“You can try the best you can,
The best you can is good enough.”
– Radiohead, Optimistic
It came down to me and one other kid. There we are, standing along the sidelines in our gym uniforms, awaiting our fate. One of us was going to get selected, and the other was going to be the last one picked. It always seemed to come down to us for whatever reason. I was a WAY BETTER basketball player than Tim, but he always got picked as one of the first players on the team. Why didn’t they remember the sweet floating lay-up I made last week that seemed to drift just out of reach of Anthony’s block attempt, or the awesome three-point shot from the corner that I managed to swish with Andrew’s hand in my face? And yet there I was, one of the last ones to get picked. How soon we forget, I suppose.
“Alright, we pick Mark,” Andrew sighs.
It always seemed to happen. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how good I thought I was, my selection always came down to the fact that I wasn’t friends of the boys in gym class that were the captains and picking the teams. I learned an early lesson about the real world: sometimes, it’s all about who you know.
Earlier in the week, Washington-focused weblog DCist announced their 2012 DCist Exposed Photography Show Winners, and just like the above scenario, I wasn’t even picked. The frustrating thing to me is that, through the images I selected to enter, I didn’t think they were worse than some of the entries that actually got selected. Not to put anybody down because there were a lot of excellent images that were selected and I’m extremely excited to see some of my friends picked as winners.
But dammit! Why not me?
It’s one of those moments when you start to look at everyone’s work and compare it to your own. Am I doing something wrong? Was my image or perspective not interesting enough? When you create an image that you’re passionate about, it’s hard not to take rejection personally. I was pretty distraught when I saw I didn’t get the nod. It’s one thing if these images were created haphazardly, but in my case, I actually gave a shit about what I created and poured my passion into these photos! What gives?!
Well, I think I figured it out: maybe I didn’t.
Here’s the thing: no matter where you go, who you talk to, or what you read, photographers everywhere will tell you not to compare yourself to other photographers. I absolutely disagree, as long as you’re doing so in a healthy manner with the intent of improving your own style, not copy someone else’s. I looked at what I submitted again after getting over the initial annoyance of rejection and really hunkered down to analyze what I felt I was missing. What I came to realize was that maybe I didn’t actually have any heart in my photos after all. Maybe I was shooting photos with the wrong mindset, expecting to hit home runs every time I stepped up to the plate, but ultimately ended up striking out more often than not. Maybe I was really trying way too hard.
When I submitted photos for the 2011 instantdc exhibit, the two images that got selected out of the ten I submitted were two images I shot for fun. I experimented and messed around with the photos until something cool came out of it, but what really caused the photos to turn out great was that I was having fun with the process of creation. With a lot of the appstracts I created in the meantime were done more so out of desperation to simply create. However, the photos that have gotten the biggest result were the ones I created because I enjoyed creating.
In the end, when you stack up my entries to the winners, I deserved to lose. Part of the reason is because I simply don’t create photojournalistic images like that, but the main reason is because I didn’t have the soul in the images that I needed to have in order to have a photo selected. Maybe I can add this to my faux-New Year’s Resolutions, but my goal for 2012 is to shoot with more soul and create images I can really, honestly get behind. I want to make sure that next year at this time, I get all three images selected because the photos I submitted are undeniably awesome. (Ok, maybe not ALL three, since that’s a bit of a stretch, but you know what I mean)
Yeah, I think I’ll add that on right now.
Until next time,