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
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.|
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!