My Authenticity

I learned an important lesson this week, being authentic means feeling good about what you like instead of trying to fit in with what everyone else likes.  As I have grown as a photographer I have looked for validation of my progress from various photographic authorities in the Portland area.  Mainly this involved submitting images into various reviews and competitions hosted by establishments I respect and look up to.  Without fail, I got rejected by each one and what made it more painful was the fact that didn’t appreciate the work that was selected.

Through this process I started to realize that I needed to develop my understanding of photography, also known as start to appreciate work that I hadn’t previously liked.  Because the experts said these pictures were exceptional I better figure how to like them too.  I do believe I have expanded my appreciation of photography but I still felt like an outsider who was waiting for the epiphany to happen; one day I would wake up, it would all be clear, and I would know this is what I have been missing!

Well, with some help from my friends and one in particular, Laura Valenti Jelen, I did wake up one day and figure it out but not as I expected.  I was taking a fabulous class on creativity led by Laura and one of the other students told me photography is like listening to music.  Are there types of music I like and dislike?  Absolutely, lots of them in each category and just because I didn’t like it didn’t mean it was bad, it just wasn’t to my taste but it was to others.  With that, I had figured out it is OK to like some styles of photography and not others.  Going back to my point above about submitting work for validation and being rejected, I figured I was submitting Heavy Metal to a Classical competition – no wonder it got turned down!

So, where does this leave me now.  Laura asked me a great question on Friday, what is my style of photography?  After some fumbling around, I’m pretty clear I love to photograph people and if I get tell their story then I’m really satisfied, especially if that story needs telling!  This also doesn’t mean I’m only going to take pictures of people, I have a few other styles I enjoy such as aspects of landscapes (coasts and mountains) and some sports.  Just like music, I enjoy a number of different styles.

Now I know where I am heading, it’s time to work with others in this field, to expand my work and get some relevant feedback so I can continue to improve.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures and there is a story behind each one, perhaps those are some stories I need to tell in upcoming posts.  🙂

Contrasts-56-5 Contrasts-30-1 Sage Beauty Hamer Children An Omo Child! My friend Zino Damo. Motherhood comes early Painting UpKiwanda-358


4 thoughts

  1. Hi Andy, I can certainly relate to your experience, especially as it concerns the rejection mill. When I was writing poetry the wall was papered with the R word. Even with Radiance, agents and publishers had no time for me. Just as well I figure. Now I tend to avoid classes and workshops and prefer to cultivate my own style/voice. I find most poetry annoying and a great deal of what passes as good writing as well. There are a few writers I feel aligned with and for me they are
    gold. You are learning so much good stuff, Andy, and I am so happy to learn about those developments.

  2. 🙂

    You know, I get rejected from competitions/exhibitions, too. All photographers do – it’s just a part of the process. I think the key is resilience. It’s about loving what you do and continuing to do it, despite perceived failure. Also, we can’t allow external jurors to change the way we approach our work (i.e. making work because we think jurors will like it). That’s a trap that leads to unfulfilling, unremarkable image-making. At the end of the day, I think it has to be about creating work we’re happy with – creating work that gives our lives more meaning. If we do this, we can have a wonderfully successful artistic life 🙂

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