This Is A Brutally Honest Post

On the way to Tulsa, OK. Saturday during a driving rain storm.

Why do I photograph? 

Why do I run? To make myself feel better, both physically and mentally.

Why do I bake? Because it's fun and therapeutic and I love seeing my family's face when they come in after school and work and smell what just came out of the oven.

So why do I photograph? It began as a way to practice my skills and master the never ending craft of photography. But then I discovered sharing my photos on Flickr, Facebook and finally Instagram and then, I think unconsciously, I slid into the mindset of taking photos for other people and forgot to take pictures for me, take pictures that speak to me. I began to take photos, and as much as this makes me uncomfortable to admit, for likes, comments and those little hearts that appear after you double tap an image. I began not posting the photos that I liked, but rather those photos that I thought others might like.

And guess what? Even though the likes, the comments and those little hearts began appearing, I began to feel disenchanted with the whole system and especially the need to feel validated for what started out as something fun for me to do to fill up those final days of my kids' childhoods. 

What started out as something I was doing for myself quickly morphed into doing something for other people, those virtual friends and acquaintances I had made over the Internet. 

Something had to give because I was getting further and further away from what had set out to be fun and motivating for me as I began drifting closer and closer to never putting my phone down/shutting off my computer/ignoring Real Life and paying attention instead to my on-line life more.

Over the weekend, I read a post by the wonderfully talented writer and photographer, Donna Hopkins, where she talked about breaking up from Instagram. It really resonated with me and I've since given a lot of thought as to why I think I need to be on these photo sharing platforms. What I keep coming back to, and again I'm ashamed to say this out loud, is that I was more concerned about what others thought of my work, not what I thought about my work.

I was sharing so that others could say (if they wanted) that I was good and that they thought my image was worth a like, comment or a little red heart. 

I was sharing to feel validated.

That seems pretty silly, doesn't it, and such a sign of an unconfident photographer!

This year seems to be shaping up as to be the year of being "Big & Brave" for me. I've been leaving my business card at local bakeries and eateries here in the the area, saying that if they ever needed a photographer, then I'm available. I'm learning to conquer my fear of driving in big city traffic and checking in and out of hotels (that was something I always left up to David to do). I took part in my first march for equality. I was uncustomarily assertive during the time of my mother's knee replacement surgery. In just a couple weeks time, I'm taking a class from one of my photography heroes who will be teaching in Oklahoma City and I'm hoping to ask to get a picture with him afterwards. I'm pushing myself slowly but surely out of my comfort zone, and my confidence levels are getting higher and higher with every business card I'm leaving and every time I learn to stand up for myself.

I'm feeling more and more steady on my feet.

I decided on yesterday's run that I'm going to take a week off from social media, get away from likes, comments and those little red hearts. The apps are already off my phone and my computer and I'm looking forward to getting back to "me".

I'm hoping to find the answer again as to why I photograph. 

And then to run with it.




A Declaration (Of Sorts)

(I almost titled this post, "What I Learned When I Shipped Off My Nikon To Get Fixed", but decided that was too long).

There's a real sense of freedom in knowing that I am good at what I do, that I don't need to have others say through "likes" or "thumbs up" or gaining new followers to remind me that I'm good. I don't mean that in a conceited way, either. I just mean that I finally feel confident in my ability now as a photographer to say that about myself. I began blogging a year after we moved to Arkansas as a way to keep my far flung family and friends back in Virginia up-to-date on our new life in the Natural State, but when I began blogging in earnest, I also started to notice the fantastic photos some of the bloggers I was reading included in their posts. That led to wanting to learn how to make those same kinds of photos so that I could include them in my own blog posts. 

"To learn".

That was all it was at the beginning. I wanted to learn how to make macro pictures, how to make sunbursts through tree branches, how to make water flowing in a creek look like silk, how to capture motion, how to take better pictures of the kids and of our life. I wanted to learn. But somehow, over the years, I got away from that as I discovered the hypnotic world of Flickr and 500px and Instagram and other social media outlets. Suddenly, I began caring more about how many followers I gained, how many likes I received, whether or not I was featured on the "Explore" pages of Flickr. I spent an inordinate amount of time on-line commenting on other people's photos, on their lives, on their technique. I got so wrapped up in all that, that my own creative outlet that photography was for me began to grow stale and I began to lose confidence: I wasn't good like everybody else who lived these fantastic lives and photographed their subjects and adventures exquisitely and then shared them on-line. 

I had completely forgotten why I picked up a camera in the first place until this past Tuesday when I had to send my Nikon D5 to Nikon because I managed to get one of the wireless transmitters that screws into the front of the camera, stuck.

"Stuck" as in stuck like glue or cement or concrete or anything else that you need a jackhammer and a prayer to get un-stuck. 

Driving home from the camera shop that was going to send it in for me, I was close to tears. I felt like crying over the stupid thing I had done and now my camera had to be sent back to the manufacturer because of something that was my fault. But as I was battling the lump in my throat, a delicious sense of freedom also began to creep in. Maybe somewhere deep inside of me I finally let go of all that competition and envy of others that I had let inhabit me over the years and I could finally get back to how things were in 2006 when I first picked out a template on Blogger and put fingers to keyboard and began writing about my days as a new Arkansasan. I was reminded that it was a camera that got me started, not followers or random strangers that live inside my computer.  It was such a refreshing wake up and one that I've been savoring ever since. 

With this newly discovered freedom, I am also beginning to let go of a lot of my social media accounts. I've done away with my Facebook fan page and have logged out of Facebook altogether so that if I "have"to go visit it, I have to really think if want to (because who can remember all their different passwords for all their sites on the computer?). I've already deleted my old Instagram account (but created a new one where I'm being very choosy over who I follow); Flickr went away months ago, but I am keeping 500px and Pinterest for the sheer inspiration I can find on those two sites.  I have a folder at the top of my browser window called "Mind Sucks" where I keep all my social media sites. It's slowly beginning to get thinner and thinner. It's not because I don't have time, it's just that social media is so noisy and so full of "OOHH!! Look at my picture!! Look at my video!! Look!! Look!! Look at me!!! Notice me!!!" I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with social media - - - if you're a photography business or any type of business, then InstagramFacebookTweetPinterest away! I'm not seeking to go into business (although I would love to be able to shoot sports at Fayetteville High School. Maybe this will be the year I can do that finally!) and I've given that idea a lot of thought, but after thinking of all the time I'd miss with my family, the weekends and evenings I'd have to give up to photograph other people, I decided against going into business, instead focusing on learning to take the best photos of my own family that I can.

I think that all of us want the approval of others, to get those "likes" and "thumbs up" and views on our thoughts, pictures and our lives. But I also think that we let that get in the way of having coffee with real people inside a real coffee shop and not over a phone scrolling through our social media feed while holding a mug of coffee first thing in the morning. You can't see the twinkle in your friend's eye or the dimple in her cheek when she laughs, and you most definitely can't talk with your hands, as I am wont to do. I am a firm believer in living my life and not watching Life from the sidelines. Just because I'm 51 doesn't mean I'm giving up, heck, I'm just getting started. I have a clear sense of what it is that I want to do now, a clearness of mind, of re-connecting with that long ago blogger newly transplanted to Arkansas. I will be real to myself, real to my family and real to my friends. I will continue my learning because that is truly where all the fun lies.

And I will continue to count down the days to when I get my D5 back.