On being yourself

Black and white bee on milkweed
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

A photographer I follow on Twitter linked to a blog post Chase Jarvis wrote about this idea, on being true to yourself with respect to photography: Stop Trying to Get Everyone To Like Your Work.

In the post he talked about how sometimes photographers stop being true to their passion, and instead get caught up in comparisons, what-ifs and so on, ignoring their unique artistic voice in favour of these external (self-imposed!) constraints or trying to make work they think will please everyone.
Simply said, by trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one, especially not yourself.
I've read a zillion posts by photographers criticizing those who like to take pictures of flowers, or dogs, or do 365 projects or heaven forbid, take photos of their children (the infamous MWACs), even wedding photography has their share of scoffers. Name any subject in photography and I am sure you will find many photographers that poo-poo it, look down on it and chastise those who do it. So what do you do if taking photos of flowers is your passion? Or pet photography? Or <--insert subject here--> photography?

I have a hard time with this. It's actually one of the reasons I haven't posted in a bit -- I get caught up in analyzing my work and instead of enjoying it, it becomes a heavy thing. So it's good to step back, take a deep breath and remember that other photographers who I admire for their truly unique vision and perspective on photography experience similar struggles ... doesn't make it any easier, but it is reassuring.

Lamium and clematis

People can smell whether you love what you’re shooting or not, love what you’re pimping or not, love what you’re doing or not. So you might as well effing love it for real. It’s all you’ve got.
- Chase Javis


  1. this post is why I follow you on your blog, twitter, and flickr. your photos are simply the best of its kind out there.

  2. Wow, John. You're one of the photographers I admire. Thank you.

  3. I love your photos. I'm envious of your talent and ability to see.

  4. Three more amazing shots but the purple flower is stellar.

  5. Beautifully said and even more beautifully illustrated.

  6. totally ditto what John said! Your work is amazing!!!

  7. Oh my god! these photos are amazing!!! Thank you for sharing your vision with the world. You've made it a better place.

  8. Thanks so much for the kind comments everyone - much appreciated!

  9. Seems to me that photography is a little like writing poetry - it's possible to accidentally/instinctively produce something amazing on pretty much the first try without knowing a lot about technique.

    But to do so consistently, one needs, in addition to passion, to learn, practice, think, consider and self-criticize, maybe for years. So much so, that all of that becomes nearly-unnoticed second nature that comes to bear on the tenth or hundredth of a second it takes to make an image.

    All of it shows in every one of your images, ma'am...

  10. Hi coyote -- great comment! I agree with you ... about being able to produce something amazing and wonder how it happened, leading to new discoveries. Do you think the self-criticism or over-analysis ever fades ... I'm thinking it might be important to the process (though not if it impedes). Interesting to think about!

  11. You absolutely correct! For about a year I tried to shoot to get published on the 1x website. What was the result? A bunch of frustrations and pictures that I didn't like. I look at others pictures and take what I like from them and try to work them into my own visions but ONLY if I like it, I don't do it to be popular with others. Hope you had a great Canada day!!!

  12. Thank you for linking to that article. I've been pretty down on myself lately, doubting the fact that I have any talent at all, yet loving taking the photos. I've always admired your work, and without even knowing it, you have inspired me from the beginning. So there.
    Love the bee . . . and that purple flower is splendiferous. Yes, I know that's not a word. But it is what it is.

  13. Hi Candis, This is so timely and so important. Thank you for sharing it and for the courage to take an honest look at it. That is vital in this age of image overload. And I have to say that of the hundreds of blogs I see and photographers' work I look at, I have a small handful that I respect and am eager to see what they post next.

    Yours is one of them.

    Thank you also for your very sweet comment.

    Happy New Week to you.

    xo – g

  14. Oh Candis, I know I'm coming to this post late, and others have already told you what I will say here, but I have to tell you that you are an incredible photographer! I cannot for a moment imagine that you feel somehow lacking... You present consistently beautiful and thoughtful images... Your compositions and color and processing is always spot on! And it is always a great joy and privilege to visit here to share them!