It strikes me that we are sometimes are own worst critics. We often do not see our work with clarity and discernment. Despite the hours that photographers spend culling and editing pictures, we often can’t see the beauty, meaning or significance in our own work.
How many times have I copied files from the camera to computer, looked at the pictures on the big clear screen, and declared them all awful? More times than I can count. My husband, the rational one in the family, calmly encourages me, wait till tomorrow, and go back and look again. And he is right. On a second or third look, pictures that seemed worthless are often the most telling, in ways I least expect.
Lately my biggest criticism of my pictures is that they still seem too pretty, superficial or lacking meaning, or even worse, boring.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way. My friend, Rebecca Lily and her husband, Johnny Patience, are both working their way through 365 Photo Projects and they have expressed feelings in this same family.
Here’s an excerpt from Johnny’s entry for February 17, 2016.
A lot of my pictures seemed too perfectionist, too plain and meaningless to me.
But I know now that that's not true. I have always found a lot of beauty and emotion in scenes that to others might seem mundane. Little everyday life pictures that tell a story about how I see the world. That in itself has meaning. If I can capture how something makes me feel, it makes someone else feel something too if I'm lucky. It doesn't always need to be deep or socially relevant. Making something ordinary look beautiful that would have otherwise been unnoticed is as important as pointing out something bad to the world. I don't like to shout in my photographs.
One of the greatest benefits of a 365 photo project is that it forces me far out of any comfort zone. If I am to take a picture a day for a whole year, I'm bound to run out of ideas or have a day when I don’t feel like taking a picture, and on those days, it’s best just to play.
I make a deal with myself – just point the camera and shoot. When I remove the burden of expectation from my work, I am surprised at what I produce.
I played around, taking my own picture in front of the mirror in our den. I put on some music that I love and played it real loud. I danced in front of the mirror until I forgot to feel self-conscious. Then I spent some time looking into my own eyes. When I look carefully, I see things about myself that I really love, not physical characteristics so much, but a sense of who I am as a person.
And like Johnny, I don’t like to shout in my photographs.