PetaPixel

Fear and Self-Loathing in Photography

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About twelve months ago, PetaPixel very kindly published my article “The Vital Link Between Emotions and Creativity in Photography.” Well, it’s one year later and I’m back to tell you how I over came my “Photographers block” and share a few key lessons that I have learned along the way.

After losing my mother, I felt like all of the motivation and creativity had drained out of me and I’d been left with a void that no camera or beautiful image could fill. To those of you that have lost somebody close to you or have suffered hardships, this may sound familiar.

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Putting the natural grieving process to one side, I struggled to figure out how to regain my creativity and get out shooting again. After a few months of getting my mind straight, I decided I needed something positive to focus on, and that’s when photography came to the rescue!

I have always been a keen car lover, which is why a friend of mine approached me and asked if I would help him take a few pictures for an article he was writing. At first I was very wary as I felt like every time I picked up the camera it was like picking up a brick and nothing useful could come of it. But after a long discussion with my friend about what he wanted to achieve — which was to produce a great looking automotive news/reviews website — I was hooked.

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I couldn’t wait to get out and start planning car shoots and location scouting. Then it dawned on me, the one thing I missed the most during my unmotivated period was simply “direction.”

Humans by their very nature seem to be able to achieve far more when they have a clear, laid-out plan and some direction for how they can achieve their goals. Before I knew it, we were out shooting cars and meeting automotive industry people and planning to take over the automotive world — thus was born Oversteer Addicts.

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Everything seemed great, but then the one thing that will get every photographer slipped in, the dreaded “fear.” I started to panic that the work I was producing was not good enough, and that people would mock it (even though the website hadn’t even gone live yet!). The problem with being creative is that everything you produce is yours, and therefore you have to take the criticism when it comes — that is a terrifying thing.

So now I had gone from not being able to produce anything to being too scared to produce anything. That’s when the inevitable self-loathing started to weigh heavily on my mind. Would I ever be good enough? Am I wasting my time? If there will always be somebody better than me, what’s the point?

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Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, right? Or is it just me? Please God don’t let it be just me!… The truth is, it isn’t just me, and my advice to any photographer experiencing this is to just stop it! Let go of the fear, it will only serve to cripple your creativity, halt your growth as an artist and ultimately restrict you from achieving the things that you want to achieve.

I feel lucky to have had the opportunities that I have had over the past twelve months, but they were all opportunities that I have allowed myself to have by letting go of the fear and saying “yes” instead of “I’m not sure I can.”

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Once you start to believe in yourself and act like the person that you want to become, you start to become that person. I know my images are a long way off from where they need to be, and I know that there a lot of people out there producing better work than I am. But now that I’ve taken the first steps towards getting out there and doing it, the rest will come in time.

Good luck with your own adventures…


About the author: Ross Jukes is an amateur photographer from Birmingham, England. Ross has a passion for cars, and recently became an editor and photographer for the website Oversteer Addicts. You can find more of his work on Flickr and/or his website.


 
 
  • Norshan Nusi

    Great article dude.

    Very motivating :)

  • Renato Murakami

    Grief… that’s what happened when you lost your Mother, and it can hugely affect a person’s life – to the point of destroying it. Glad you recovered from it Ross, back to photography and fullfilling experiences.
    About fear of rejection or criticism, think this way: The most sucessful people in the world are also the ones mostly criticized.
    You’ll have to see for yourself over time what sorts of criticism you should take and think about, and the ones you should completely ignore. Because that’s specially the way to go in Internet age.
    With the virtual anonymity effect, along with some other psychological and sociological effects that a virtual environment produces, there has never been such a huge ammoung of thoughtless, impersonal, unconsequential ammounts of comments being thrown around. While the Internet enabled a huge deal of connection between people, it also enable a huge deal of disconnect.
    Lots of people throw very harsh words and comments at another because they don’t see a person… they see an object. A stranger’s profile. A stranger’s blog. A stranger’s photo/work. Worst of all, they usually don’t see the hard work that was put into it, or the feelings that the photographer has/had. They won’t see your story about overcoming grief and finding joy once again in photography (unless they are reading this nice article). So people are quick to throw their own stress, their own frustrations, their own problems at you, via trolling, via hateful comments, via overly blown out excessive criticism.
    But enduring all that and being able to respond only when it’s necessary is part of being a photographer. And if you really find joy in your current work as a photographer, it’ll all be worth in the end! So keep it up, and keep us posted! :D

  • Ross Jukes

    Thank you Renato, I completely agree with the points that you’ve made there. I am very selective over what ‘criticism’ I choose to take and usually, a lot of it is not constructive as you point out. However, I do think that this can hold other people back because they are put off by the first negative comment they receive. I hope that the two articles highlight that there are far more important things in life than one persons opinion and that with the right motivation and frame of mind, anyone can achieve what they want to achieve.

    Personally, I’m only just starting out and there are a lot of improvements that I need to make and things that I want to achieve, but more than anything, I want to enjoy it along the way, Thanks again for your kind words…

  • Vin Weathermon

    Ross; I know exactly how you feel. I lost my father suddenly and two months later lost my young nephew (horrible gruesome accident.) It was difficult to get back into creativity again, mainly because of what became chronic depression. It has been almost four years now, and even though our family is still not quite the same, I am fully dependent on shooting what I see and looking at the beauty of the life I am living now. And the fear, loathing and all that? Yep…every single paid for photography session or event feels like my first public speech for a little while. But I always manage to pull out good stuff that makes my client (and me) happy I did it.

    Best to you and your automotive photography!

  • Shane

    just as Bonnie said I cannot believe that a person able to make $9173 in four weeks on the internet. this link

    w­w­w.Y­A­D­7.c­o­m

  • loppa

    with the new FF nex i will be a FF shooter!!

  • Ross Jukes

    Vin, I’m really sorry to hear about your loss, I won’t insult you by saying I understand how you feel because everyone’s experience is different, but I am glad to hear that Photography is helping, I’m glad you enjoyed the article as well. Thank you and I wish you all the best with your future, Ross.

  • http://www.ameridane.org/ thingwarbler

    Very interesting and quite inspiring, thx Ross. Oh, and your car pix are beautiful, by they way; keep at it. I love the fact that you dare to go w/ the subdued and moody black-and-white look for modern cars, too — works very, very well.

  • Ross Jukes

    Thank you very much, glad you found the article inspiring as well…

  • Dennis Juchems

    A helpful and motivating article for anyone that’s ever been there, which should really be the majority of us photographers.

  • Rob Andrew

    Nice article! I don’t know why but I can’t help but think about the “drive with the fear” scene in Talladega Nights.