It’s the New Year, a new decade, and it is a common practice to make New Year’s Resolutions. But failure to keep our resolutions is not an uncommon outcome.
For Photographers, some resolutions might be: “This year I’m really going to take my work to the next level;” “I’m going to get out there and shoot more;” “This is the year I learn Photoshop”; “I’m going to find my style”; “I’m going to take the plunge and get/do (insert name of camera, lens, accessory or workshop here),” and myriad of other “I resolve to” promises that generally evaporate by the end of January. Why? Because that January 1st resolution lacked a true commitment and the continued motivation to turn that dream statement into reality.
For the last few years, I’ve been adding notes to my journal about this failure to keep resolutions among art photographers (including myself), who have resolved to advance their creative work. I’ve learned that resolutions are short-lived and generally superficial. But I’ve also noted that those who decide to make creative, meaningful decisions that will guide their art life write them out in a journal of some type, which is the first act of a new commitment. Read our blog about journaling: HERE.
So, as the curtain falls in 2019 – a remarkable and unprecedented year in so many ways for photography, art, and creative thinking— I decided to share eight creative life commitments I’ve learned from others, my experience and general observation. These are not resolutions; these are simple but powerful creative life adjustments that may help your art photography develop a level of creative significance and personal satisfaction as you begin a new decade, 2020.
1. You can do a lot with just a little
You don’t need to own or collect every camera, lens, or accessory. Be selective and choose those tools that help you create your vision. Remember, Edison was completely deaf in one hear and half deaf in the other, and yet he invented the phonograph. Work with what you have and add tools when they can make a difference in your art.
2. Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition instead of following directions.
Directions from others, particularly critics of your work, can often cool the creative fire burning within you. Good teaching critiques, on the other hand, can be helpful and provide guidance. However, fear not, listen to your gut instinct, and believe in yourself. It is often a far more creative and productive way to go.
3. Stop the Trophy Hunting and Concentrate on Your Gifts.
Any photographer can find a product or service that will create a perfect “trophy” image, be it through glossy software presets or a photo tour to a given destination at the right time of day and year. In the end, you will have an aesthetically pleasing image, just like everyone else’s aesthetically pleasing image—and that’s it. So, stop the trophy hunting, resolve to concentrate on your gifts, and enjoy the rewards of a life lived through creative expression.
4. The most important images that you will create are the ones you can’t see.
In this hypersensitive Instagram era, we tend to stress the superficial, when it’s the substantial, though often hidden (like character) image that is the most important. Rather than reaching for the obvious, train the brain to visualize concepts, ideas, and emotions and a meaningful image will make itself in time.
5. Don’t memorize— internalize
Practice, repetition, and performing a creative evaluation of your work will lead you to internalize concepts, techniques, and outcomes. Rather than consciously thinking of what is in front of your lens and what to do with it, teach your eye and brain, and let your heart scan and feel a scene for potential visual ingredients that you can translate into a vision beyond documentation
6. Tell a Story— and Tell it Well
New stories are always waiting to be told and told in new ways. Pursue, conceive, and create new stories and become a consummate visual storyteller. In the end, you will be rewarding yourself and your audience.
7. Live a Creative Life
Creating art is one of the more satisfying things in life. But the essence of a creative life is not your art photography but how to see, react, and internalize the creative and significant revelations that advance your vision and your ability to visualize.
8. Remember, life is short and precious. Savor every moment as if it is your last.
Life is bigger than any New Years’ Resolution. Each time I capture a new image, I am reminded of Dr. Seuss’s sage observation, “Sometimes you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Allow yourself to be humble, and your creative life will grow.
Happy New Year!
Bob and Bree