So, every year, around this time, I look at my portfolio with this massive pit in my stomach.
"Is this enough? No it's not is it?"
It's no surprise that I make a lot of my work around this time of the year. With awards looming its the kick up the butt to make my next body of work for whatever show is happening that year. Each year I need to make THAT image, the one that translates into sales. For me, awards translate into cash. I'm one of those wierdos who's fans love owning the award winning stuff. Its my own strange reality (Though maybe I beg you to love the obscure stuff too...) And every fucking time the looming pit of defeat hits me in the face like a wet flannel.
Because the fear of not making THAT image, the one that my fans will love lingers in my head.
"Is this enough?"
"Is this too crazy? Too weird? Too... I don't know... too much like that other photography person I can't remember the name of? Is this too boring? Am I too boring? Should I stop this INSANE merry go round? Maybe I need to climb underground, quit photography, go work a desk job without this bullshit? Fuck I cant do that, what about this uni degree I never finished but have HECS debt up to my eyeballs for. I probably should use that right? Fuck what a waste. Why do I bother?"
People remind me "Gee you have done this before, you have DONE this, like, you have WON this and defeated it. Why keep doing this?"
I ask myself every year.
Every year I'm reminded, without it I don't have the kick, the push to change, the push to evolve. I watched my work go from mediocre to something that makes my heart sing with all its geeky goodness in the space of 5 years. Imagine 10? Imagine 20? This is where all my heroes were born, this arena is where they all rose and sometimes even fell (but usually rose again)... why would I give that in? Why would I not walk the path of those I looked up to before me?
And I'm aware I can decide not to do this. I can pull out at any time and not hurt like this. Not face the feelings of "enoughness" and self worth every year.
But every year was transcendent wasnt it? Every year you learned something new. A harsh lesson you NEVER expected to face.
Year 1. You measure up.
Year 2. You are enough.
Year 3. You don't have to win physically to have a huge emotional win. Don't be lazy. Don't be complacent
Year 4. Success feels like failure. You are about to succeed more than you ever imagined, but the judgement about your life that follows will kick you in the face harder than anything you expected ever. You will hit the ground face first in the mud and you will HURT like nothing else because your wildest dreams came true but everyone expects you to be as big as that title (You're not, you are the speck of dust). What now?
Year 5. Let go. Relax. Release the technical reins and just DO IT. You learned to appreciate this. You are blessed with being here again and for the first time ever - You are yourself in this spotlight.
But then the other feelings, the feelings that you know are irrational because those years have taught you they are. There is an INSANE push for perfection. Looking at poses and photos desperate to find the geometry in the human form. Desperate to find the composition that will nail it. DESPERATE to find... something. Anything really - not to wow the judges, fuck the judges, it's been the harshest learning experience NEVER to make work for the judges. What judge? There are hundreds all from different backgrounds.
I'm desperate to wow me. I'm desperate to look deep in my squishy heartguts and ask myself "What do you need to say this year Greenslade?"
Because when I do that, I find other people. Others like me. Make the art to be a beacon - the art is a lighthouse, find the people. Find the people who see the way you do. The more you find the more normal you feel. I don't want to win this. That's not the point. The point is, put the work in front of the biggest audience of people you know... and hope some messy little freak like you sees it. Give the work space to find its home. Give the work a chance to tell you where it wants to go in this world.
You will never EVER get anywhere holding your work back from the world afraid they will hate it. Because you equally never see it fly.
So here we are, back at the drawing board. Back facing the arena, back wondering why its all worth it. Back pushing myself harder and harder so that this art I make can go into the homes of hundreds of people. (And it did didn't it? Wasn't that a shock)
I'm sharing this because maybe others feel it too. Maybe just maybe we can all admit that we love the process, but hate the stress.
Maybe we can be a bit kinder. Maybe we can high five each other occasionally and be like "Hey you got this, you are showing up. You are giving your work space to be seen. That's what matters. That's all that matters"