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You may of read my recent blog post about feeling dissatisfied with my work recently. I had been feeling an overwhelming sense of disappointment in myself for creating works that essentially could have been better. That is not to say that I dislike what I’ve done, simply that I see the ways in which certain images are not as strong as they could be. I think it is healthy for artists to go through something like that. It is good to have a self-evaluative moment in the midst of all the creation chaos.

I have asked myself a lot of questions these last couple days. I went from feeling really sad and upset about my work to feeling really good about it. Although that is not entirely true. I never felt upset about the work itself; rather I was upset at the way I was creating work. I was  coasting, and in an artistic endeavor that is never a good thing. For the last month or so I’ve been taking shortcuts and sometimes creating images that did not come from inside. For example, I used to take joy and pride in getting up before the sun broke to do a photo shoot. I used to take my good old time in creating the right props. I used to hike for long periods of time to get to the perfect location, or drive for hours to find one. Lately though I’ve been sticking to indoor shots. I’ve been going out in the middle of the day hoping I can find some shade to shoot in, and therefore compromising locations.

In the end, I was happy with the images I was getting. I thought they were good enough. While good enough might be okay for a while, that is not the standard of work that I want to be putting out. So, my moment of epiphany, if you will, came when I realized that my photos have not been up to my usual standard. The thing that upset me so much was my inability to see that. I was upset that I was able to coast along and only after looking back at my collective recent work did I see all of my errors.

First I was upset, but then I wanted to change. I wanted to know why my work was suffering. I decided to go back through my work to a time when I was happiest with my photos. I picked out three of my personal favorites, and they happened to be from roughly the same time period. I went through a “phase” that felt most genuine and where I felt personally fulfilled with what I was creating more so than any other time. Going back to those images allowed me to seek out the differences between those and my current photos.

There were a few major differences that allowed me to pinpoint the problem:

1) All of the older images has a strong connection to nature, whereas my newer images had basically no interaction with nature. In fact, my recent favorites did incorporate nature, so that seems to be a heavy factor in my love of an image. I had felt like I should begin to put more context into my images and like I should be photographing spaces that are identifiable, when that wasn’t coming from within and instead from outside influences.

2) All of the older images had strong, bold colors on dark backgrounds. This is a look that I am always fascinated by, and something that I get excited to capture and edit. If something excites you, you should pursue it.

3) My ideas were bigger than my budget, which resulted in photos that didn’t work out and were therefore executed differently just to pull something from all the work that went into the shoot. I realized that all of my favorite images have nothing more than $5 fabric in them, and that I don’t need a big budget to do what I love.

I identified all of the differences, and I picked out what I liked about the images that I pulled as “favorites”. I like dark backgrounds, nature, bold colors, singular or bold subjects, a sense of connectedness to the surroundings, and a permeating sad feeling that nags at you the more you look at the image. With these key points in mind, I am creating fresh images. I went back to my roots, literally and figuratively, to create the image below, which is a “part 2” to my photo “My Little Bluejay”. It is a rebirth. I had to sneak back to my favorite little piece of paradise in the park which I was banned from, but it was worth it. I would live there if I could.

A valuable lesson was learned for me in all of this. Questioning your own work is never a bad thing; it means growth. If we all coast along we’ll never do anything groundbreaking. We’ll never do anything that makes us feel truly fulfilled. I had gotten so lost in building a business that I briefly lost sight of what I love, and of what makes me love it. Creating simply to create is worthless. There has to be passion behind the creation, or else it is nothing more than a machine being built in a factory.

And finally, thank you to everyone reading this, and to everyone who left me comments and sent emails regarding my last post. I was so touched by all of the support and hearing similar stories. I not only think it is normal to feel disappointed in your own work, but it is a sign of growth and we should be proud to care enough about it.

{ 5 } Comments

  1. Tavis Glover | December 11, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Great article Brooke! I have the same views on “creating simply to create is worthless.” I’m always trying to incorporate a feeling/emotion/story in my photos. My most recent one on flickr is “dreaming of a fruitful life.” I have to say that you have inspired my work! Thanks! Of course, I’m uploading random cool shots that I take around the island, but my true passion lies within the conceptual pieces I create. Keep up the great work, and I can’t wait to see what photos you create after your epiphany!

  2. lauren | December 11, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    “Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown.”

    It is exactly what you are about, and exactly what you achieve in communicating visually.
    I enjoyed reading your last post, and I had opened a box to comment, until I was distracted by watching ‘avatar’ with my boyfriend.. may I add that it is the best and worst film to watch when you want to break free from this ‘reality’.

    Your new image is now my desktop picture, a reminder of this post and the words within it. people thank artist for sharing their light, I want to thank you for sharing not only a glimpse of your darkness, but your intelligence to transform it into light. What that does actually, is make people who admire your work realise that you’re not just groundbreaking artist, but also incredibly human.

    You stepped it up another level, again. Well done. :)

  3. Lash LaRue | December 11, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I think your self-analysis is brilliant; congratulations on having enough insight to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your work. —- And keep at it.

  4. Emmanuel Orain | December 12, 2010 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    This is a very inspiring post, Brooke. Thank you very much for sharing this.
    (and the beautiful photo too !)

  5. Johanna | December 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Growth can only come with cultivation, which means that weeding needs to be done from time to time. Bravo for your courage to face the mirror and ask the questions.

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  1. Asking the Hard Questions « When Life Clicks | December 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    […] ever be inspired again.  My photography muse, Brooke Shaden, just wrote about this very subject in her blog.  Although it can be a frightening and depressing place, coming face-to-face with our emptiness […]

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