For the Philippines, 2013 was a tough year. It was especially rough for me. It was the year that I contemplated walking away from photography altogether.
The path of the self-taught aspiring portrait photographer with meager resources was one that I had many doubts taking a few years back. It didn’t help having a visual style that often takes time to grow on people (if ever). It felt like the pictures I made were no longer connecting with me, much less with the viewers. My confidence flagged and this taxed my emotional stamina as each day passed. I became restless and frustrated, and ultimately I turned into my own worst critic.
Feeling dejected, I started to walk away from the craft that I had loved and pursued since the day I held my first camera. I was all too ready to just let everything go; but as fortune would have it, I decided to look back. And it was then that I saw what was around me instead of what lay ahead. As I navigated my way through uncertain waters, I focused too much on getting to the lighthouse that I had failed to see the rocks that lay in front of me. I was scuttling myself.
However, a good thing happened as I distanced myself from photography. I was able to refocus on the bigger picture. Old realizations flooded back in and I was gifted with new ones as well.
This is a marathon, not a race. As someone who deals with bouts of depression every now and then, I forgot to take things a day at a time. Perhaps at the age at which I embarked on this endeavor, I thought that I no longer had the luxury of time. I realize now that nobody does, and having a limited uncertain amount of time, one has to be deliberate in his actions.
It’s what you do with what you have that matters. I’ve fell victim to gear lust too many times. I believe many a photographer has fallen into the trap of equating better gear to better pictures. Without factoring in one’s own skill and vision, that equation will ultimately fail. I had to remind myself that at the inception of this dream all I ever wanted was my own camera. And I already have that and a bit more, so I shouldn’t wait for something better to come along to make better pictures. I should work on making the best pictures that I can with the gear that I have with me.
Not everyone will like your work. But there are people who will. I just have to work hard to get my pictures in front of them. For someone who’s introverted, it’s a lot easier said than done. However, it is something that has to be done. Having been in a band when I was younger, I remember the number of near empty venues we had to play in before we finally found ourselves in front of an appreciative audience. No one will hear your song if you stop playing.
Ask for help and gracefully receive it. This one is new. I realized that in being stubbornly independent I was doing too much of the work myself and this was causing me to burn out. I hesitated to ask for help because at the back of mind I always thought if it came with strings attached. I was alienating the very people who have stood by me. The very individuals who have taken many a chance solely on the potential of the work that I’ve produced so far. Admittedly, I am still awkward at receiving help in any form, but I’ve learned that there are only so many of these people who I’ll encounter in this life that I ought to be grateful for and to each one.
Even with these realizations, my path still isn’t clear, but I have committed myself to soldiering on. Somewhere along the journey, I’ll fall into the same traps, which is why I’ve written down this post as a reminder that I just need to stop and check my course every now and then before I carry on.