I don’t watch a lot of TV. In fact, I can’t recall a show I followed out of sheer entertainment with the exception of NBC’s The Voice a couple years ago.
On any random season, at the beginning, there was no particular artist which stood out yet but the common theme that intrigued me more than the performances was this whole aspect of finding yourself as an artist.
Out of thousands of contestants, none of them would have made it this far if they didn’t have the vocals, the charisma or natural born eagerness to want to be a singer. That’s already a given. What isn’t obvious is in seeing who each of the contestants were artistically yet. At that moment, they sung songs simply because that was the central theme of the show but I failed to see a great deal of uniqueness as far as their delivery.
Regardless of what type of artist you are, personal style is essential if you want to succeed and avoid being labeled as “another performer” or “another” of anything.
Every week the contestants were given different songs to perform and very often it’s not so much about whether they sounded good because in reality they all have amazing distinct voices but the real differentiator came in seeing who was able to personalize something that wasn’t theirs to begin with.
I think we all have heroes and we often aspire perhaps too much to sing, draw, photograph or to do anything like them but that’s not how things work. If you’re serious about wanting to do more with your music or photography or anything, I think we should all be able to easily respond to the question of what specific type of work we genuinely want to create.
It’s not enough to say you want to take photos or that you want to be on a stage. What’s the point of being on a high-rise platform if you’re unsure on what you hope to deliver? I get it. You may not know yet because it is a discovery process which takes time but it’s an ambition we should always have in mind.
The ideal case would be having found your personal style, spend days, weeks or years polishing your craft so well to a point where there will be no one who can possibly create art the way you do. Even then, as a creative, we’re rarely satisfied with just settling with what we’re initially recognized for because there’s always that impetus inside of us to evolve.
You can’t force yourself into working in a certain way. It has to come natural to you and in return, what you yield will be as high caliber as your delivery. As unconventional as Lady Gaga may have seemed at the beginning, she more than anyone knows who she is. Her style defines her and her music classifies her at being the best in her craft.
Nick Onken is a photographer, podcast host, and creative entrepreneur who's career I've admired and followed for the longest. In fact, it was through his work that I discovered myself what I enjoy photographing the most which is people.
Whether it's on his podcast, on Instagram or even through the written word, he's always been very transparent with the up and lows of his career and it's that honestly that's hooked me with paying attention to everything he chooses to share one of which is this video I came across where he mentions how "the creative industry really is a lonely place, especially as a photographer." My only gripe is that I wish it was longer.
Becoming a pro doesn't mean you're a workaholic. It means that you’re good at making time for what matters to you — especially when you don't feel like it — instead of playing the role of the victim and letting life happen to you.
Here's something I'll admit I don't do enough...socialize. Yes, I do realize the importance of it and I do what I can to place myself in situations that allow me to do so but in the end the entire concept of going out to party doesn't appeal to me. I never feel like I'm missing out on anything. Instead, I attempt to focus on things that matter to me so while it may seem like I'm always working I view more as a road that's leading me to something more meaningful rather than trivial things.
Whether they were born there or not, I've never come across a Colombian person who hasn't spoken highly of their country. After doing research, I quickly realized how close it to New York (5hr flight) and how such an ideal destination it would be to vacation with the family.
Colombia itself is a vast country, so eventually one has to decide on the type of vacation you want to embark on because that will determine the best region to visit. For us, we're beach addicts so Cartagena was a no-brainer. It's a Caribbean city brimming with culture, bright colors, delicious food and of course heat!
Feel free to explore the photographs from our vacation!
Drives me crazy in the most optimistic way how sometimes the most simple advise can offer such deep perspective in those moments when you need to hear it:
One of the difficult parts about being a photographer is that you can't fake what you do. One can fabricate ideas of what one hopes to photograph or how far we wish to travel to create the work we feel best illustrates our talent but if all we do is talk and write about it without having actions to coexist with our statements, then people will surely see through that.
Unlike a writer, there's only so much we can do as photographers with our laptops sitting pleasantly behind a desk. We spend this enormous amount of money on our camera equipment alone for a reason and it’s sure as heck shouldn't be for the purpose of bragging that we own it. There's no way around the fact that a photographer is identified by the work they produce out in the field and not what they daydream about in the comfort of their mind or in their office.
I've been victim of falling into this trap in the past. The value of an idea is not simply having purely conceptualized it. The face value of it lies in the ability to execute it regardless of what comes out on the other end other than knowing that you experimented with something you've been thinking about way too long.
Beginning anything is grueling. Saying that you haven't because you're absolutely busy is worst.
This is not to say I'm not pleased with anything I've photograph thus far but I've noticed that the more I read, the more people I meet the more I discover the type of work I'm drawn to and the more pressure I feel to dedicate time to produce work that's a direct result of my inspiration as oppose to daydreaming too much.
Prior to visiting Cartagena, Colombia this year with the family for vacation, I had done some research on one of Cartagena's last neighborhood boxing gym that survives for the love of the sport. I had managed to communicate via Instagram with the owner and he was more than welcome for me to stop by and photograph a typical 6am training session with a few of his up and coming fighters.
The situation of boxing in Cartagena is very different today from the way it was when the gym was established in 1986 which is why Gonzalez says that if he lived in that sport he would "die of hunger" - hence why he alternates his passion with welding and blacksmithing work. These side jobs allow him allow to survive.
In addition to photographing, I managed to shoot video with the pocket size Sony RX100 V I typically carry with my for video purposes because I wanted to at least walk away with moving visuals that captured the experience of having seen raw fighters in such a raw setting. View the full gallery!
David duChemin has always been one of those photographers who speaks about the emotional aspect of photography. He's written word is as captivating as his work behind the camera and I've personally learned so much from reading his book Within The Frame and VisonMonger which I often peruse on days when I've been in need for some creative direction. David's blog is no exception either - I subscribe to it and recently, he dropped this golden nugget that I just had to share with you because it spoke to me from a perspective I've never contemplated:
To me, the more important question will never be whether or not your photographs have style, but whether they are yours. Whether they say the things you need in your heart to say, whether they reflect your tastes and opinions and individuality. And if they do those latter things, they will eventually do the former. The reverse is not true.
Think about that for a while, especially in those moments when you find yourself following a trend with your work as oppose to recognizing who you really are.
Networking is an essential skill to cultivate as a creative. It applies whether you’re a full time freelancer or someone like myself who currently maintains a day job and side hustles with photography. Nothing beats meeting people face to face regardless of how many DM outreaches you get.
What immediately comes to mind when you think of networking is that mentality of chasing leads to secure the next big job but what I’m referring to in this case is the ability to sustain relationships with like-minded creatives who broaden our perspective in our craft, the industry and life.
Back when Instagram meetups were a thing, I easily found myself in multiple coffee shops a month meeting local New York photographers who I had befriended via Instagram. Depending on location and time, a few photo walks and portraits would result from the meet but ultimately the focus was upon genuine conversations on projects one or the other may be working on. Nowadays, at least for me all of that is non-existent. As the saying goes, “it takes 2 to tango” and I’ve certainly haven’t done my part to maintain potential fading relationships afloat.
Life will always happen, we’ll always have obligations, work and family will forever keep us occupied, so at some point that justification can only take us so far until we make the time for what we value important.
Back then I cared a lot about who I met up with. Perhaps too much where an entire day or week would transpire and my attention was too focused on who I could potentially meet as oppose to what I can create with that same time. Ultimately I stopped caring and it was in that very instance where I feel I found myself creatively.
Instead of reaching out to photographers to meet, I began reaching out to people who were influential within their industry such fitness or in the arts; all in areas that interest me. Developing relationships with these individuals is where I found myself to be alive with my camera because not only was I brewing conversations the same way I always admired Anthony Bourdain did but I was simultaneously creating work that enabled me to exercise my photography skills. It was and continues to be a win, win situation!
I’m not insinuating it’s no longer worth it for me to meet fellow photographers because I do miss it but it’s certainly no longer an obsession of mine because just like I may always be busy, I'm sure I’m not the only one who constantly weights their options in terms of how to spend the little time we all have. Something always has to be sacrificed.