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I am a North Carolina conceptual portrait photographer. Look here for updates on my photography adventures. Visit www.HeatherEvansSmith.com for details on commissioned portrait shoots and fine art sales.

December 13, 2012: A Year In Review

Hello all. I was going to write an end of the year review last year and really pour my heart out but decided against it. Another year has gone by and I feel like I am ready to do that now.

Last year at this time I found myself disappointed. I had just come back from a successful speaking engagement on the other side of the world and I had been profiled in a highly respected art photography magazine. I felt like I had hit it big and that fame and fortune would roll in as soon as my plane landed back in North Carolina. But it didn't.

I received no response from my feature in the magazine and the calls and emails were not coming in at all. I started to feel sorry for myself. I felt a huge let down compared to just a few months earlier. Disappointed didn't even begin to cover how I was feeling. I found myself jealous of others' success. It wasn't a good place to be.

Eventually I remembered the reason that I started photography in the first place. It wasn't for fame or fortune. It was for myself. I got out my sketchbook and sketched an image that I had carried in my head for quite some time. After finding the right location and props I finally shot it. It is called The Heart and The Heavy and is one of my favorite and most personal images to date. I shot this almost one year ago.

The Heart and The Heavy 
© 2012 Heather Evans Smith Photography


That image rejuvenated me. It sparked my love for creating again and also was the catalyst for a new series.

I also read the book Art and Fear. Several passages in that book resonated with me. The first is simple, "The best you can do is make art you care about — and lots of it!" And this quote which I found freeing: "...the important point here is not that you have — or don't have — what other artists have, but rather that it doesn't matter. Whatever they have is something needed to do their work — it wouldn't help you in your work even if you had it. Their magic is theirs. You don't lack it. You don't need it. It has nothing to do with you. Period." And with that I felt a weight was lifted off. I was free to do my work, the way that I needed to without worry or comparing myself to others.

However, doing the work alone wasn't enough for me this year.

I decided to create a self-promotional experiment for the entire year of 2012. I called it 52 Chances. What would happen if I put my work out there in some fashion every week (a magazine, gallery, competition, workshop, etc.). For some, this may not seem like a difficult task, or something unusual. As someone who only uploaded their work on sites like flickr and Facebook (and luckily was able to build a career off of people seeing it there alone) this was a much different approach for me.

Week by week I filled my list by entering competitions, sending my work out to galleries, teaching workshops, etc. Only a few weeks into the experiment and it seemed too daunting. Half way through and I thought it was impossible to complete. Now I can't believe I've finished (to be accurate I have two more blanks to fill in; but I got this). Some weeks I doubled up on submissions when I felt opportunities arose. Some weeks were pretty pathetic and I scrounged around on Sunday evening at the last minute trying to find something to put on my list. There were rejections, acceptances and some inquiries were just plain ignored.

As a result of this, I found myself more wrapped up in promotion than my work. This year I shot less than I had in years past (though better images; I will get to that later). I became a little rusty and gun shy in preparation for shoots, and even considered quitting the experiment for fear that I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.

So now I sit here looking through all my 52+ submissions and letting it all sink in. Was it worth it? Back in the summer I would have said no, but now I can with most certainty say yes. This year the following notable events have occurred:

• I have exhibited in several group exhibitions in my state and around the country
• I became a recipient of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award (My image The Heart and The Heavy will be on exhibit in Paris in the fall of 2013.)
• I was on the cover of the Camera Obscura Journal, winning the prize of Outstanding Photo Award
• I was published in several national magazines and newspapers
• Profiled photographer on the Italian Vogue Photo Vogue website
• Winner in Ron Howard's Project Imaginat10n. My image Let My Machine Talk To Me was picked by Jamie Foxx for his short film. There will be a film festival next summer premiering the film.
• Received a solo exhibition for the fall of 2013
• Met so many wonderful people through my workshops and learned a valuable lesson about the need for camaraderie in this profession

A peak at my 52 Chances list on my inspiration board.
And there are many more advantages that I can list that aren't in the forms of awards and titles. I have become a believer that one little thing can lead to something greater. Ventures that didn't seem successful at the time led me to someone or something that was successful. The key is that it takes time and the ability to appreciate the potential of every moment.

During my 52 chances project I worked on my latest series. This wasn't an easy task. The images were shot sporadically during the year. However, each one became more near and dear to me than any of my past work. I worked hard to achieve those images and that is the key, HARD WORK. Not only pushing your work out there for the world to see, but creating it. Work is not supposed to be easy and I know now that one can't just sit back and watch success come rolling in. There are so many photographers out there and conceptual ones at that. To some I am considered not successful at all, to others very successful, it depends on your perspective and goals. While I'm glad that I tried this experiment, overall my success is measured by creating the work that I want and feeling good about it. The feeling of being interviewed for a magazine or winning an award, etc. always pales in comparison to the feeling of shooting an image that I feel proud of.

Will I do it again? Yes, in a more relaxed form. I met some great people and had some wonderful opportunities this year, all because I took a chance and someone took a chance on me.

I am looking forward to 2013. I have some exciting workshops planned, a solo show and some imagery nestled in my sketchbook for far too long that will finally come out. But most importantly I go forward with the knowledge of what is important to me and the hard work that it takes to get there.

I will leave you now with some of my favorite images from this year. And as always, a big thanks goes out to family, friends, models, clients and fans who support me and believe in me. Happy New Year!


17 comments:

Vanessa said...

It sounds cliche to say that you're an inspiration to me. Probably only cliche to me as you've been such for the length of time you have and I consider you a near constant muse.

Thank you for your honesty and raw exposure in this post, Heather, and for the ways in which you make me think, look and see daily.

Heather Evans Smith said...

Thank you so much Vanessa! You support does mean so much to me.

Roxanne Corbett said...

Heather, Thank you for sharing your past year with me. Watching you grow up and become a woman of many talents is a joy for me. Continue on the path that your conscience dictates. It's apparent to many that you've let life teach you the many blessing that dedication to ones passion can bring. Success is wonderful, but the journey is equally so. Often one's best work is refined by the fire. That fire is life. Keep it up. Thanks again for sharing your gift.

Jen E. said...

Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts. You are an amazing artist and you deserve all the success of your work and then some.

I have tried doing the same this past year, on a much smaller scale, by entering exhibitions that I feel fit my work. How do you afford all of the $ it takes to enter? I find that part daunting. But, I am proud to say that out of 3 exhibitions I was selected to be a part of one of them (center for fine art photography in CO) and will be shown in their Gallery next month.

You are an inspiration, I hope to get to meet you in person sometime , and again thanks for sharing , it means a lot to us all!

Jim Olson said...

This post is a great reminder that success (in all forms) doesn't come easily. I hear people whine all the time about how "If they only had the time" or "This one opportunity fell through", That you start feeling lucky for the opportunities that you create, not realizing that it is not luck, but the hard work you pour into creating the opportunities that make a difference.

I'm proud to call you a friend (and still brag about your artwork at least once a week). Your private piece you created for me I see everyday (At 4 feet wide and hung in a major traffic area of my home, it's hard to miss!), and 'Let My Machine Talk To Me' is a beautiful capture with personal meaning to me, as it is a time when our friend Leigh moved out of our lives.

You seem to of developed a great support system, surrounding yourself with individuals who not only care about your work, but support you when you feel like giving up. Keep expanding that circle!

Thanks for writing this; hard work, doing what you care about and family support are indeed the key to continued success. I look forward to seeing what you come up with in 2013.

Heather Evans Smith said...

Thank you all!

Jen E - Initially I was entering competitions that cost a bit of money. After a few weeks of that I realized that I couldn't do that every week. Instead I looked into different ways of getting my work out there. For example, sending images to magazines, journals, galleries, etc. Or finding competitions that were free (like Project Imagination). Here and there I continued to enter competitions but it became more of a every now and then type of them to cut costs down.

Heather Evans Smith said...

Jim - Thank you for your note. The time I shot those images for you was a turning point in my life and I am amazed at what has happened since then. Success really isn't fame and fortune but rather the icing on the cake of a career that you love doing.

Leigh's image will hold a special place with me too. It is funny how it all worked out the way it did. It was one of the last times alone with her before she left.

Thank you friend - H.

Tytia Habing said...

I've followed you for probably a year now and am always so excited to see what you're up to. I look forward to each of your posts!!! And you have yet to disappoint. Every photo you post is so beautiful and original and just so......you. I love every single photo without exception, and that's saying a lot!!! My favorites from this year are the woman in the red dress in the tree and the woman face down in the sand. You always have such interesting concepts and an amazing imagination.

Thank you so much for your honesty about your journey in photography. I'm a photographer too, as I'm sure many or your followers are and it's not easy to put yourself out there. From afar, everyone, besides yourself, seem so successful and it's hard to not get caught up in that and feel bitter and discouraged. It's nice to know we all feel the same. Even someone as talented as yourself!

I hope to be able to come down for one of your workshops some day. Would love to see you in action. Keep working hard, as you do and I have no doubt you will see more and more successes coming your way. Congratulations on all of them, big or small.

La Chica de la Costa/coastalgirl said...

Heather, I enjoyed reading your blog. I am one of the "Canon 91" but am still waiting to get into a short film.
After meeting so many of the winners, I feel totally inadequate. I own a point and shoot camera. Photography is a hobby, not a job, as I am retired and only recently got serious about putting my work out there. (I sell photo cards and "affordable" art in a few gift shops in town here) I am happy for everyone and feel lucky to be in the group, even though i am not pro like Ron V. or A.d. or Sammie. It's been a fun ride and I thank you for sharing this blog. I liked the quotes from the book you mentioned, that helps me too!

Kim Bajorek said...

Heather, first of all, congratulations on your many successes this year! And thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your experiences and vulnerabilities and your gorgeous art pieces. I am so inspired!

muslin backdrops said...

Such a very interesting blog to read on. Your photography is captivating. Its something mysterious that's why its interesting...
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Woodie said...

Thanks for being so open and honest about your experiences. I've had your blog on my google reader after meeting you at a Krankies Craft Fair awhile back and have enjoyed watching your work progress from then on. As an artist myself, it's wonderful to see someone like you pursuing your dream and staying focused on what's important you while you do it. Best wishes for your continued success!

Margaret Waage said...

Beautiful post - so personal and heartfelt. I am enjoying your work. You have shared your own experience, your own story - thank you! I agree with you that photography or any art isn't something you do for others - it's certainly ok to share- but you really are doing it for yourself.

Heather Evans Smith said...

Thank you Tytia, Kim, Woodie, and Margaret.

coastalgirl - I have had the same conversation with another of the 91. I love that the winners are all from different backgrounds and genres. To me that makes it interesting and inspiring. Photography as a hobby is a wonderful thing. That is how mine started out!

Beata Rydén said...

To read this is a great inspiration! I might think about doing a 52 chances as well! I feel that I have periods where I am great at putting myself out there, and periods when I´m very bad at it. I am a big fan of your work!!!

Heather Evans Smith said...

Thank you Beata!

Sandy Middleton said...

Thank you for this post, it was what I needed to see we all go through the same thing. Even someone so seemingly accomplished as you are. It helped me also to see I am not getting what I think I deserve because I am not doing the work that needs to be done...yet. It is the push I needed to get moving on my projects!
Eternally thankful.