Amsterdam was my first solo travel experience. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to spend time alone reflecting on life and working with intention on my photography. Amsterdam is a gorgeous place full of some of the most helpful, most interesting people in the world. I wandered the streets from sunup to sunset, taking photographs.
Right before Amsterdam, I spent four days in Köln, Germany, for Way Up North with Kirk Mastin, founder of Mastin Labs. Kirk is a phenomenal photographer (also my boss!) and a generous educator and mentor. We had a few hours on our last day to wander the city of Köln, where I had the opportunity to watch Kirk shoot street photography.
Watching Kirk shoot while asking questions about his approach sent me in the right direction with my pending photo project on my solo trip to Amsterdam. The biggest lesson Kirk stressed to me before setting me on my way was to be patient and wait for the shot. While in Amsterdam, I was frustrated with myself, I knew I had abandoned some shots early, settling for “okay” instead of waiting on capturing exactly what I wanted. I was upset because it wasn’t a “done is better than perfect” scenario; it was because I was always worried I was in someone’s way or disturbing them.
The ego has been such a disruptive force to my art. The constant worry that others are watching and judging creeps in and sabotages me. I find myself wondering, do these people think I am invading their privacy? Am I blocking traffic? Am I making a scene? If I show them my portrait, will they even like it? Does my perspective even matter?
I think modern artists carry an evolution on an age-old burden, the question of “Will anyone even get it what I am trying to say?” I struggle with sharing my work online, especially on Instagram or social media. I find myself wondering, do artists even care if their art is emotionally moving, or is it only about likes at this point? I don’t know how to shoot for likes, only to explore myself through the world around me. Does this mean I am not a real artist because I don’t have thousands of followers?
On a good day, when I can strip away my ego long enough, my camera gives me permission to be curious. I can be curious because I have a purpose “I am trying to take a picture here. I have a job to do.” is what I can replay in my brain to help me overcome my fear. I can shed expectations of who will like this, who will understand this, does this even matter for a few hours.
When I can make this happen, I am reminded that I enjoy exploring myself through what I am drawn to when I pull the viewfinder to my eye. Do I find myself turning the camera on quiet moments or chaos? Perfectly posed portraits or messy shots taken in passing? And what do these artistic decisions mean about where I’m at right here, right now?
I need to remind myself sometimes that art does not require an audience to be considered art. Art only has to be created to be art. It does not require anything else except just to be born into existence, no matter its purpose or follower count.
As a marketing expert it is a daily struggle to remind myself of this fact. A marketer would argue that if a tree falls in the woods and no one writes about it then it didn't happen. But we know it did. We know it doesn’t have to be seen, heard or felt by others to exist, it just does.