I came across with this article long ago. Zack Arias is one of the few artists that I’ve been following all these years. He is well known in photographers’ circles for his talent but mostly for his “cut the BS” attitude. No, he is not rude. He just speaks the truth.
Zack’s Q&A project is worth visiting. All questions are from REAL people who describe problems or situations that we have all been into. This particular question is something that we all have experienced. We all hit the wall at some point. Zack’s reply is a must READ and follow it every single day. You can find the original post by searching in Zack’s blog “hit the wall” , it shows on top.
Q: At what point do you decide to put down the camera and walk away from the camera potentially forever? I’ve been shooting for about four and a half to five-ish years and i feel like i’ve hit a wall both in creativity and in being a skilled photographer. I’ve been watching your videos recently and have felt very inspired but when i pick up my camera to do something with that inspiration i find myself at a loss for ideas. I’m a concert photographer looking to branch out into portraits but… The person asking this question continues….
(cont.) i cant seem to find locations or bands willing to be shot since they all have their own “photographers”. i find myself more and more discouraged and I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m just not cut out for this profession no matter how much i love it.
Note :: The person who asked this did so under their Tumblr login. I checked their tumblr, their twitter, and the like. I’ve decided to remove his name from the question so no one feels singled out or stalked or whatever. The person asking knows who they are. I know who you are. It’s all good. I want to speak frankly to you and you not feel weird about it in a public setting.
A: Ok “J”. Time to kick your ass a bit and give you some advice that will push you over, pick you back up, and ultimately… just leave you in the exact place you started when you asked this question. I have an uncanny ability to do this.
Here we go.
I checked out your tumblr. There’s nothing there. Then I went to your twitter profile. There’s no link to your site. No information about who you are. Where you are. What you do. Etc. Popped over to your IG account and the same. Garden variety IG photos like we all have with a few live music shots thrown in. Again, no link. No bio. No location. No full name.
So I went through your twitter feed. What do you twitter about? Sports. Gears of war. Bad model mayhem models. A desire to break into sports photography. Hating on your day job. Feeling uncreative, cynical, frustrated, and down on yourself. Etc. etc.
Lemme get Dr. Phil on ya for a minute.
I’d say you have very little confidence in yourself. I’d say it’s you against the world most days. I’d say that in 5th grade you had a chance to punch Jack Tullis in the mouth and you didn’t take that chance. In 9th grade you had the chance to kiss Beth Treadaway and didn’t take that chance.
I’d say you have a few extra pounds on your bones, you have a shit day job, you see people climbing mountains and, well, you haven’t found your boots yet.
In short. You sound EXACTLY like me. Damn it. I had that chance to punch Jack’s lights out and I never took it. 5th grade. J.G. Dyer elementary. On the playground. Had the chance. I’m 40 and I still wish I’d have kicked him in the balls or something. Should have grabbed Beth by the hand, pulled her close, and should have planted a big ol’ awkward 9th grade kiss on that girl.
WTF does this have to do with photography? EVERYTHING!!!
Look. I was the shy fat kid for just about all of my life. Now I’m just the fat kid!
I wanted to do something great with my life but had zero direction until a camera was put in my hands. But at the start it was almost like being lost in the desert and finding a compass. That had no needle.
“Ok. Here’s a thing that can help me find the way but there’s still something missing so, at the end of the day, it’s no help at all.”
Yeah. That was my life. By the time I reached my mid 20’s I was pissed off, cynical, and ready to take a bullet. 1/4 of a century old and not a damn thing to show for my life. I had yet to be successful at anything. I had yet to do something I was proud of. I had more regrets than anything. Should have punched Jack. Should have kissed Beth. Should have payed attention in college. Should have found a better job. On and on.
I sold everything I owned in 1995, bought a VW bus, and left it all behind for six months. That was one of the greatest things I’ve done for myself. At the end of that trip I realized I HAD to do something with my life or I’d just end up a bitter and cynical asshole. So I went back to school for photography. I learned the craft. I assisted. I built a portfolio. I got out into the world and started becoming a photographer.
Then guess what?
I failed miserably at all of it. Photography. Life. Creativity. All of it. A 100% total loser.
Moved in to my brother’s basement at the age of 29. That was fun. Single dad. No job. No money. No photography. Bitter. Cynical. Hating life. Hating myself. On and on. Couldn’t take off. Couldn’t run away. I was a dad now. I had obligations.
Got a day job I hated. Worked the grind. Did all that shit.
In short, the one thing I wanted to do the most I had to leave.
Then I got a chance again. I was NOT going to f*ck it up this time.
I HAD to get out there. I had to get over all of my damn insecurities and make this happen. I wanted it more than anything. I got focused. I set some goals. I set my priorities. I learned how to talk to people. I learned how get over the fact that I wasn’t awesome but that also was not going to stop me. A lot of people who sucked were finding success. If they could do it, I could do it.
I changed my attitude. I made it a point to help people. I made it a point to be thankful for whatever little bit I had. I made it a point to be ok with who I was and what I did even in the dark days. It was ok. Everyone sucks. Everyone is struggling with something. Everyone gets knocked down. The great ones get back up. The great ones keep going. The great ones don’t take themselves too seriously. The great ones lend a hand when they can. The great ones don’t sit in self pity. The great ones don’t bitch and moan about everyone else. The great ones put their hand to the plow and do their work.
Yeah. I want to be a great one. I want that more than anything. If I can’t shoot the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine then damn it, I’m going to help someone shoot the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. If today I’m shooting photographs of toilets instead of gorgeous Italian models (Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, etc) then damn it, I’m thankful I get to take photos at all. My work might not be great but I’m going to share. I’m going to put it out into the world. I’m going to make it so people can find me. I’m going to get out there and not effing take no for an answer. I’m going to work harder and harder and harder. I have the rest of my life to make a go of it and that is what I’m going to do.
So J…. Whatever your life has been up to now…. leave it behind. Seriously. Wash your hands of it. It’s done. It’s gone. It’s past. It’s done. That still leaves you exactly where you are… which, isn’t much to stand on. And guess what. That’s fine. You have a shit job. Fine. You can’t get bands to give you a second thought. No problem. Whatever. It’s all good. It’s where you are but it isn’t where you’ll end. You’re living your story. Every great story starts at the bottom.
So. You tweeted this…
“I want to start a studio/product portfolio, band promo portfolio, wildlife portfolio, and update my live music portfolio.”
In addition to all of that you also want to shoot sports. Each of those things will take years to work on. Might want to narrow your focus a little bit. What is it you MOST want to do and go after THAT. Your day job is now your own personal corporate sponsor to get you going in that direction. Drop every expense in your life that you can live without. I hope your camera is back from the shop. You need that, a lens or two, and a flash. That’s it. Don’t get all caught up in buying gear and gear and more gear. It doesn’t matter. Rock what you have.
Get a web site up and running. Whatever you have now as far as a portfolio, put that up there. Link to it from your tumblr, your twitter, etc. Put your full name on all of this stuff. Put your location. Get your phone number on the web. When people start to look you up give them plenty to look at and make it easy for them to find you. Drop the negative vibe from some of your online presence. I’m not saying be untruthful but just drop the negative vibe from your head more than anything. Stop being down on yourself. You have a long ass way to go and it’s going to be hard and you can be honest about that but let people find you with your head up, your eyes on the prize, and your hand on the plow. Not sitting on the side of the road with your tail between your legs and an xBox controller in your hand.
Oh yeah, burn your xBox. Or Playstation. Or whatever it is. You have a hella ton of work to do and that shit is eating your time and keeping you from your goal.
Go read this article right freaking now. Find what you love and let it kill you. Print that shit out and put it on your bathroom mirror. Read it every day until you are living it.
Pet some puppies. Smell a rose or two. Be thankful that whatever hardship you are facing today ain’t shit compared to most of the world’s population. Instead of buying a lens, buy a plane ticket to India. Go couch surf in Mumbai. Tell me you have it rough after that. I dare you.
Get off your ass. Stop staring at your feet. Stop watching my videos. Go and “do”. Smile. Laugh. Facebook that girl from 9th grade and tell her you should have kissed her. Unless you’re married. Then don’t do that shit. No no no. Right Meg? Right honey? Right?
GO!!! It’s going to take you the rest of your life to reach your goal. You better freaking get started.
Seriously…. burn your xBox. Or, pawn it. Get some cash. Use the money to get a passport and a malaria shot.