“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado
I love this quote. It makes me feel utterly comfortable with something that has long been uncomfortable – the ability to push ahead into the unknown without validation because you BELIEVE in something strongly enough.
I have historically always needed validation – from my family, my friends, my clients (oh god – ESPECIALLY my clients) – to feel good about my direction, my art, my work, my life, who I am as a person.
Over the past week and a half, however, I’ve discovered a much deeper sense of WHY I do what I do, and where I fit in the crowded world of professional photographers. This insight has given me new appreciation for my direction in so many other areas of my life too… but for today I’ll just share the bit about photography. You’ll be able to draw the parallels for yourself.
The past week and a half has seen me work on images for the Australian Professional Photography Awards. This year, as with the last time I entered two years ago, I am submitting images that I whole-heartedly believe in, love, and am extremely proud of.
It was a difficult process, however, because it called into question many of my beliefs about my work. It made me wonder what I’m good at, if anything. It made me really deeply think about what work I want to do, and what work I love to do – as opposed to simply what sells, or what will get awards.
Belinda and I had a great 40-something minute “discussion” late one night about the awards entries. I moaned and wailed about how hard the awards process was, how I “wasn’t arty enough” or “wasn’t good enough” to produce entries for it. How I didn’t shoot “award-winning” image in my day to day work. It was all fear talking, really. I even knew that, during the conversation! But I was still hanging on to my self doubt and my fear of and need for validation.
As part of this process, I resolved something deeply in my heart that we’d simply talked about a few weeks earlier:
I work with energetic, connected, loving families – who realise life is busy and time just disappears, and who want to press pause, and hang on to their moments that matter.
It’s a positioning statement for what I do as a portrait photographer. I love everything about families – WHEN they show me their connection and their energy, and they value the important stuff of love and connection.
That’s what I’m good at. Capturing the chaos, the madness, the fun, the love, the connection.
I don’t do cuddly babies with their arms folded under their chin while they sleep. I’m hopeless at that stuff.
I don’t do formal, studio-lit portraits, with technical perfection and exquisite lighting. I find that stuff boring.
I do crazy, slightly-blurry-sometimes, fun, running-around, relaxed, natural, exciting portraits of families in outdoor locations. I do fresh air and sunshine, and imperfect lighting ratios. I do emotional precision, rather than technical precision.
I can spot a fake smile a mile off, and I will do ANYTHING to get REAL emotion out of my subjects. This has included, but is not limited to, acting like a gorilla, falling over repeatedly, jumping around, pulling faces, blowing raspberries, pretending to fart, picking my nose, singing badly at the top of my voice… you get the idea. And I get the shot. Which is the point.
In this new world I’m creating for myself, I’m being the conductor and leading my destiny as a brilliant photographer of energetic, connected, loving families. I’m turning my back on the crowd of what everyone else does.
I’m happy with that. Actually, I’m ecstatic with that. And I’m proud to own it.
What are you willing to OWN in your life? What is the crowd doing, saying, feeling, that is stopping you from taking the lead on something important to you?
Time to turn around and lead the orchestra of your time, your days, and your life. Wouldn’t you agree?