The cliche holds true about trying new things — there’s no better time than the present. I’m now at least up and running with social media having taken my head out of the sand; BLOG, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m still learning the ways of their worlds. As I’ve been focused on Instagram, I’ve been playing creatively in new and challenging ways. Looking and seeing the world around me with fresh eyes has always been part of my personal and professional mission. Creativity demands that I let go of expectations about where the mystery of my muse may lead, and what images might result. The shots may suck … or they could be awesome. Shoot, shoot, and keep shooting! It’s the act of flexing the creative muscle that’s key. Today’s post is about seeing with fresh eyes from the “stretch the parenthesis of my life” thread.
For years I’d been counseled and cajoled by workshop presenters, creative consultants and colleagues to always carry a camera. “Just shoot! Experiment! Play!” I shoot a ton while on assignment, although wasn’t shooting enough personal work. It took a longgggggg time for me to value the notion of “trust the process with no attachment.” The real shift happened after years of withdrawing from creative exercise. I’d gotten married, moved from New York to Connecticut, started a family… sound familiar?… I settled down.
To re-connect, I joined another one of Ian Summers’ Heartstorming circles. He believes in “heart” storming over “brain” storming when it comes to pursuing what you love. He gathered photographers from near and far and we met up on a teleconference every two weeks. One time, he rallied a photowalk meetup at the Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan. I naively felt photowalks were kinda stupid. A bunch of amateur folks all crowding around pointing cameras at the same subject. Pros don’t do that, right? It’s like a gaggle of tourists following the group leader’s little flag.
Ian insists creativity is all about “stretching.” I often resisted. There were all-star photographers in the group. I must say I was both intimidated and exhilarated to walk and shoot among them. I hadn’t gone to art school, so this was kind of novel for me. I’m typically the only photographer on any commercial project, so I don’t feel the “in your face” competitive energy when surrounded by lots of other shooters. I just hold myself accountable to always do my best.
When I truly immerse myself, I feel most alive, in flow, and in the zone. It’s my time to put myself out there and hopefully shine. So, when in the presence of my esteemed colleagues, shooting the same subject together was a cool, friendly and heightened challenge. There was identical light, a single location and the same weather conditions. OK, insecurity alert!!! I thought to myself, are they going to be better shooters, more creative, and on and on.
Candidly, did any of that truly matter? Interpreting the same subject in my own visual voice is my opportunity to distinguish myself. The lesson learned yet again is to do my best and then stretch even more by experimenting and not settling. It’s not about them, it’s about fulfilling my own potential. In a career that does get isolating, witnessing other creators in action — not on the internet, or in a video, but face to face, in the moment — is three dimensional learning. It’s not just thinking. It’s feeling, tangible AND invaluable. Flexing the creative muscle was stimulating. I was feeling and seeing with fresh eyes. They were not my competition, they were my peer group, and as we engaged in the process, they became my trusted collaborators.
So, our motley crew of Ian disciples meandered and explored only to return and circle around the Grand Poobah to photograph him and his ever distinctive Yellow Glasses. Surrounding him like the stereotypical amateur I had snickered at, I felt silly and awkward, but who cared? We were having FUN. I was making a creative stretch, and not thinking about it, I was doing it. I was a late bloomer in “trusting the process and letting go of the attachment to outcome.” I’ve been blossoming and the better for it ever since.
Now, any walk is a photowalk. I carry my phone so I’m always armed with a camera. I breathe, I clear my head and become more present. My destination-oriented walks become more of a journey. These days … coming … going … or mostly anywhere … I’m actively seeing and shooting differently. Where an image lands doesn’t matter.
Some new Instagram posts happen during assignments. Others are shots from days past that I’ve never shared. More and more, I’m posting images captured on my phone in a spontaneous moment. I’ll keep playing, exploring and posting on social media and elsewhere. It’s my photo scratchpad. Still curated as not to overwhelm. It’s my visual journal of life as I experience it.
One of the truly coolest things about my instagram feed is that my daughters “get” my vision. At 8 and 11, they’ve already begun to see the world a little less literally, a lot more conceptually. They understand, with fresh eyes, beauty may be found most everywhere. If that becomes my legacy with them, I’m a Proud Pop, indeed!!