"Oh, so you're a photographer now...?"
It's a question I'm sure each of us has heard. Coming to us from a friend and/or family member that we haven't seen in a while, maybe those who we're remotely connected to on any one of the social media platforms where we post our work. It rings of sarcasm, and while I don't believe it's meant to hurt us, truthfully, it kind of does. To be honest, regardless of if you pick up a camera, a guitar, a piano, a paintbrush, a microphone, or a chisel, if you decide to follow a creative path, you’d better get used to hearing it a lot. Like, a lot.
The answer is simple, really; people like things just as they are. They take comfort in knowing what to expect from the world, what they're going to get from everyone, and they really don't want you - or anything else - to change. And they especially like us in the little box we've always been in. By growing, changing, and developing, we're changing the status quo, stirring the pot, we're rocking their comfortable little world. And people really hate that shit. Of course not everyone we meet is going to be unsupportive. As we begin to stretch our artistic muscles, we're going to find ourselves in groups and communities of fellow artists all of whom will challenge and push us and our creativity to new and dizzying heights. Truth is, in my own personal journey, there have been more supportive people than I'd ever expected. And while I am grateful for and try to consciously remember every single word of encouragement, it is always the non-supportive words which tend to stand out out the most, especially during those times when clouded with doubt and questioning whether this path is the right one.
Such is the the nature of the insecure artist.
But let's take a moment to consider the source of this negativity. Those friends or family members who, with a few simple words, can make us question our entire creative journey and make us think that perhaps a dead end job in an office with a window overlooking a parking lot isn't the worst thing in the world (my apologies to office workers everywhere). I mean, who doesn't love a steady paycheck and the comfort of knowing that the next thirty to forty years of your life are already planned out. All you have to do is show up, shuffle some paper a bit, retire, and then do whatever comes after retirement (we all know what comes after retirement)... So, why so negative toward you?
Well. It's really not about you.
Try this experiment: Take a good look at what they're doing with their lives. What changes have they made? Are they moving forward or are they stuck in neutral and/or spinning their wheels? I'm not saying they *should* be doing anything with their lives, I'm sure they have a few interesting things going on (perhaps their favorite sports team is playing this weekend), but we do - we're on your way to doing something most people only dream of - we’re following our passion. And they most likely resent us for it because perhaps it's been a dream of theirs that someone in their past made them feel stupid for having and which they ultimately gave up on.
Make no mistake; as nice as they seem, as normal and as well-adjusted as they may be in every other aspect of their lives, they will take every opportunity to push us back into that little box because the only thing important to them isn't us and/or our life as an artist, it's their comfort and maintaining their status quo. The best thing we can do isn't just to grin and bear it and leave them and their passive aggressive negativity in our past, instead, perhaps the best thing we can do is to ask them what their passion is/was and perhaps spark a rediscovery of their own creative journey. If not, perhaps a good cleaning out of the people you surround yourself with might be in order. It’s the old adage that no matter how many people are cheering us on, it’s the one judgmental, non-supportive voice that we seem to hear the loudest, reaches us the clearest, and affects us the most directly. People love to create and if you allow someone the time and the opportunity, there is a good chance they’re going to jump on it - despite what they may have said a few moments prior.
Since I've been writing for Fstoppers, I've been lucky enough to have both my name and my work sent out to a much larger audience than I ever could have imagined. It’s an intimidating feeling to know that my voice will be heard by those outside my immediate circle, but one that I am so incredibly grateful for. Since I began here, I've been able to connect with people who are much like myself in that we share a love of what we do. And as someone who is rather late to the game, I’m glad to see that there are artists out there who despite the number of detractors, continue to put their work out there and in doing so, continually provide inspiration to those of us who at first may be hesitant to share. Not to overstate, it, but almost every bit of inspiration in my life has come from people who were brave enough to go out on their own, risking who and what they were and what they had. Doing this in a public forum, allowed me to see both their successes and their failures and provided ample motivation for striking out on my own and moving forward whether or not the time "feels" right.
Going forward, it’s not a matter of when we’re going to hear the question “Oh so, you’re an artist now?” it’s a matter of how many times we’re going to hear it before we see it for what it is, turn it around, and allow it to provide inspiration. In addition this could be a great way to open a door to a conversation the friend or family member has been waiting to have with someone for years. Our positive reaction to their question, despite the overall passive aggressive and somewhat negative nature of what they’re asking, could spark something in them which allows them to brush off whoever and whatever is keeping them from their own artistic expression. Who knows what could happen if we turn their negative into everyone’s positive. Imagine what great things we all could do together.