Hi! I am Erika. Welcome to “Dear Humann,” a subsidiary of Two Mann Two Sense, where you get to ask the important questions — photography questions, business questions, relationship questions, advice on how to ask someone out on a date, what is the best coffee in the world, or why the sky is blue. And us Humanns answer them with our sage and sometimes salty take on your quandaries.
Being a human is complex. Being a human in a creative field is even more complex. Being a human in a creative field that works with their spouse is even more complex. Everything about you is in play when you create. That means finding the answers to those bigger questions so that you can continue paving the path to your creative life as a photographer.
Dear Humann will replace Two Mann, Two Sense on the last Tuesday of every month.
How do I slow the fuck down with a camera in my hands? It gives me so much energy and life that I find myself trying to be quick and efficient and rushing the creative process the entire way. I rush and then chimp to judge my work in the moment, instead of chimping to analyze what I see for the benefit of creating better compositions. When I’m in the middle of a shoot or telling a wedding day story, it’s like being up to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning with the game on the line in 11th grade. Knowing I could be the hero or the zero, and fearing the later the entire time. Essentially ruining the whole experience for myself. I’ve heard my voice in both of your heads when you explain what you were thinking during demos. I get lost in my head like Lanny, and negative about what I feel like I’m creating, like Erika. How did y’all slow down?
Dearest Rushin’ Russian,
Holy hell, does this resonate! Without knowing anything more than what you’ve shared, I know that we have a lot in common.
One of my earliest school memories is from grade three: The awesomeness of the 80s decked-out classroom in awful shades of brown and orange fake vinyl. The pre-computer era classroom lined with desks and green chalkboards that contrasted nicely with the dreadful colours. My teacher’s desk was situated in a corner, which meant that when we did poorly on the weekly spelling quizzes (um, yes, that was me), we would have to line up beside her desk to discuss our results. Right beside my teacher’s desk was a bristol board, displaying each of the student’s names. Next to each student’s name was a spot for accolades of greatness: Technicoloured variety of foil gold star stickers. Some kids had two next to their name. Some kids had 10. Some had 30.
So, this is what I had to stare at, while in line to talk about my spelling test results. It didn’t make me feel good. But, it also didn’t make me feel particularly bad. It made me feel average. I knew my place was firmly planted in the middle of the pack. As I progressed through school, the gold stars were replaced with grades, “student of the week,” and “student of the month” awards. Again, there I was firmly planted in the average, middle of the pack zone.
We’ve all been trained, since a very young age, to judge our success on gold stars, grades, and external rewards. Because, let’s face it, they make us feel good. And, when we feel good, we think we’ve found our path. Which is likely what’s happening to you on a wedding day: You’re looking for gold stars. They make you feel good. And, there are probably 2–3 times on a wedding day where you get that gold star. Even if momentarily, that rush validates that you’re good. But, if you’re anything like me, chimping just solidifies the feeling that we’re getting utter shit in the field.
We’ve all been there. If getting the gold star validates that we’re good, then not getting the gold star does the opposite. We’re not good. So, we work harder and harder, chasing the glittery trails of gold stars over and over again. Because one, two or ten, is never enough. It’s a shitty dichotomy of feeling like we can’t win, no matter how hard we think we’re trying.
I still come back to being that third grader staring at the chart, feeling average. It happens many times on a wedding day. It’s when I start to question my career choice. It’s when I compare myself to others (especially Lanny). It’s when I put myself on that chart of students and see myself in the middle. “Well, at least there are some people below me,” I will think to myself, giving me a moment of reprieve.
Well, you know what? FUCK those gold stars. Those gold stars are utter bullshit. Now that I am not in grade three, I can say those words without getting detention. Those gold stars don’t work for me. Those gold stars don’t work when it comes to being creative. Gold stars stifle creative thinking and learning. They take the enjoyment completely out of photography. They take the enjoyment out of learning.
Instead, I want to tap into another part of my grade-three self: The girl that would run wild and free during recess. My favourite subject. That girl didn’t give a shit about gold stars. All she cared about was getting to that tire swing and going as high as she possibly could. Not because it was in competition to anyone else, because it was inherently fun flying through the air and spinning at warp speeds, all at the same time.
It’s so easy for me to advise you to have more fun, Rushin’ Russian. But is it as simple as that? Take yourself out of the classroom and put yourself in the playground. Swing as high as you can possibly go. Leap off the monkey bars. Run up the slide. Run for the pure joy of it. When you’re at the bottom of that 7th inning, remember you’re playing baseball because you love it. Whack that baseball, because it feels so good to hit that ball hard and make it fly. But you must also accept that in doing so, you’ll miss many times. Once you accept that missing the ball is part of the fun of the game, it frees you from the shackles of the chase to the gold stars.
Make photos because you love people. Make photos because you value curiosity. Make photos because it’s fun to learn how to improve and get better. Make mistakes. Immerse yourself in that wedding day, the same way you immersed yourself into play as a kid. Stop chasing those gold stars. Stop chasing hero status. Play baseball because you love the game, not because you need the praise.
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