self importance

Boyte Creative Alaska Grandpa

I wrote three different drafts of this blog and gave up. Here goes nothing but a stream of consciousness and probably the least effective of the four. The topic I was drafting was the difference between self-confidence and self-importance in the media world, or more specifically in my small photographer world.

Photographers, we are not the shit. It feels like this new wave of us (yeah, me and my young 3 year career included) thinks because of our hoards of instagram followers and tons of facebook likes per post, we can act like we are the hottest thing in town. Let me be the 15th person to remind you that it’s all fluff. A great image isn’t an iphone photo with symmetry and a VSCO filter framed at 16×9 with a white box around it, it’s one with a story. And just because you have a fan club online, doesn’t make you hot stuff. We need to humble ourselves and actually do shit that matters.

You may recall seeing a viral video of the Ira Glass words about his experience or lack of in the industry. About how he had taste but no ability to express it the way he knew would tell the story he was crafting. It took years and years (yes, 12 months requires patience, now multiply it) of shipping content. Failing, shipping, failing, shipping. “A large volume of work.” Well, let’s take a second and reflect.

Here we are, in a world of 20 second attention spans and no discipline to listen. Stop.

If we want to differentiate ourselves from all the noise and lack of actual substance in our daily intake, then we need to listen. Ask questions. Engage in someone else. It’s not often I am in a conversation with meaningful questions. I feel like I travel a decent amount, tallying up somewhere close to 150 flights in the past 3 years. And I am constantly in conversation with different clients, other photographers/crew members, random people on the plane. And though this thought is much more broad than photographers, my conversations rarely include dialogue I remember. And what a HUGE opportunity this presents us, if we can be the ones who listen.

Imagine if we really cared about others, craved to go forth with a selfless and others before ourselves approach. Not self deprecating, selfless. And that’s the circle that delivers us to the difference between self-importance vs self-confidence. We should carry confidence with us, all the best do. Know that what we dig and our taste has a purpose in this world (hint: most clients seem to have respect for confidence in moderation). But let us all be conscious of feeling like we are more important than anyone else. Did you save a life today? Cause my sister-in-law is a doctor and if not today, she did at some point this week. Did you help the government keep people honest with their taxes so we all pay into and benefit equally from the current structure? Cause my aunt called and had to deal with that dude for the 4th time to let him know his tax avoidance is going to suck soon. Did you labor your ass off to pull oil out of the ground so the world can function/transport goods and manufacture things like your gear/camera equipment? Cause my three uncles and grandpa (pictured above) did today and I got nothing on them or how hard they work. We all play our part, but that’s just it.

Our photographs are important, but know this, they are a very small part of the much grander picture. I love my job/work and absolutely love the lifestyle it allows me to live, wouldn’t trade it for anything. But the industry as a whole needs to be very conscious of the world around us. Outside of the top 10% and few really good journalists still in existence, our work is very replaceable. Let’s start telling meaningful and important stories.

And my small social media pet peeve: we all need to stop relying on our instagram likes to boost our self confidence and start developing real, meaningful relationships. And occasionally tell someone else how rad they are. Try this: let’s turn off any social media notifications that are based on ‘likes’ and instead spend time each week telling others how impactful they or their work is for us.

We have a mantra that we do our best to live by at Boyte Creative: work hard, do good work (do the best you can), and make people happy (care more about others than ourselves). I am more confident today, than any other, that if we can do those three things collectively and consistently, we’ll always have the trust of clients and our peers. I personally can do a better job of all of this, and definitely fall under the age old saying of ‘you preach what you need to practice’.

So, here’s my call to action for myself and fellow image makers: less self-importance and more selflessness, which will hopefully lead to meaningful work and deeper relationships.


Picture above :: one of the most humble men I know, Grandpa Driskill, in Alaska a couple summers ago.


  • Julie Wagner - Amazing…simply amazing! Thank you for telling the true stories about real people and the beautiful world we are blessed to live in. It brings joy to the soul!ReplyCancel

  • Grandpa - The old man better watch his speed in 55 mph speed zone.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Nye - I recognized your grandpa. Thanks for identifying him. Wonderful blog, Shaun.ReplyCancel

twice a week : 11222013

I texted David, who had just landed back in Kansas from being gone a week in California,  on tuesday the 12th ::

4:05p | “can you be here at 8am tomorrow?”

4:08p | “8am tomorrow? i’d have to leave tonight at like 11pm. i don’t think that is going to happen haha. i just got back to my parents (where all my belongings are) a few minutes ago.”

8:26p | “about to leave kc. this is the craziest thing I’ve ever done I think.”

He showed up on our doorstep at 6:56am, with an exhausted but psyched smile on his face. We then got in the car and drove 9 hours to Zion National Park to meet up with Mike Grace, our producer, who drove from Santa Monica, to teach him how to shoot video on a 5D. We camped one night, woke up, cooked eggs and bacon over the morning fire, hiked and shot for a couple hours or so and then got back in the car and drove back.

This is the type of living I want to continue seek. One where I step out of my normal patterns and seek new perspectives, chase sunsets, and learn to ask more questions than I answer. The trip started and ended with new faces. Devon and Curtiss, sitting in their rad orange bus (better colors in David’s instagram shot), were driving from Oregon to Kansas for the holidays. We liked their bus and asked if we could take a portrait. And the last photo is Anthony, a guy who has been on the road for the past five years, searching for answers. We drove him the 150 miles from Zion to Moab. He is a brilliant guy, just decided to put some clothes in a backpack and hit the road.

It’s dudes like David, who get in their car at 8:30p to drive 19 hours from Kansas to Zion just to experience something he’s never done before, that inspire me. It’s couples like Devon and Curtiss, who buy an old pop top, grab their two pups and make time for slow road trips, to write a better story, that inspire me. It’s a guy like Anthony, who even when he has nothing but a few clothes and an old guitar, decides he is going to travel the entire country, that inspire me.

I will push myself to do things that I’ve never done before, so I can be inspired by people I’ve never met before.

Below is a photo essay of the trip documented with a polaroid 600 and impossible project film.

boyte polaroid_4 copyboyte polaroid_19boyte polaroid_3boyte polaroid_2boyte polaroid_22boyte polaroid_1boyte polaroid_6boyte polaroid_20boyte polaroid_21boyte polaroid_5

twice a week : 10312013

I am going through a phase of crazy testing on images/styles/approaches, figuring out what speak most to me. Twice a week is a way to ship as much content as possible, and push myself in ways I’d otherwise not. This past month alone I’ve shot stills with my go-to canon 5dm3, a 35mm pentax k1000, a 600 b grade polaroid camera from impossible project, and a fuji x100s.

VSCO has done an incredible wonder for all of us on the digital side of things, but occasionally, a part of me wants to fire a shutter and wait, hoping that i’ve exposed properly, focused where i wanted. the payoff is so rich. i got my first color scans back taken on my Pentax k1000 from indie film lab and i thought i’d share a couple frames from the past 8 weeks or so :: trip to mt. evans, camping in at the base of mt. huron, a day trip up to loveland pass, and ben and rob from fin art.



I had the incredible pleasure to be chosen to join the Something Independent Founder’s Series filmmakers, which is a project Chuck Sullivan started to highlight both colorado folks who are doing what they love and are passionate about, along with a local filmmaker who captures and tells their story, or in my case, just a little nugget of who these people are. I had the honor to head down to Buena Vista with Chuck, Ally, Cat and Jeff for a day, really just a little moment, to capture a little bit about Lenny and Amy and their Deerhammer Distillery Company. For the full story/blog and beautifully crafted piece head to SI’s piece here. Here’s just a small touch of what I saw //

Joy. Pure, unaltered, little kid joy. It’s the feeling you’re told as a kid to go out in the world and find, but then as soon as you become a teen everyone steers you away from in search of this unattainable ‘success’ we call chasing paychecks and stacking cash. When we dropped in to the Arkansas River, that was all you saw from the entire being that makes up Lenny Eckstein, joy. Lenny and Amy moved to Buena Vista because they wanted to. Out of a desire to live in a place where mountains, river, and the purest air smashed into each other. And distilling was this passion that started small and kept getting watered. As it grew, so did this realization that it was taking over a majority of thoughts spinning in Lenny’s head. He had no choice but to listen.

And he listened. And that, that moment when he dropped everything and said, “This is it.” It was in that moment when he found a deeper, more satisfying joy. It generally takes something like 2 years before you get whiskey to a place where it becomes profitable, but who cares when you’re chasing dreams. Lenny and Amy are making booze, riding the river, and taking evening bike tours with their pup, Rye, around Buena Vista, which lays in the Arkansas Valley surrounded by the Collegiate Peaks and is a town filled with good people. It’s not all sparkles and shine, but the moments of joy are frequent and strong.

It’s a great feeling to be surrounded by such a rad community of people chasing after what their hearts desire. Thank you to Colorado for such a warm welcome after just a year that we’ve been replanted here. Last night, at the premiere event at Local 46, standing on stage listening to Lenny and Amy talk about their recent pregnancy news, how they went on a trip and he was constantly thinking about getting home to try another version of gin, about how life handed them such a perfect storm of opportunity, it felt so good. Humble people the Eckstein’s are, and whether Deerhammer Distilling is successful in the long run or not, it really doesn’t matter, because they chose the road less traveled, and for that, I have the deepest respect.

Cheers Lenny and Amy. Congratulations on the new addition to your workforce. I can only wish you both the most grand of lives. Thank you for your inspiration – I’ll be bringing everyone I know to your main street building, to try the whiskey, but mostly to soak up the intensely good juju you all give off.

Until next time — godspeed.

Be sure to check out the beautifully designed full post with more pictures and a lot more story/graphics over at the official post here.

  • José Daniel Expósito Marco - Hi :D

    First say that I love your website and your photos, simeplemente wanted to ask a question.

    That effect utilizais for black and white photos? Film VSCO is?

    Really ThanksReplyCancel

  • Jess - Love those black and white pictures! Is that a VSCO filter? Awesome work!ReplyCancel