looking back and stepping forward
There’s a very active art scene here in Ipswich that I really love. From the outside, it looks like a very cosy and supportive community. I say “from the outside” because that’s where I’ve viewed it from. It has nothing to do with the scene itself or the people involved in it. I’ve been skirting around it for a couple of years now, dabbing a toe in here and there, but that’s as deeply as I’ve been involved.
I’ve been a photographer for 8 years now, a photographer in the domestic market that’s been trained to think in f stops and rule of thirds, in sharpness and contrast and lighting ratios. I’ve listened to countless other domestic market mentors about business basics, pricing, social media marketing, value and engagement, contracts, releases, insurance…
I’ve always viewed myself as an artist first, a photographer second and a business owner third.
Have I actually put my money where my mouth is?
Over the years, I’ve entered few competitions, and if I’m completely honest, in the beginning of my photography career, I operated purely from ego. When I wasn’t instantly rewarded, I promptly packed up my bat and ball and went home (tail between the legs). These four portraits above (from 2017), I was sure would be winners and when they weren’t, I was crushed – utterly crushed. At the time, I thought these were the best portraits I would ever take and if these didn’t make it, I couldn’t make it as a photographer and I’d definitely never be considered an artist.
Hindsight sure is 20/20. It was these four portraits that helped me grow as a photographer the most. It was also these four portraits that eventually showed me I could be an artist. Most importantly, it was these four portraits that helped me get my ego under control and ultimately connect my heart to my work. It was hard f#cking work. I completely deconstructed who I was as a photographer, finally listened to others who knew more than me and learned and learned and learned… and really fell in love my job.
Six years later, a whole lot wiser and humbler, I’m coming back to these portraits as inspiration for my first collection. (More on that soon!) Sure, I’ve vomited out an “Exhibition” a few years ago, before I even understood what an exhibition actually was. It really was more of a “look what I can do” rather than a “feel what I have to share.”
Man, that sounds harsh, but it’s the honest truth (not a self deprecating put-down) – and glossing over the truth is not something I can do. I’ve had some absolute gems of mentors over the years too – people that have really taught me about values, vision and purpose.
I hit a new stride when I created this portrait for Lane a couple of years ago. It was another stand-out lesson and the first portrait I’d created in a LONG time where what was in my head was staring me in the face.
Recently, I created this portrait of James. Having learned some more in the couple of years since Lane’s portrait, I’ve been leaning in further to connection and purposeful expression. To enhance the expression, I’ve started playing with skin tone and colour.
Each week, I get together with another photographer (Clare) on the artist’s journey and we approach the same problems from the opposite ends of the spectrum and it’s delightful because we always end up with the same conclusions.
Together, we’ve decided to bravely step out into the competition land with purpose. I remember talking with another artist here in town and she told me that the reason she enters competitions is not to win, but ultimately to sell and get her name known. I thought that was genius!
Clare and I have just finished creating a calendar of the competitions and awards we’d like to enter next year and the plan is to shoot separately for each of them. How else will we learn and grow without trying and probably failing a little along the way?
Let’s see what becomes of it all! I hope to share the process here – warts and all.