working out creative ideas or thinking about what you hope for your future.
You’re letting your brain have the space it needs to open doors to creativity.
To hear more about Zomorodi’s findings, you can see her TED talk below or find her book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.”
So many people want to be a photographer but are stuck on the idea the photo has to be technically perfect. They want their child to sit just right or the light to hit just so or the moment to be simply perfect and if they can’t do that then forget it – the photo isn’t taken.
Maybe because I like to photograph moments more than poses, and had to focus on them when I worked for newspapers, the lack of perfection in a photo bothers me less than it does some photographers. When I look back at my photos over the years I sometimes mentally scold myself for a technical error, knowing my aperture was set wrong or my ISO could have been raised or lowered, but normally my attention is on the moment captured rather than the technical aspects.
I don’t want to look back at my memories from a special time in my life and pat myself on the back for nailing focus. I want to look back at those photos and remember how I felt, what was happening, who was there. I look at photography in a similar way to art – it’s about how the art makes me feel not how it was made.
A local art teacher recently shared a photo of a painting by a student of his on Facebook. The painting was of a woman singing and I actually scrolled past it but then flung the cursor back up to take a better look at it. As I stared at it for a while I found it left me with a relaxed, easy going feeling, something I needed in the midst of a stressful week. I could hear the smooth jazz music and the velvet tones of the singer’s voice and imagined a cup of hot tea in front of me.
Someone else could have looked at it and said they saw technical errors (I doubt many would have) or that the singer wasn’t as “realistic looking” as some might think it should be, but none of that mattered to me because what was important to me was how the painting made me feel. What if that young painter had given up on her work because she decided, in her own mind, that her work wasn’t good enough? What if she had decided that because something didn’t look technically right, the painting could never touch anyone emotionally? She would have been wrong and if she hadn’t finished the painting she would have robbed me of those few moments of respite I was given that day by looking at the painting.
But because she picked up that paintbrush and painted what she felt, not only what she saw and knew, a soul, my soul was touched.
So pick up that camera.
Pick up that paintbrush.
Pick up that pen.
Put those fingers on the keyboard.
Just paint the painting, take the photos, write the words, create what you feel in your heart, not only what you know in your head.
You may not touch millions or thousands or hundreds or even fifty people but if you even touch one – isn’t that worth it?
For more inspiration to get out and create already check out YouTube entrepreneur and photographer Peter McKinnon talking about the power of an idea.