A Crisis of Confidence

Comparison is the thief of joy.
— Theodore Roosevelt

My progression through photography in the last five years has not been linear. I have had many small successes and a few large failures, but the larger trend is heading in the right direction. Looking back, one of my most substantial missteps has been failing to see the importance of documenting things that hold value to me but perhaps very few others – friends, family and personal moments. It’s all too easy to forget what initially drew us to photography and to begin creating work for an audience, not for ourselves. There is a charming poetry to everyday life, the quiet moments that form our real memories and the things we care about most deeply. It is these very moments that may end up being the most important photographs we ever take. At its heart, photography is a true record of life – real moments and memories, good and bad.

The issue of confidence is a notable through line among much of my internal struggle with photography, and I believe this is why it is so easy to be lured into creating work for the consumption of others and not for our own satisfaction. Over the years my library of printed photographs has grown large; however, I can count the number of framed prints I have displayed on one hand. This was my first suspicion that something was amiss with my work. Let me rephrase that; it was my first suspicion that something was amiss with my own view of my work. We all view our own work through a somewhat distorted lens simply by the fact that we have a deeply personal connection with each image. This is why getting some distance from our own photographs and curating each project with a critical eye is important, but it can become a source of creative paralysis when we become excessively critical. It is clear with even a quick search online that there is no shortage of talented photographers, and it’s all too easy to begin comparing our work to what we see. With this realization a natural question may be, why bother creating images when so much excellent work has already been realized? Honestly, I’m not sure I have the answer. Perhaps it is simply a reckoning with ourselves, an instinct to locate a form of truth in a chaotic world or a need for meaning. All human beings, at some level, need to find meaning within our own existence. In any event, I’ll continue taking photographs, not because I feel my images are special, but because I have something to say; I am compelled to create.