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.