Saturday, January 23, 2010

being too content with your work is like eating too much food

I read this about a month (or two) ago: according to an interview I read between fashion photographers David Anthony and Melissa Rodwell, I got one message that stopped me in my tracks and has since then been engraved into my soul whenever I take a look at my work and progress in terms of photography, and everything else in life that involves work and effort. And learning.

This message was that you stop growing once you are satisfied and content with your work (creation-wise, I feel like this applies more to artists, but I think it could apply to everyone else). What do I mean by that?

Let's speak from my perspective and situation.

I'm an aspiring fashion photographer. An aspiring photographer in general that's enthused by fashion. I say 'aspiring' because I can't consider myself the 'real' deal yet. I don't know when I can. Because you know what? How do you know that your work is 'good'? I am sure this is a question that all creatives (people like me who aspire in the field of art, which is measured and ruled by CREATIVITY--which is essentially ALIVE) ask themselves. For me, as much as a big ego I have, I also naturally have extreme paranoia. While at some point I may be pleased with a photograph I shoot, I usually have qualms about it afterward, especially after looking at it too many times. While I would love to toot my horn, I can never be too sure that I can do that, given that I inevitably have so much more to learn and accomplish before I could ever consider myself a real photographer. I don't freaking know much about the history of fashion photography (yet), and I hardly know the intricacies of lighting and shooting with film! Those are very important principles that I have yet to understand. I was reminded about those disadvantages of mine when I read the interview, so since then, I've taken myself out to the library and checked out whatever (fashion) photography books I could possibly find. Can you believe that they have Annie Leibovitz's books but NOTHING of Irving Penn's (or Richard Avedon)?! But anyway, I checked out Annie Leibovitz At Work by Leibovitz herself and I am still in the process of dissecting, analyzing, and reading her work (it's a photography book plus it includes
commentaire) and I find myself absolutely inadequate but inspired nonetheless.

Back to the main point: I just wanted to make this analogy...

Being too content with your work is like eating too much food. Good food, if I may add. How did I come up with this specific analogy? Well, let's see...

Today, aside from watching Ip Man (to which I bawled my eyes out, being so moved), I ate THE bowl of heavenly noodles. It's the unofficial name I've given to one of my aunt's greatest cooking recipes, and you HAVE to meet her and eat her food if given the chance. I am convinced she could pwn any Iron Chef cook or whatev other cook out there with this recipe (that is how amazing it is in my opinion) if they tried making it. But anyway, I naturally stuffed myself with a second bowl after downing the first (delightfully). Not a morsel was spared. After finishing the second bowl (as well as the Ip Man movie), I felt sick of it. Too much. Eugh. It's like, haven't you loved a dish and loved it so much that you binged/indulged too much on it and felt disgusted afterward? Yes, that's the feeling I get when it comes down to myself and work--photography, schoolwork, etcetera. But especially with photography since I'm convinced it's the path meant for me, til the day I die (and beyond, if there is an afterlife of sorts).

[TANGENT ALERT: even if photography will not become my ultimate career (THAT is truly scandalous), I know I would still have a camera with me wherever I went as I do now, since it's something I just really, really, truly love, and that I would still take photographs.]

Going back to heavenly noodles and photography...
So that's the feeling I get when I look at my photographs. And I wonder...

How will I become a "real" photographer?

How can I grow?

Is there ever a time when I can be allowed to gloat, to be content without reserves with my own work?

And paranoia kicks in, shoves big ego out of the way. No, Miranda. If you get complacent, you'll fall, like what you're doing in school right now. But is that what I'm doing--getting complacent? Am I? I don't know. I sometimes think 'yes,' and I sometimes think 'no.'

When I think about it, a true artist should not/cannot be ultimately pleased with their own work unless it has actually been praised by an audience, and even then, you cannot be completely reassured. You will only know that you're good if someone tells you that you are. That's what I often believe.

So can you trust your audience? Do they know what you're talking about? Do they really know what art is? That's what I ask.

But then I stop.

An audience. They don't have to know what art is to have the ability to like or dislike it. That's the whole damned reason there are people who are photographers (or aspiring to be) and people who aren't, or people who are artists and people who aren't.

Your take on this? Opinions? Answers to all the questions I've asked in this post?

Food for thought?

But in the end, there are going to be people who will dislike your art no matter what other people say of it. And there are going to be people who like your art even if other people don't see why.