Trends are like clothes for culture. We put them on according to our mood, and when the mood changes, the trends change. As much as I love dressing according to mood, I don’t want my life to be defined by everyone else’s mood. Heck, I don’t want my LIFE defined by my own moods!
For the last couple of years, I have been up and down with trends. I’ve done the “shoot this pose,” “try this detail,” “write that way,” “process these colors,” and I have found it EXHAUSTING. There is always someone doing the trend differently – or better.
There was a question that haunted me as I tried to be original even as I was doing what others were doing: “How can a trend be truly authentic?”
In April, my friend Claire sat me down and told me I’d been shooting just like everybody else. I was stunned. A little heartbroken. Refreshed. Challenged. On FIRE.
Claire dared me to shoot out of the trend. She knew I had done it before. She knew I could do it again. I had been playing it too safe, and she’s the kind of friend who wasn’t going to let me get away with it.
As Pete and I drove the Irish roads, I started SEEING again, remembering what I was trying to do with my camera in the first place. I started making art again.
Over the last few months, I’ve taken a different approach to trends. I haven’t washed my hands of them; I take them for what they are worth. I look for what I can learn, how they inform my work, what truly resonates with me.
I’ve been watching and listening a LOT, and my respect for those who are setting the trends has grown. They are people who are genuinely GOOD at what they do, and they stand out from those who want to be like them.
It was a relatively simple switch to flip – from frustrated criticism to open-hearted grace – and it has changed my life. I get to embrace a whole world instead of locking everything down to my perspective. I get to grow and change as I need without worrying about what rules I might be breaking. I get to perform outside of others’ approval, building my own credibility instead of waiting for someone to hand it to me.
Instead of trying to get on board with the trends and fit into the “size zero” culture hands me, I’m living more open: translating what I see on Pinterest into something new, building more life into my photography (even my editorial compositions), daring to shoot – and love – my own digital images just as much as the film photography I love.
I’m not living out of fear anymore. I get to meet others where they are and love them for what they are without feeling that my own identity is being called into question. I can accept my flaws and leave perfection aside for the sake of DOING the thing.
Paul conducted himself among the Corinthians with simplicity and godly sincerity – everything up front, no angles. It’s that same simplicity that makes up the authenticity people crave. I want that kind of sincerity, a genuine approach to others that isn’t born of manipulation.
In choosing not to copy, I am making my own trend. By paying attention to what I love about my own clients and my own work, by examining the reasons I want do and share my work, I’ve uncovered a much stronger voice than I knew I had in April, when I was just trying to measure up to – no, surpass – everyone else.
Now, I may not “fit in,” but I’m a darn sight happier doing what I love than I was doing what other people love.