Friday, February 26, 2010

Good Enough?

As spring approaches, it seems like possibilities are aprouting in front of me. It's unexpected, it's exciting, and it's hard to grasp. I started really learning photography when I was about eight years old. My father had a darkroom for his own photography, and he took me into it and taught me how to develop black-and-white negatives and then make prints. You never forget the sharp, intriguing smell of Dektol. But for most of my young life I pursued drawing instead. I was good enough at it to win a bunch of significant awards and a scholarship, but when I looked at illustrators I admired I knew, realistically, that I could never be at that level. I also pursued music very seriously when I was younger, spending years writing and recording original music. But again, when I looked the the musicians I admired, I knew that I would never be at their level. In both drawing and music I had enough talent to impress people, but not nearly enough to make a career of it. Many years of passionate dedication to drawing and to music did not lead to any open doors or opportunities. I was good, but not good enough. In the early 2000's I rediscovered photography. In 2004 I joined a tiny little upstart photography website called Flickr -- back then it was a very small community and it was possible to know who everybody on the site was. Sharing photos online was the spark that made me turn serious. Over the next six years I worked at photography and worked to find my place in the field. Eventually I found that I was most interested in commercial and editorial fashion photography, and also worked to develop my own quirky style of art photography -- a style I've recently started calling "neoantiquarian." For the last few years I've been working hard specifically at photographing models, and learning a commercial style that can actually find a market. And for these last few years I have been fully expecting to find that, exactly as I did with both drawing and music, I was good enough to impress some people, but not good enough to make a career of it. And I certainly DID find myself looking at the photographers I most admired -- Carmen Gonzalez, Bogna Kuczerawy, Lasse Hoile, Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir and others -- and thinking I could never do the kind of work that they do. They were on another level. But that is changing with surprising speed. In the last two weeks I have done a series of shoots which have been a tremendous step forward for me in virtually every way. My photography itself has very suddenly gotten much better, but so has my ability to give direction to models when called for, and even the post-production work I do has advanced significantly and suddenly. Growth does not always happen at a smooth, gradual rate; sometimes there is a big leap forward. And that has just happened to me: a dramatic, sudden breakthrough to a new skill level. In the last couple weeks I've done the best commercial and editorial work I've ever done. And a few shots in particular -- such as "L'esprit de l'espoir" and "Luna" have actually shocked me into realizing that I'm quickly approaching the level of those photographers I admired and believed I could never approach. I've also only just begun doing beauty shots, and have found that I love doing them and I seem to be (again, to my surprise) pretty good at them! My beauty shots of Briauna, Taylor and Mackenzie all turned out pretty nice, for somebody who have never done this kind of thing until so recently. Now when I step back and look at my work as objectively as possible, I'm startled when I realize that this photography is mine. I was never anywhere nearly as good at drawing as I am at photography now. And I was certainly nowhere near as good at anything musical. Photography is not only where my passion lies, but it is also where my true talent lies. When I look at the work I've done in the last two weeks, it's hard for me to grasp that these photos were my own work -- I made them. It's very uncomfortable, difficult and just plain weird for me to be confronted with the realization that I'm pretty good at something. I still can't quite look in a mirror and say, "I'm really good at photography." But I'm starting to see the evidence in front of me, and it's gradually getting harder to deny that I've got talent. And it does seem possible that just maybe I can turn it into a career.

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