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Who are you trying to please?


It happens sometimes that someone does not like my work. I have absolutely no problem with that….but sometimes the comment is more than just a comment, it’s more of a seed planted in your mind that starts nagging you. When that happens I always find it useful to do a little mental check….here it is….

Who are you trying to please?

When I was a teen, I did all sorts of bad stuff. Drank. Smoked. Played. Lied. You know the worst part of it was? Deep inside I did NOT want to do any of those things. I drank because my friends drank. I smoked because my friends smoked. You get the picture. Those things never interested me yet I did them. This trend of course continued in my photography until I broke free from it. The question was, who was I trying to please? Not myself because I didn’t like none of those stuff, so it was others. I had to choose who I was going to please because I couldn’t please everyone.

You can’t please everyone
I broke free from my people pleasing because I realized that I could not please everyone. I knew that at the knowledge level but not at the understanding level. I understood that I could either be happy being myself or miserable putting a mask on to please everybody. That of course poured into my photography, and I could finally express myself, not what everyone expected of me. I could either shoot the way I wanted it, to way that resonated with my heart, or shoot for the approval of others.

The approval of others is a good thing, but it became a bad thing because I made it the purpose of my photography. I basically photographed for others, they approval, their likes, their comments. Of course I could not take any negative comment because I was not anchored in myself, but in others.

Being anchored in the self
Humans by nature seek approval, and peer pressure is a very interesting phenomenon that can sway people in directions that they wouldn’t take. In short people make you do things! The protection against that is to simply be anchored in yourself. What I mean by this is that if you are not the one giving meaning and value to your own work, others will do it for you….but then you are not being yourself, right? I work to my own satisfaction, what I mean is that if no one ever saw my photographs, I would be happy. I would be happier if people relate to my work and love it, but if they don’t it’s ok. A few years ago this would not sit well at all with me and I would be troubled, my security, my photographic being was in others!

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Self satisfaction & The photographer’s heart
I think that in order to truly be free creatively, one should seek to be free of the influence of others. I don’t mean not to be inspired, but not going in a path that doesn’t resonate with you heart. I think others influence us by their approval, it might be something good in real life (like “Don’t be a jerk or we will turn our back to you”), but I think it’s very detrimental when it comes to photographic Vision. I’m not saying not to listen to advice or learn anything, but be careful to make the difference between advice meant to help and advice mean to assimilate…some advice will actually help you focus on your Vision better. The approval of others can sway the heart into directions it never intended to go to.

The litmus test
I assume you know about Vivian Maiers, she’s my litmus test for satisfaction. Here’s a question that determines where your satisfaction lies (I ask myself that everyday to make sure of where I stand): If you were to go to the other side and nobody ever saw your work, would you be fine with it or not? If the answer is yes, than your photographic satisfaction is grounded in yourself, if not it’s in others.  I resonate deeply with Vivian because she shot for nobody else’s eyes but her own…..I am personally fine if nobody ever saw anything I did……..It’s the way I stay true to myself….Some photographers you can point where the fame bug hit them, but I challenge anyone to show me that bug in Vivian Maier’s work.

Being yourself is crucial to photography, you and I share the same world, the same cameras, the same programs, the difference is me and you, how differently we see. My photography is my unique spin on the world…..I work to my own satisfaction because I want to preserve that……Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

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