Dichotomies (2 of 6)

Last week I introduced the idea of a vertical spectrum. If you did not read last week’s newsletter please read it here before reading this week’s edition.

This week’s dichotomy is Selfishness vs. Generosity.

Most of us are being pushed down by the gravity of selfishness. Being pulled up by generosity will help us stand taller and brighter. What I mean by selfishness probably isn’t what you’re thinking. I don’t mean selfishness in the traditional sense of the word of consciously putting our own needs before others.

“I want to create more authentic work.” “I want to create meaningful work.” I hear these sentiments often in the photography world.

These are 100% valid wants and needs. They’re selfish in nature, but not in a bad way. They’re self-focused in wanting to be the best version of ourselves. So, in that regard, they’re incredibly nourishing and important. BUT, they are also traps. They also push us DOWN on the vertical spectrum. Asking yourself “How can I make the most authentic work?” is a trap. That’s the equivalent of asking yourself what your accountant thinks is the five-step process to creating authentic work. Or asking your business coach to sketch out a two-year plan to create more meaningful work. And then recalling those things in the midst of trying to be your most authentic self.  

If I am in the middle of a photography shoot, and I put the cage of “authenticity” or “meaning” around what I am doing, I usually end up lost. Lost and not knowing what to focus on (pun intended).

What does authenticity even mean? Does the very act of trying to be authentic make you inauthentic? It’s one of life’s great paradoxes.

So let’s scratch those questions completely, not because they aren’t valid, but because they limit our thinking. And, really, they are SO hard to answer, they often prevent us from creating in the first place. Let’s ask a question that’s much easier to answer instead:

“What is the most generous thing I can do in this moment?”

Putting down your camera and helping grandpa down the stairsFiddling with the light to get it just perfect. Offering a smile. Shooting the shit out of something or putting your camera down. Blending into the background, photographing a story quietly and discreetly. Taking the lead and giving directions. Letting go of decision-making. Making a hard decision.
It will be different for each of you, in each scenario. And it will lead to the most beautiful things… Your most authentic self and your most authentic work.

Next up Arrogance vs. Humility

Love, Erika

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