Craft, Beauty, and Impact

We tend to judge our work using three criteria: How well crafted it is. How beautiful it is. And, how much impact it will have (for our clients or the community at large). This is true of all artistic fields; writing, painting, cooking, music.

As photographers, we have absolute control over only ONE of these criteria: How well crafted it is. That’s it. Craft is how we compose, how we light, how we edit, etc. Craft is the only criteria we control. The lack of control can be uncomfortable, but knowing that craft is the only element that we can control, also brings an element of comfort.

How beautiful it is, is a matter of perception. This part of photography is about the opposite of control. It’s about submission, which is a lot harder than it sounds. It’s seeing what you see, noticing what you notice, and perceiving what you perceive.

And, then there’s the third criteria: The photo’s impact. This seems to be the part of the process we WANT the most control of. We want people to perceive our work ‘the right way.’ (Whatever that is). We put SO much effort into creating work that we think people will like. We try to create work that will make people perceive us in the way that we want them to perceive us.

Go ahead, reread that last sentence. This need for control often prevents us from sharing our work. And yet, this criteria requires the input of others. That means ‘outsourcing’ judgment of our work, realizing it won’t be for everyone, and letting go.

As creators, our only job is to put the work out there into the world for others. Once we put it out into the world, we need to be okay with the fact that we’ll never know the long- or short-term impacts of that work. We just gotta look at the craft, question the beauty, keep making, and keep sharing.

Love, Erika

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