Let that sink in for a while. So ultimately the question is what are you getting paid for? Some people are paid to do, some are paid to think and others are paid to do both. There’s no question on which camp you and I should strive to be in and what better way to demand that than to follow Chase’s advise on how to go about developing your style as a creative. In my case a photographer. Great quick podcast episode I listened to as I commuted to work.
The one thing there will be absolutely no shortage of 10 to 15 years from now thanks largely in part to Instagram, our smartphones and the accessibility by which mostly everyone can get their hands on a reputable and dependable camera nowadays is the fact that we’ll know exactly what our neighborhood, our city and even our block looked like because of how much we currently photograph the heck out of them.
I may occasionally scoff at the typical stream of New York scenery we’ve all grown accustom to seeing all over the web right now but I think as I get older, I’ll more than likely look back and be very appreciative of all those people who spend countless hours documenting a city that’s forever changing.
“In the early 1970s, Camilo José Vergara trained his camera on scenes of everyday street life in New York City. His photographs captured kids playing on the street, subway cars before graffiti, sections of the Bronx that look bombed out, and the construction of the World Trade Center in progress.” I pulled up the entire photo essay on the iPad and handed it to my parents to see and boy were they taken back. These photographs may have seemed insignificant to people at the time but boy are they golden now. Amazing!
In addition to Medium, Flipboard is another app I launch on an almost daily basis. The ability to find, organize and curate content based on your interest alone is golden, especially in a time where it’s become so effortless to subscribe to anything in hopes of being inspired by something at some point.
One of the Flipboard Magazines I follow is called Self-Improvers and the other day I came across an article entitled: How can I make myself better each day? Regardless of whether you’re not the type who’s on the lookout for pointers on ways to optimize your life just a little bit more, you have to admit the title is catchy enough to spark anyones interest. Luckily, it was certainly worth the 2 minute read and among the 7 life recommendations given, there were 3 which resonated with me the most:
Start Writing: I don’t consider myself a prolific writer whatsoever but the aspect of continuously showing up to this blog to write since 2010 has enabled me to formulate and manifest my ideas better, it’s allowed me to build more context around my work and ultimately, it’s enabled me to figure out my voice in the process. If you’re not doing it already, you’re missing out! Like Sean Wes says, anything you can possibly think of ultimately starts with writing so why not get use to it now.
Read: Just as an experiment, I dare you to perform a quick Google search regarding commonalities very successful people may have and while I wait here, I can 99% guarantee you’ll come back telling me about that one omnipresent characteristic you couldn’t help notice all throughout is the fact that they all self-educate by reading. It’s simple…wealthy people would rather be educated than entertained so why should you and I be any different regardless of our wealth disparity? As of now, I’ve given myself the goal of reading a minimum of 12 books this year but the real goal is to exceed that. Like Jim Rohn once said, a “formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”
Expand Your Comfort Zone: This one is easy. The only way to improve your self-confidence is to improve your skills and to improve your skills, it requires for you to become better at something and to become better at something you must embrace sh*t you’ve never done before.
Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker once said, “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily” and this very mentality keeps me going strong on the 3 life recommendations I talked about.
Even on my days off, I continue with this habitual practice of waking up at 6AM while everyone in the house is still asleep. When you’re a parent to 2 youngsters, anytime you’ve identify an opportunity to squeeze in time for yourself where you can passively enjoy your breakfast while it’s still warm, where you can reflect a bit and also do a little bit of reading, you take it!
One morning I came across an article via Medium that talked about how we currently live in a society where everything we can ever possibly want to learn is at our disposable and yet the problem arises in that we do everything we can to learn and consume this interest of ours with the exception of putting all that knowledge into action. Max says, “Better knowledge does not make you more influential, powerful, and successful unless you apply it. The key secret to success is not excessive expertise, but the ability to use it.”
For me to tell you I’ve invested an endless amount of hours carefully consuming and analyzing the technical intricacies of how photographers I admire manipulate light to obtain the vision they’re going for with their work would mean nothing if I don’t attempt to put it into practice myself. I’ve learned there’s more to YouTube than senseless videos if you’re willing to put the time into navigating through many rabbit holes to find what you’re looking for and when I’ve personally felt I’ve exhausted my search, I’ve invested in myself by purchasing CreativeLive courses on the topic of light. There’s very few how-to photography books that I own but one in specific on the subject which I highly recommend and that’s served me tremendously has been Syl Arena’s Speedliter's Handbook. Like anything in life, we tend to fear what we don’t take the time to understand but you’ll be surprise how quickly everything related to flash will make sense when you’re reading as oppose to just consuming everything via video.
Having said all that, I recently went ahead and booked a studio, reached out to good friend Elise once again and took action on what I felt I could have done better on my last shoot as well as to incorporate new techniques learned from this self-education journey I’m going through with flash photography.
Despite shooting Sony, I still continue to use a Canon 430EX II speedlight from when I use to shoot Canon. Also, following a recommendation from a fellow photographer, I recently purchased a 60” Photek Umbrella which worked amazing. The soft quality of light you obtain from it is so beautiful which made the investment worthwhile. All the photographs from this session where taken using this new light modifer in combination with a few black and white v-flats. I don't want to back into this mentality that I need "something else" to produce "better" work but I've certainly been wanting to invest on a beauty dish all while still utilizing a speedlight.
Back in November of 2016, I had the privilege to be in attendance at Passion Passport’s first ever NYC speaker series. To kick it off, the first panel focused on women in photography where they discussed their travels and “what it takes to balance a love for exploration with a career in photography.” One of the 3 female photographers happened to be Adrienne Pitts, who’s work and writing I’ve praised multiple times in view of how she exemplifies the type of imagery that captivates and transports me right there with her. The talk was absolutely insightful and if at any point I might have felt I wanted to learn more about Adrienne’s photographic journey, lucky for you and I she was recently a guest on Feisworld Podcast which at the end, I considered the interview an extension to all the valuable tips she was gracious enough to share back in November with us in New York.
Very often it’s easy to become enamored with the idea of doing something that appears entertaining from the outside but unless there’s people like Adrienne who are willing to provide you a glimpse of what goes into creating the type of work that you and I drool over, you would never know. My biggest takeaway from the podcast episode: “I think it’s important to be brutally honest about what it’s like to work in this industry…sure it looks pretty on Instagram…it does look amazing but you can’t see the weeks and weeks spent editing on the computer and not talking to anyone.”
On every single chance I’ve had to catch up with Nikeva during one of her many unexpected visits to New York, I’ve had the luxury of her timing aligning perfectly with not just an impeccable warm weather but amplified by an even equally gratifying sunset. Obviously I can’t rely on such ideal circumstances in the middle of winter, so I took the opportunity of our most recent meet to push myself outside the comfort zone of relying on natural light to shoot the majority of my work and experiment with the daunting task of tinkering with studio lights.
I rented the same Brooklyn studio, attempted my best to recall all the technical stuff I had read without having it consume my every thought because if you do, I can foresee it being a lot like a choreographer counting their every step as oppose to enjoying the moment and connecting with the people around them. I absolutely have a lot to learn but it’s been a blast testing out concept that scared the heck out of me a year ago.
During the same session with Nikeva, I test shot with Tashon Hopkins as well."
I can’t say I’ve ever been into poetry but probably because I had yet to come across any that resonated with me in the right way. Like any literary piece, your choice between one thing or another might be dependent on the type of experiences you’ve had from them and by far IN-Q’s work is absolutely incredible. I must have re-watched this particular video more than 10 times just so I can fully synthesize the depth of his words. I became aware of who IN-Q was via Lewis Howe’s The School of Greatness Podcast and I quickly Youtubed him thereafter to familiarize myself more with his work.
Among my 2 favorites lines in this particular poetic piece he delivered in TEDxHollywood back in 2014 was:
“The only think I know is that we’re all in this together and the future of this earth depends on how we treat each other but how we treat each other starts with how we treat ourselves and how we treat ourselves starts with how we see ourselves and how we see ourselves starts with context.”
“Do something you’ve never done, do someone you’ve never done, go someplace you’ve never gone, some place that will scare you some, be someone you’ve never been…everywhere you are is where you’re suppose to be.”
I can't recommend enough for you to view it!
When it comes to transparency in our work, Cap Wakins once said that the “more people who can see what you’re doing and how it’s evolving, the better.” Transparency is raw, it’s real and believe it or not, it’s appealing. There’s very few ways to establish trust with people but by far one of them is in being transparent. I’m not saying you have to set foot on a stage, adjust the mic and tell people your life’s secrets but you can rest assure that there’s people out there who admire something you do based on what you choose to share out on social media.
From a spectator’s perspective, it may seem you have everything figured out but we all know that’s not the case. In fact, I read somewhere that “no one tends to have their sh*t together until the age of 30 at the earliest”, so maybe that’s you and me. But to those who applaud the “socially polished, filter prettied world” they see on Instagram or any other platform, I encourage you to heed this advise from Megan Dalla-Camina:
Don’t use (social media) as a tool to compare your life to your friends…We are all real and human and everyone has their own battles. When you look at someone’s successes, know that there is always a good dollop of the unglamorous that will have accompanied it. And when you do see someone’s vulnerabilities, be sure to celebrate and honor them, because more often than not, that is more of the true story than the perfect picture will ever be.
This is so true! Life is not an Instagram photo. When I don’t get the chance to inject as much backstory into the caption of an Instagram photo, you can rest assure I’ve put in more time to writing about what I’ve share here on the blog. Whether people read it is one thing but I at least consider it to be my way in being transparent and that we’re all figuring sh*t out as we go along.