Can we talk about fear for a minute? If you asked me when I was a teenager what I was afraid of, I would have said not being perfect. If you asked me in my 20’s I would have said being mediocre. If you ask me now, the answer is I am afraid of being mediocre at something I’m actually good at. I am fully aware that I’m never going to be perfect at anything and I’m okay with that. I am absolutely going to be mediocre at some things, and I have accepted that too. But when it comes to something I know I have a talent for—like photography—that’s where I get afraid. Not afraid that I won’t get the safe shots–the ones that clients hire me for–but afraid that I won’t get the unsafe ones. The ones they didn’t know they wanted until they hired me. The less obvious, subtle shots. The shots that have that certain unexpected quality that makes you stop and look at it a little longer. Maybe they even make you wonder about something, or feel something that you can’t quite put your finger on. The kind of shots that break the rules in all the right ways. Sometimes this fear paralyzes me from taking creative risks, because if I don’t try then I can’t fail. I stay with the light I’m comfortable with, the canned “candid” poses, the compositions I know work. And then I feel even more mediocre.
There’s a photographer I follow who consistently produces the kind of throat-punching images that give me all the “feels” in her personal and client work. Her name is Yan Palmer. She’s one of those photographers I look at and think, “She nails it every single time. How does she do it?” So it surprised me when I went to her workshop a couple weeks ago and she told us she still feels like she isn’t a master. That she fights herself to get out of bed on a daily basis. She said that we’re never going to feel like we’ve arrived or that we’re good enough. And that we never should feel that way. Because it would mean that we stop growing and instead become stagnant.
This fear I have will never subside, but if I don’t move through it I’ll never move at all. When change and growth are involved, fear comes knocking really loud, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I need to embrace this fear because it keeps me fresh. It keeps me hungry. It keeps me hunting, experimenting, being ever more intentional with what’s in my frame and willing to take creative risks.
I’m looking to shoot a handful of sessions with families for the specific purpose of realizing this vision I have, of creating pictures that communicate a bigger picture–that tell the whole story of family life. How sometimes it’s laugh-out-loud-happy, and sometimes it’s soft and moody. Sometimes it’s one hot mess–but a beautiful mess no less. Yan gave me some specific ideas, gaps to fill, and techniques to try and I’d love to creative license to do that. I just need some willing subjects besides my own kids. Here’s what it will look like: not drastically different from my usual work, but sort of like when your favorite music artist cuts a new album that’s more…experimental. Communicating the themes we know and love in ways that are different than what we’ve all seen a thousand times before.
If you like the direction I’m headed with this, if you like what you’ve seen here and here and in this post, and if you, too, are feeling that you want something a little more true/dynamic/less predictable with your family pictures, then come along with me. Let’s break some rules together and see what magic happens. What’s in it for you? Free photos by yours truly. You heard that right–gratis. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with some information about you and your family–maybe a link to your Instagram to give me a peek–and see if you’re a good fit for this little project of mine. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!
*Images taken by me at Yan’s workshop.