My heart skips a beat, I haven’t breathed in twenty seconds. I’m copying photo files. The agony, the anxiety, the fear, the huge failure in my mind’s eye that are the very contents of this memory card.
Fear of failure, that belly punching that I get every time. Oh how easy it would be to just let them copy and try to forget all about them. Mmmmmmmm, cozy forgetfulness. I could just head over to Netflix and watch a couple of episodes of The Good Wife and pretend it never happened. I’d never even have to look at them (with one eye shut tight…) I’ll edit them someday, it’s ok.
But that’s not how it works. I’ve made a deal, I have to DO.THE.WORK.
That’s the difference between me a few years ago and me today, while I still have that huge sense of dread and my mind’s eye still can’t see the pictures for what they really are (which, by the way, 99% of the time are as good as they felt/looked at the time), now I make myself do the work.
That doesn’t mean I’m happy with my photos. I’m never 100% happy. Every single shoot (for me, for someone else) comes with a lot of reflection, thinking, searching for what could have made it better, making mental notes for next time. Or, like lately, keeping written notes. But I’ve learned to take satisfaction with 90% perfect, that’s what lets me ship, do the work.
I’ve got some great photos stored on my hard drive, I know I do. I’m sure of it. But they may never see the light of day, unless I feel the fear and go through them to find the beauties in there (I’m looking at you Cuba.) Unless I get through the fear.
Last summer I started a personal project to take portraits of Doc Marten wearers. It was a complete failure, I just don’t love it. It’s not what I really wanted, it’s disappointing me and I need to figure out how to get through that. What does a successful Doc Marten portrait series mean to me? I recently had a conversation with Kathleen of Braid Creative and she told me to get specific about what will make these photos what I want. I’m working on that. Right now, for me, a successful portrait wouldn’t be a street photo. It would be a more studio set up, in the sitter’s own environment. At work or home or somewhere local to them. I don’t want vertical photos, the subject should be sitting, skating, crouching, posing. And another important thing I need to make these portraits really successful is good light – good light is imperative and Dublin’s weather just don’t always give that. It was so easy to just stop people on the street and ask for a quick shot, it was fast and it was instantly gratifying. But instant gratification is not enough. To be truly satisfying I’m going to have to build this project slowly.
By really dwelling on what’s working and what’s not, I can make my photos better and be more ‘successful’ – as in, get the shots I really want to take. But even the dwelling and then admitting when things aren’t working takes a bit of effort.
Yes, it would be easier to put on Netflix, but right now, I’m doing the work.
Do you have something you should finish, ship, feel fearful of and do the work anyway?
Tell me about it and what you’re doing about it in the comments.