Throughout history there have been individuals who found a certain magic simply by “taking it easy”. Ben Franklin, Lao Tzu, Hunter S. Thompson, Janis Joplin, Bill Murray, Albert Einstein, Charles Bukowski, and The Dude himself…just to name a few. Even more impressively, they seemed to maintain their weird glamour all the while being perceptibly carefree about some of the things that most of us would take extraordinarily seriously. These people impacted lives and arguably changed the world in ways that lazy blogger-types are no doubt still writing about today.
What does any of this have to do with photography? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Some sort of Eastern thing?
On the track to achieving any measure of success through your picture work there are few obstacles more blindly overlooked than our own self pity, our own worries, our own fear. In the parlance of our times…we simply take ourselves too seriously. Over-emphasis on what others will think about our work or how we might be viewed by other photographers can cause us to get nervous, uptight, and even cause us to make photographs merely to please what is the going normal for pictures.
To borrow from the Dudeist philosophical model which in turn borrows heavily from Taoism, our cups are simply too full. Meaning that we can sometimes bog ourselves down with so many useless cares about what we are doing that we simply leave no room for the things that matter. Essentially, we close ourselves off to the self enlightenment and gratification that comes from merely doing the work.
We should approach the process of making photographs with a child-like enthusiasm. Child-like…not childish. You don’t hear much about childish photographers. Instead, be completely open and receptive to new ways of shooting a particular scene. Don’t make cookie cutter photographs based on what’s popular on Instagram or Facebook. If you’re digging a certain look of another photographer’s work, fine! Learn how it was done and start making images of your own. But never copy, emulate or otherwise compromise what you feel just because it doesn’t fit into a specific hashtag.
Mr. Bill By God Murray himself said that “you’re better at everything when you’re relaxed.” When it comes to your photography, just try to relax and take it easy. Lose yourself in the work that you love. Don’t think about what your friends, followers, curators, or even editors will think. And believe me, I know what you’re probably thinking: “But Adam, I can’t make a living by just doing what I want…asshole.” Well, the fact is…you don’t want it enough. You don’t. I know, the truth hurts and yet it’s a truth that we all have to swallow at some point along the way. If you truly want it, and I mean beyond anything else, you will find a way. I did and so can you. Anyone can. Now, the path you find might not be what you always imagined but it IS out there. Trust me. Just do what you do, and as George Carlin would say, “Always do what comes next.”
Do less…do more
Now, one thing to ALWAYS keep in mind if you do decide to stop taking yourself so seriously and let things happen…”be the ball” as a certain golf pro might say, is don’t be stupid and stop taking the work seriously. There’s no use in sitting on the bench if you’re not ready to play. You have to be ready. Being ready means knowing your shit. It means learning absolutely everything you can about making a photograph. Be humble, take it easy, don’t get discouraged. Approach your photography with the mentality that you will make it the best that you can make it to fit what YOU want. Refer to the part about the difference between child-like and child-ish.
The path to success in photo-making also requires one key realization and it’s an unfortunate one: know that you’re going fail along the way. Whether it’s a small stumble or a flat out nose dive off a cliff into physical and existential collapse, we will all taste defeat at times. Even in the face of that failure you must then understand that any attempts made were not time wasted…but time invested. Rejection teaches lessons that success never could. Losing shows you how to win. After each near miss or catastrophic collapse, just get up and dust yourself off and get back on the horse. Don’t stop. Keep going. Sometimes you will have to say “Fuck it, man. Can’t be worried about that shit. Life goes on, man.” And then just do what comes next.
Photomaker, author, adventurer, educator, and self-professed bacon addict. You can usually find me on some distant trail making photographs or at my computer writing about all the elegant madness that is photography. Pick up a copy of my new photo book of wild pony portraits, Faces of Grayson.