I have worked for a long time at forgetting the idea of myself. The idea may sound strange to some and I can understand. Yourself is your best friend and your longest acquaintance. The idea that you exist is so imprinted on you from an early period that one of the very first ways you communicate with the world is that your protestations are received by love, food, sustenance…your demand for existence, and a happy one at that is nearly immediately your state of mind before you even have a state of mind.
And so it goes…Your life continues to grow in importance and your value for the acknowledgment of that growth is as immaculately conceived of now as your request for it at the earliest. You now rely on a machine, an algorithm to receive it, but the values that undergird it are the same. And more often we are able to not only request the attention we crave, but we learn how to “hack” the reality we live in and share the type of narrative that is all but sure to develop notice. The sense of self that comes from this relationship is surely false and produces in its captors a sense of self that they can not see as false since they were co-conspirators in the “hack”. You slowly calcify this idea of who you are, what you’re values are, what you are supposed to do to maintain that identity. This becomes your priority. That you are consistent in the reflection of who you want to be to others is what creates that reality for them and subsequently through your efforts, you.
It is this ego-feeding that creates the challenges we face, whether in our political sphere or our personal ones. The more we interact, fabricate and develop the idea of our self, current, future or otherwise (historical refabrication is common and our memories are not what we think they are), the more we assume we are in control of our lives, when in fact eh story of our lives is ruling us. That is what adventurers must love, to have no story to maintain, they just get to share in discovery with others of something so unknown that they can not themselves have told it prior to living it. That is the path of some, but not nearly enough of us. I am no adventurer, not in the true sense of the word, but I have been on a journey recently. I have been rediscovering myself and resetting the expectations of my own narrative. I have been in the process of trying to walk away from the ego story. The Sisyphean cycle is often held together by the fear that the “true self” being discovered to not align with the crafted narrative will bring ruin. I have found more and more that this is simply not the case.
Have an aesthetic. Have a preset. Make sure you stay consistent. That is the messages that I receive from a lot of blogs, professionals and friends in the community of photography. I hear from folks when I speak to wanting to increase my reach. I hear it when I express my desire to find new business. I hear it all the time and I do fully appreciate the logic of it. If you have a style, a branded way of seeing the world, you are a known quantity, people can understand who you are, how you see things and how you will edit things to make others see things. I have heard a lot of advice this and yet I find myself at odds with it. I dont understand why I would capture the world through a single framework. The world is not a single framework, people do not see the world the same and being told to represent how I see the world in a single way seems very limiting.
We have gotten accustomed to adding a filter to our lives, and I am surely not the only one who has reflected on how that is how the digital social economy is really been developed, creating some sort of view of our reality that extracts the best qualities and surpasses the others. We curate everything about what we share, from the image to the edits, if you edit your work. There is a long history of this kind of editing process that puts value on light and darkness, extracting the best aspects of your images. Ansel Adams is often a reference in this regard, having spent years in the darkroom before the instant filter, dodging and burning his way into the American psyche. His work and the thousands of other film and early photographers were built on the world they explored, and while the subject matter changed, the aesthetic they developed came from the editing process they themselves developed was something often consistent.Their world view, their aesthetic was developed over time and eventually they settled on a way to express how they saw the world. It is an age-old adage in photography or art to find something that you can be known for. Not for purely capitalist purposes, though there is a desire to make a living from one’s passion/skill, but rather from developing a practice that aligns with the creatives values, interests and lived experiences you have. Each famous person becomes tied to this personal filter, inextricably identified with who they chose to be. This is not the worst thing to be associated with, but I’ve come to believe that in this day and age, the idea of choice is really lost and therefore the pressure to have a look should really be reframed on how to not confine yourself to a look. Your life is every day different, your inclinations shift, your knowledge and skills grow, pivot and alter themselves as you go and live. You are able to find new inspiration in so many things, but not if you are trying to maintain a stability of aesthetic, than you are just developing into the comfort of knowing, or slight alterations of what always is, and will be. You are limiting your view to keep you assured of the notoriety you’ve already found, support from familiar faces and acceptance of your work for the sake of…well I will let you fill in that blank. Today, developing an aesthetic for many is based on the trends of the few platforms and systems that highlight your work. The challenge of finding a space for you to express yourself is related to your ability to develop a synergy with a platform that fits your needs, not finding multiple platforms that fit various needs. You should only have one need. One format, one style, one way of representing yourself and therefore one place to host it.
I am trying to find the balance between the needs to develop an eye of my own reality that keeps interest form a diverse audience, with their limited, seconds long attention span. It seems unlikely I will end up finding a series of new platforms, and aesthetics that I will find full claim on, never evolving, and therefore I am not sure that I am interested in being on platforms outside the single representation of my experience and interests. How do I promote that? How do I set a consistent set of expectations around not having expectations. It is the question of the day for me, and something I am not sure has an answer. Feel free to share yours below!