If you spend as much time on your inner life as you do on your outer life, I think you'll find more peace, focus, and mission in both your life and your career.
I am innermost. That's the way I roll. I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I call it like I see it. My fans, friends and followers also tend to be innermost kind of people. And appreciate discussions of inner life and living as much as the outer.
The outer life consists of an endless discussion stream of how-to's, knobs, controls, camera brands, replicable techniques, shiny gadgets and widgets. All of which, by the way, are easier to identify and discuss rather than matters of the heart.
The photographer with innermost sensibilities and sensitivities revels more in the inward journey of contemplation, meditation, feelings, relationships, motivations, why-to's...and how these all relate to photography.
Some of you reading this may write off this innermost pilgrimage as new age, irrelevant, crystal-wearing hogwash. But it's not. Not by a longshot. And I have 30 years of successful career experience it to prove it. It may be hard for you to get your head and heart around these discussions, but it's important and consequential.
As a side note, I find career shooters (usually older guys and gals) naturally gravitating toward intimate and personal emotional issues...because this group seems to know, from experience, that career survival depends on photographers connecting their heart with their eyes.
Emerging shooters (generally younger and less experienced) usually migrate toward external discussions. The kind that are plentiful on forums, listservers, discussion groups. Primarily because these discussions are easier to engage in. And require less intimacy and subjectivity (less experience, too).
I'm not at all being critical or cynical of up-and-comers. It's just a paternal observation. Over the past 12 months - in various workshop, commercial and personal projects - I've shot with a lot of emerging photographers. And what I'm seeing, and continue to see, especially among these youthful, aspiring career shooters...is a disproportionate dependence and reliance on tools and technology, without the corresponding confidence and conviction of innermost values like vision, mission and passion. Cameras don't take pictures - people do.
You can not and will not survive a commercial career in photography without a full, unconditional, transparent, honest embrace of your innermost life. It won't happen. You may experience the trappings of success without it. But you'll never experience the full monty until you hybrid discussions between your head and heart. The images you take, and elect to share with the world at large...are, in fact, nothing more than what's going on with you inside. The outside life (what you shoot) is a reflection or mirror of your inside life (what you're processing and feeling).
Trust me on this. Connect with your innermost self and you'll find your picture-taking catapulting in new directions. And you'll have a new sense of freedom in doing so.
I make no apologies about spending so much of my time talking about a photographer's innermost life. Because I strongly and heartily believe that is where all of the good stuff is. Connect with this innermost reservoir of creative juice and you'll be creating memorable, long-lasting, remarkable pictures for years to come. (Editorial note: You'll be happier in the process, too.)
If you want to be a great photographer...then be a great person. It's that simple.
Most of my 'I Am' blog posts here are about this innermost journey. Why? The answer is simple. Because there is a drastic shortage of this content in the marketplace among emerging photographers. An imbalance that could easily lead to technically rich, but soulfully bankrupt, imagery. Which, unfortunately, we're starting to see more and more of these days.
I'm not talking about becoming monkish in your outlook. Actually, I'm not even talking about being spiritual (although for many of you, this innermost journey might cross some spiritual boundaries and planes). What I'm talking about here is a planned and deliberate effort to emotionally connect with who you are as a photographer. And why you shoot the things you do. Even how you shoot the things you do. Connect with this stuff and you're one step closer to finding your innermost photographic ego, core, center. Your imagery will become stronger as you find yourself.
I don't know how many times I've asked emerging photographers why they shoot what they do. This simple question is usually met with blank stares. Maybe these 'how-to' shooters have never given a second thought as to 'why' they shoot what they do? That's because these colleagues were not taught that the camera they hold in their hands is no where nearly as important as the image they hold in their hearts. Vision trumps gear. Inner journey trumps outer journey. Always. Always. Always!
You can be the biggest tech geek and guber in the world. You can know every custom setting on your camera. You can know, backwards and forwards, every knob and control. But this knowledge, in and of itself, will not bring your photographs to life. Nor will they reflect soul and heart. Because to get life, soul and heart in your photographs...you must connect the dots between your innermost and outermost life and living. Inward and outward. Head and heart. Attitude and aptitude.
Instead of shooting the same ol' thing, in the same ol' way every time you go out with your camera...slow down. Pay close attention to your innermost thoughts and feelings while you're shooting. Listen to that still, small voice. And listen carefully. Don't allow those rote and mechanical sensibilities to take over and lead you down that predictable path of sameness and mediocrity. Hear and believe the artist within. Let those innermost promptings guide you. They may bring you to a new place in your photography that you never thought you could or would achieve. When the innermost dominates, it will show up in your images. Big time!
When your outward imagery is a balanced display and showcase of your inner life, your pictures will take on a magnetism, attraction and enhancement that is almost unbelievable.