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Thursday, February 4, 2010

I am Anchor

(via Jack Hollingsworth)

I think one of the hardest things you'll find throughout your photographic career is uncovering your photographic ego. Then using that ego to anchor you through the tough times. You'll do yourself a great disservice if your photographic ego is easily influenced and altered by the comments of critics, agents, reps, curators, publishers, colleagues, friends and even family members.

I'm not at all suggesting that you don't humbly listen to and accept constructive criticism. That is good. You should do this. It's part of your photographic learning. Especially when you're starting out. But there comes a time in your career when you have to draw a line in the sand. And proudly claim your side. It's a prerequisite for survival. You need to find your photographic ego. And let that ego anchor you. You need to know who you are, photographically speaking, and stick to it. Be comfortable and confident about how you see, what you see and why you see.

If you're easily influenced by the winds of arbitrary commenting, you'll find your style changing repeatedly. Until it's a muddled mixture of so many styles that you forget who you are photographically. No ego. No anchor. No uniqueness. No real center. No direction. People will always have an opinion about your vision. Sometimes that opinion will be strong and critical. Other times, it will be soft and subtle. People will always have an idea about where they think you should go. And where you should take your photography. But listen to yourself. Your own voice should be the strongest and loudest voice in your head. You know what you're good at. You know what you like. You know what generates responses. Stand up. Stand out. Let your photographic ego anchor you. Keep you steady. Keep you from drifting.

A key that I've found, over the years, to cultivating my own photographic ego is to be able to publicly defend it. Can you defend what you shoot? How you shoot? Why you shoot? If you can't, go back to the drawing board. If you can, you're on your way to anchoring. You need to have an unyielding, unwavering, soulful, from-the-gut belief that your photographic ego is strong, identifiable, unique, brandable. Regardless of what your critics might suggest.

You have to listen to that still, small voice within that guides you. That voice may sometimes be faint, faded, feeble. And other times, strong and boisterous. But know that it is always right there. Listen to it. Learn from it. Make that voice a part of your photographic education. Respond to its prompts. The positive voices that surround us are easy to listen to. We embrace these. They affirm us. They make us feel good. But they're not always what we need to hear. A diet of too much positivism is usually unbalanced. And generally untrue.

Sometimes it's the negative voices, inside and out, that will do us the most good. Don't be afraid of them. Balance the criticism with your own intuition. And that still, small voice within. Find your anchor. Your photographic ego will guide you through many hours of darkness. It will be a friend. A signpost. A foundation to all you do and see. Above all, it will be an anchor in turbulent waters. Find it. Embrace it.
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