During one of the latest photoshoots conversations went in the direction of self-image as an artist. My friend Kayla told me that she always hesitates to speak seriously about her work even though we all saw how incredibly talented she is. She is a hairstylist on this team:
I had a very hard time with self-confidence too, sometimes it seemed as if I have two modes, in one I think I am amazing, and in the other that I am a total loser. We talked about this one day with a client with whom we became fast friends. He proposed a model where there are 2 scales of evaluation for your achievement. First — the art scale — is between where you started and where you dream to be. You may never end up being the next Helmut Newton or Annie Leibovitz, but that’s your aspiration, your north star. Second — business scale — is all about where you are in your current location and niche. If you are talented and professional, at least on the level with other creatives in your surrounding you don’t have to apologize for not being Helmut Newton, you don’t need to feel bad — you are a rightful member of your community and you better own it. You will always hear the voice of this fragile, critical artist full of self-doubt, this voice will always make you question things and make you grow, but not many other people deserve to hear that voice.
Now to self-promotion. Kayla’s told me how other people make such a big deal of themselves with no humility at all. I think here we should differentiate between making a big deal of yourself as opposed to your craft. Me, I am a funny little person who is extremely introverted, but learned to fake extraversion quite well, who is quite anxious, can’t walk by a dog and not greet it, and loves chocolate (and could shave off a couple of extra pounds because of that). But I as a photographer am something else. It’s 11 years of experience, publications, exhibitions, self-discipline, and strive for perfection. I worship my craft and perfect my performance, so even if what I am is not very serious, what I do is serious for me. It’s a big deal and I will treat it accordingly.
As for self-centeredness, there is a difference between being narcissistic and being focused. I have no time to respond to strangers saying “hi” on my messenger, to win arguments online, or to respond to every cold email from retouchers. Not because I find other people not interesting, but because if I do everything people ask of me I won’t have time to plan, shoot and retouch. If I will talk at length with every viewer who writes to me, soon the flow of images will stop, I will be spending time explaining my work, thanking people for their attention, and writing “I retouch my own work” over and over again. At the same time, photography is always about something or someone outside of you. Even if you try to express your own emotions, the model’s personality will be your prism, and if you shoot a portrait you dissolve your own ego completely. So self-centered photographer is a bit of an oxymoron:)
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