Most of what we do as humans – at least most of what’s of significance – is done in silence and far from the limelight. This applies to photography too. Although photography is meant to be shared, published, exposed, almost everything that leads up to the point where we have something to publish is solitary work. It’s about being face to face with your subject (whether it’s a person, a landscape, or anything else). It’s about being face to face with ourselves.
Sometimes, it may happen that what we do receives some exposure and recognition. For me, this happened in the context of the photo project on autism I’ve been developing since January. Having my photos exposed in two exhibitions opening on the same day is not something that happens every day.
It’s difficult to write about this without somehow giving the impression of boasting or showing off. But what I’m actually trying to do is reflect on what this experience meant to me and how it reflects on my work.
First of all, there are all sorts of internal voices that are kind of trying to ruin the show. There’s the imposter syndrome voice telling me… well, telling me that this is an imposture and that I managed to fool people into taking an interest and making time to visit the exhibitions.
There’s also the internal critic (always hyperactive!) telling me that it’s too much exposure too soon. Telling me that what I did so far does not deserve this.
Luckily, these voices are not that strong and there’s a reason for it. I know that I will continue working on the project irrespective of how much recognition and exposure it will continue to enjoy. I know that, whether it deserves or not the recognition it has already received, most of what follows is still good old-fashioned work without any bells and whistles.
The attention and kind words I’ve received from so many people, including many people I did not know, is humbling. I feel grateful in a way that does not have anything forced or pretentious – it’s just a natural reaction to what happens to me and around me.
At the same time, this does not change anything about the way I see my photo project or the way I relate to my own work. I think some of the photos are pretty good but that does not prevent me from realizing, again and again, how far this “pretty good” is from what I would consider good photography.
This may sound like a cliché but it’s been a small moment of realization for me: there is no replacement for the personal involvement and energy we put into what we do. A project lives because we breath life into it. If we’re lucky, at some point that life will be strong enough so that the project takes off and lives a life of its own.
We can fake interest, fake enthusiasm, fake kindness, but in the longer term it’s very difficult to fake putting your soul into something. If you do it, it will eventually show. If you don’t, that will also show.
This is my contribution to this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge kindly hosted by Anne – New Experiences.
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