Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Personal Story

Why do I participate in social media? Well the answer to that question has changed a lot over the last year. Let's just explore the facts:

I took several years off from photography after my son was born, telling myself I was burned out and needed a break. At first, sleepless nights and the never ending battle of taking care of an infant's needs stole my motivation. Rising at 4am to meet the sunrise happened everyday anyway with a screaming newborn.  If there wasn't a screaming child, I was sleeping. As the months and years sneaked by, life fell into a routine and inertia set in. I was so detached from the business that I barely picked up my DSLR for nearly 4 years, mindlessly picking up the family's point and shoot camera for all our snapshots.

Life began to stand still.

Then one afternoon, I picked up my "real" camera again and wow, did it feel good. By the end of the day, I was brainstorming ways to jump back into the business. Should I go back into stock photography or should I try to sell prints? It didn't take long to figure out that every major photographer was using social media sites, so I tested the waters too. I posted images, wrote stories, and tried to connect with people. I joined the social media sites to try to market my work, but things changed.

It slowly dawned on me as images flowed across my screen, the photography world had moved on without me during my absence. The images were completely unlike anything I had seen before. They were crisp, they were colorful, they popped off the screen, and they absolutely blew me away. They also crumbled my new-found drive and in the back of my mind, I began to doubt myself. How in the world would I ever catch up if I was so far behind? Why even try?

Then one night, as I lay awake worrying about the future, I remembered another sleepless night 20 years before: the night after my first class at Brooks Institute of Photography. I arrived in Santa Barbara supremely confident in my abilities and I walked into class ready to take on the world. Within one hour, I realized I knew absolutely nothing about photography. I was not arriving at the top of the class, I was arriving at the bottom.  I went back to my apartment and cried. Through that night, I twiddled the minutes away, stared at the ceiling, and wondered what I was going to do. Finally, near dawn it occurred to me that I was not there because I was a great photographer, I was there because I wanted to be a great photographer. Now that was concept I could work with. My education began the next day.

Remembering that night, it suddenly dawned on me that it was worth trying but I had to start all over again. I had to relearn the techniques, I had to humbly ask questions, and I had to accept that I wasn't at the top of my game anymore. With that realization came another. It was time to break the routines. I had been inventing excuses about why I couldn't pursue photography. The weather wouldn't cooperate. I didn't have enough time. The truth was that I was just pissed off. Everything in the photography world had been changing and I didn't know what to do about it. Everything was changing and I didn't want to. I just stood still. My education began again the next day.

Life began to move again.

Why do I participate in social media today?

To be inspired! Everyday I get the chance to see something stunning! Somewhere, half way around the globe, a photographer goes out and comes back with a crazy and new way of looking at life. That motivates me to get out the door and create something.
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One year ago, I would have never come home with the image I'm sharing with you today. In fact, I would have never left the house, blaming it on the rain, bad light, or any other excuse I could have come up with. Instead, I headed out into the gloom to see what I could come back with. I got down on the wet sand, got soaked, and got the shot. And who knows, maybe somewhere another photographer is looking at this image thinking, "I should try that..."

2 comments:

Madge Bloom said...

I appreciate your honesty Jim, I harbor no illusions that I am a good photographer, I just pour my heart into my time behind my camera and that's what makes it worthwhile for me. If others see what caught me when I shot a scene and they have an emotional reaction too (be it positive or negative) then I am satisfied that I have communicated with another. And when I see your images, I do think 'I should try that...'

Jim Lundgren said...

Thank you Madge and you are a good photographer. I guess the lesson to be learned is that most creative people are on the road to somewhere else.