Art vs. Function vs. Work vs. Fun

I like accolades. I know that’s not the most PC thing to say, but I do. I like when people tell me that my kids are well-behaved. I stalk this blog after I’ve posted a new post to see how many people read it, who comments and if it gets shared. Hey, I even light up when someone compliments my hair. But the applause I crave the most is for my photography.

Here’s a little background for you:

I have been taking pictures since I was a child. My parents have joked, calling me the family historian. From a young age, I knew the date of every family member’s birthday, where they were born and if I could, I’d take pictures of them. I was the family Facebook page, before Facebook was cool (or before Mark Zuckerberg was born… but saying that makes me feel old!)

In high school, I took photography as a class. That was back when we had dark rooms and had to learn how to take a roll of film off the canister and load it onto another thingy -yes, that’s the technical term- all while our hands were in a black bag, so as to no expose the film. For those curious, I was not good at that. At all. But, taking the pictures? That was right up my alley.

Fast forward to college (still pre-digital photography era), and I was the one who always had the “big-enough” purse to carry my point and shoot camera with me to all the events. I have boxes upon boxes of pictures of my four A-MAZING years in Aggieland.

Into adulthood, I was forced to make money. Yuck. Photography never went away for me, but it was certainly on the back burner for a few years. I loved scrapbooking, so I started taking pictures with the purpose of how I would lay them out on a page. But I was newly married, in a new state with no kids. That was when I was pushed into taking pictures of the non-living. No, not dead things. Nature, signs, buildings, you name it. I think it was around this point that I started to see that maybe I had a knack for this.

Around that time, we decided to make the jump to the Foreign Service life of living overseas. Through my fear of the unknown, there was a peace knowing that I would be able to document this new life through my eyes, but for all my loved ones to see. And that feeling still resonates with me.

But it’s time for me to get real with you. In this new -in your face- day of technology, I have become so immersed in all the amazing talent around me, I have crawled back into my tortoise-shell, hiding from my insecurities. I follow so many photographers on Facebook, read so many blogs and flip through piles of magazines, that I can’t help but question if I am good enough. Before I post a picture on this blog or on Facebook, it goes through such a rigorous dose of “will they like it? is it good enough? do I look like those other guys?” That is a huge reason why I only post every six weeks or so. If you could see how many posts are in my draft queue, you’d think I can’t finish anything I start. More often than not, what stops me isn’t the three kids that are ALWAYS around, but the voices in my head questioning if I’m good enough.

So, fast forward to last night. I decided to enter a contest. I’ve never entered a photography contest. And certainly not of the scale of National Geographic. But I did, and I’m proud for doing it. After I posted it, I waited, and waited, and waited to see if it would get noticed. I did this for at least an hour. And then it hit me. My photography has become my art. Why should I give a damn if you like it or not? If talented, famous photographer looks at my images and rolls her eyes, or if my second grade teacher looks on Facebook and her heart grows because of what she sees, it shouldn’t matter. I can promise you, I am so hard on myself, that nothing but my best (my best for where I am in my journey at that particular time, moment, millisecond) will ever be posted by me in any public way. My pride is much grander than that. My self-esteem is too fragile to put anything but my personal best for show.

If you are anything but a professional photographer or a very serious hobbyist, you are not likely to know the cut-throat mentality of so many of these artists. Hyper-critical, mean-spirited, scared little kids. Truly. These super competitive creatives are so afraid that someone is going to move into their prime location, steal customers/viewers/accolades, or give them someone else to compare themselves to, that they tear down every person who has an interest in photography, whether it be for the joy or for the job. With digital photography taking off, “mom-tographers” have become quite popular. Those are moms with cameras that will take pictures of your kids for next to nothing. And I say, “you go girl!” There is room for all types of photographers in the world. After all, if it truly is an art, who are we to limit it? It takes all kinds of kinds. If you can only afford $50 for a few images, then I can steer you towards someone who is just learning to love her camera. If you want to spend $10,000 on an original for your hotel lobby, I can send you there too (or you can just call me!!) Here are some of the handful of photographers I follow who seem to have the “you go girl!” attitude and aren’t afraid to help other photographers become their own best artist. Most of them have never even heard of me, but have inspired me with their talent, freedom and confidence in their art to share knowledge with others. You should check them out too.

Spanki Mills
Audrey Woulard
Paxton Maroney
Sarah Goodman
Rachel Vanoven

If you’ve ever read The 5 Love Languages, it isn’t too hard to figure out that I am “words of affirmation” kind of gal. Want to hear some funny irony? I married a man who holds his compliments close to the chest. Please don’t take away that he doesn’t say nice things to me, because he certainly does. But he is the kind of man who only says things he means. If you’re fishing for compliments from him, you’ve cast your line in the wrong pond. Over the last 15 years, that has been hard for a wife like me, who craves affirming words. But, the positive to that is, when he does give them, I know he means it. I think that is why I respect his opinion about my art more than anyone else. He won’t tell me he loves an image, just because he loves me. And you know what? I am ok with that. But even his accolades don’t really matter. Because even though photography is functional, it is my art. And even though it has been in the past, and hopefully in the future will be even more so a job for me, it is also fun. And that is all that should really matter.

And because blog posts are no fun without any pictures (and I want to prove my new-found confidence), here’s my favorite image of the day.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia