Does every artist doubt their work? Do they question whether they can in fact call what they create, art? Is me asking these questions, doubting my ability, or is it me being humble? I can’t call it. I’m never sure. There is a fine line between self doubt, and being humble. At least I think so.
Do arrogant artists exist? At face value that question seems really silly, right? Well, I don’t think so, simply because I know quite a few artists that love painting, drawing, photographing, and so on, and they want to make a living doing what they love, but are never quite sure if they can succeed and make a living doing the those things. They love what they do, but never know if others will too.
I absolutely fall in love with some of my photos…well let me correct myself there…I love pretty much all my photos. Even the bad ones, the bad ones are needed to get better. They keep me shooting till I get that perfect shot I saw in my head. I’ve always taken pictures. It’s just part of who I am. I have a few creative mediums, but photography is the one thing that is truly special to me. When I was younger I never thought “I wanna be a photographer!” To be honest growing up I never thought about what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. My parents never really asked me. Buffalo, the town that is it, and the rough life my parents had, their goal for me was simple- Graduate HIGH SCHOOL! It may seem like a ridiculous thing, or too small of a goal, but where I’m from that doesn’t happen as often as it should. Starting my own fine art photography business never really dawned on me till someone actually said, “hey, did you ever consider selling your photos?” That question, even though I don’t remember who that person was that asked, stayed with me for weeks. I thought about it constantly. It made me think if I actually considered myself a photographer. I never really did. I was just a regular girl that liked to take pictures. I was more of a video professional, not a still photographer. I kept thinking, and looking over all of my photos. I wasn’t sure. At this particular time, I was doing more film, and video work, and fitting in a still photography career was crazy talk! I kept on with the film, and video gigs, but I continued to take photos and wonder about the photography world that wasn’t weddings, and portrait studios.
This confusion, or whatever you want to call it that was happening in my head was constant! Quite annoying too. I was in this constant state of wonder, so I began to research markets, and all types of photography. Thats when I found out…Yes! There’s actually a market for what I do!! I did all of this research quietly. My boyfriend at the time didn’t really have any idea what I was up to, but he always gave me such positive feedback on my photos. My family as well. Now, in my book those types of people do not count toward the validation needed for an artist. They all loved me….how would they tell me that my photography actually sucked? Who does that to their loved ones?? I knew they were going to tell me what I wanted to hear. Even though they always say, “Amber, if it was horrible I would tell you.” Well, when you love someone you have the blinders on. I’m sure everyone knows what I mean.
Working on the ship being a videographer, I was surrounded by photographers too. We would always take tons of pictures, show off what we took, and give feedback. It’s what us nerdy photogs do! I kept getting positive feedback from them, and from most that I wasn’t close to. The more distant of a relationship I had with someone, and the more positive, or the more they praised my photos, the more validating it was for me to believe: Yes, I take great photos.
I finished my contract on the Cruise ship, I came home to my parents for a couple of months. I always liked sitting down, and talking to my parents about everything, this time being no different. My mother hated how I was so far away while doing the cruise ship contracts, my dad too for that matter. If they had things their way I’d always live at home. My mom wanted me off the ship. She would always say, “Amber, you need to buckle down, and get a real job.” Insulting as that sounds, and however upset I got from it then, I knew she was right. I was scared to bring up the photography thing. I always showed my parents all of my photos. They loved them. They would pick out their favorites, or tell me which ones they didn’t care for. But overall they would say they were all great. I had the thought that I wanted to start selling my photos for awhile ever since that one person asked me if i’d considered it. To actually say it out loud was scary. I thought that people would think I was ridiculous.
I took the plunge, and I told my parents that I wanted to sell my photos, do the art festival circuit, and eventually enter work to galleries down the line. I had it all laid out in my head. My parents aren’t in that kind of business, but they are involved in what I want to do and ask from time to time how everything is. My mom couldn’t stop suggesting weddings. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to make a career out of weddings/events. I can shoot them, don’t mind them either, but I don’t want it to be my focus.
My sister was great, she supported me in all of this. She helped me get a lot of this planned out. Helped me focus on a number of business items I needed to address. She was behind me 100%. That to me was great. Hell, she bought my domain name for me. Which yeah, its not a lot of money, but it was the first step to a giant thing for me. It was a push I needed at the time.
All the while I still am doubting if I can really make this happen. Can I sell my photos? Will strangers like my work? Are people going to feel the way I felt when they look at a certain photo? Not only those questions about my so-called audience/buyers, but my peers! What are other photographers going to say, or think? How do I stack up against them? Is my work “professional” enough?
Sometimes, I still feel like that at times, but I stopped caring. I have to trust myself. Once I was true to myself, and not nervous about how people were going to see my work, I actually got better. I felt it was more me, or at least I felt I developed a style.
A problem I have now is picking certain photos to print and frame for shows. I never know what to select! It’s frustrating. I always ask people what are their favorite photos of mine. Thats helps, but its always funny to me because its always something I never expect people to pick. I have a few that I just obsess over. Like the one below. One of my all time favs!! Mainly because I love the dark purple! I know everyone wont like this one.
Everyone likes the original red one instead.
It took me a long time to realize that whole idea of how people are not going to like the ones I like. I also find it funny how some people end up seeing what I haven’t put on my website, and they say “Oh, my goodness that’s beautiful.” Than it makes me take a second look. That’s what actually happened with this one below.
I took the picture for a reason. I saw something. I felt something. For some reason I thought no one would like it. My boyfriend is really into that grunge-y, more abandoned style, and he really like this one above, so when I took a second look at my inventory I found this one below. I felt like I made a re-discovery. Sometimes when I take certain photos they are too dark for some people to like. But that just means I have to come into my own as an artist, be comfortable with my style, and who I am as a person.
Do I like my art? When I am alone, and looking at my photos I’m absolutely in love with everything I do on a photography stance. When people start looking at my work…that’s another matter. The self doubt starts. I have to be confident, but I don’t want to get cocky, ya know? I have to realize that not everyone is going to like what I do. Thats a given, but I also have to not down play my talent, or my eye for things in this world. I have to be proud of what I create. I love it, so I have to be proud. Duh, Amber!! For other artists out there remember that you can’t make everyone happy, so just start with yourself, and things will start to piece together the way you want it to!