Honor your inner compass

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Folks often feel pressured to take other people’s opinions into account when making photographs. So, you’d lift the camera to shoot and then think: is this aligned with what curators/jurors/publishers/critics like these days? Is this stupid or too off-trend to be taken seriously? You might have an idea that really floats your boat, but you nip it in the bud because it’s not “safe.”

The poet William Stafford gave some great advice to blossoming poets. He said, “If you have any qualms, veer towards what feels good. Why oppose the only compass you have?” Fabulous, right? That compass is your artistic voice talking. That's the thing everyone wants to find. But, it's one of the easiest things to give away. Follow it, though, and your vision gets stronger and stronger. Your unique perspective gets stronger. Your joy burns brighter and the ideas flow faster. That's how you become an artist with something to say. Play it safe and you wind up getting bored with what you’re making. It feels blah, average - it doesn’t stand out from the mix. There’s a real irony there. You might pressure yourself to conform...but then feel completely dissatisfied because your images look like everyone else’s. Why do we do that to ourselves? It’s empowering to just notice this pattern, isn’t it?

I want to move in the direction of joy. I want to experiment and play and follow up with wacky notions, because that’s what feels good. I want to champion originality. I want to stand with my back to the view and photograph the weird beam of light in the corner while people give me funny looks. Why oppose the only compass you have, right? Let’s honor the compass and reclaim our creative agency. Free your mind and your art will follow (...paraphrasing Funkadelic just a smidge). But really, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?