The creative process takes many forms and is influenced from artists who can help guide us into different directions. Influences come in different forms, from the things we see, to the mentors who teach us, to the things we read, watch, or even experience — influence can be found everywhere.
I reminded myself today about the hubris I had as a young writer and photographer, which reflected my own insecurities as a creative person. The criticism from others often made me want to quit my creative pursuits. I believed my writing was perfect, and that my photographs were as good as any photographers. But when writing and editing became my life and career, I grew a thicker skin when my writing was criticized by colleagues who only wanted me to get better, and I realized that my self perception was very skewed about my own creative talent.
There was a time in my life where I stopped many personal artistic pursuits. The process actually helped me, and let me understand I was a small fish with the same level of talent as a million others. I also had an epiphany that made me realize that passion, extremely hard work, and an unrelenting desire to become better at anything is what makes you good at something.
The discipline of the artist is important. As photographers we start at the bottom and hone the skills to start creating our own voice and style. There are many bumps on this road with plenty of self doubt, but for those who can hold on and take the ride it’s an extraordinary place to find yourself.
Many books have influenced me as a writer and as a photographer. Books like Walden from Henry David Thoureau, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and most recently The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life by the late Zen Buddhist Monk John Daido Loori, have helped me create a better perspective on life, and have influenced my work ethic and discipline.
I realized I need criticism to build my writing and photography. I read great authors that wrote masterful works and studied how they constructed sentences and syntax in their works. I realized that my photographs looked like snapshots (they probably still do), and that patience and knowing the photographer waits is a recipe to cultivate a better body of work.
John Daido Loori was a photographer who used his practice of Zen meditation to photographically capture his beautiful surroundings. He said that the artist waits, and lives in that moment to capture the right second to trip the shutter.
In this YouTube video he discusses more about zen and photography.
“It’s the moment, and the moment is a fleeting thing. It arrives as it departs, but the moment is where life takes place, and unfortunately most of us miss it. We’re preoccupied with the past which doesn’t exist, it’s already happened, or we’re preoccupied with the future, worrying about the future, which doesn’t exist and hasn’t happened yet. And while we are so preoccupied we miss the moment to moment awareness of our life, and that’s where our life takes place. We’ve missed the moment, we’ve missed our lives. So that’s the importance of the moment, but when I photograph, what I try to do is get out of the way and let the photograph happen, let the camera photography by itself, and I think that’s the heart of the zen aesthetic… the brush paints by itself… the dance is the dancer, the camera photographs.” — John Daido Loori
The photographer who waits will be the photographer that grows.