Think of the nowadays common term #squadgoals; now, turn off your Taylor Swift playlist on Spotify and really listen. Would that term have the same meaning if some of the "squad" were paranoid, bitter people? Probably not, because those kind of people don't make for very good company. Instead, you're probably picturing a team of diverse, amazingly talented powerhouses from various walks of life who all have one thing in common: eating faces and taking names.
It's no secret that being an artist can feel like a contest of who can hate themselves more, throwing you into a race to the bottom of a neverending pit of despair. However, rest assured that there is hope for us after all. Instead of thinking as other artists in your peripheral purely as competition running towards the same goal, think of them as your support system, allowing you all to get to that shared goal. Stay with me here because this is where it gets pretty heavy.
Do you drop names like Leibowitz and Barker for photographers that inspire you? Here's the thing: never view them as idols; instead, view them as respected peers who are just at different points in their career.
By doing so, you empower yourself to immediately place your work amongst theirs: still developing your style, your skills, and aesthetic, sure, but on the way nonetheless. It's funny how once we realize the whole "they're no different than us" reality, suddenly things aren't so intimidating anymore; monsters don't seem so scary, powerful creatives don't seem so unreachable. Now, you can reach out to them via email or social media, conversing like two masters of the craft just talking shop, instead of fanboying/fangirling and spewing out nothing but praise and compliments, because we all know how old that gets.
Right now, you're probably wondering how this impacts your life at all. Well, I'll tell you: as a creative, it is hard enough to feel like you're making headway in your career. The important thing to realize is that you're not alone. What better way to fuel your creativity than the greatest artistic concept: collaboration. You're probably wondering how collaboration could be effective; so, let's see:
Collaboration Purely in the Artistic Sense
- Like the age-old saying, "Two heads are better than one," artists combining efforts always yields better results.
- Ever wonder why so many musicians feature other artists in their songs? It's because they make the song that much stronger and they can help launch someone's career.
- Bouncing ideas off of each other can yield breakthroughs you otherwise wouldn't have had.
- Just think of your favorite movie directors and how they seem to cast the same actors time and time again; they obviously collaborated well enough to string together hit after hit.
Collectives Are a Thing for a Reason
- Collectives are a great example; a few artists pooling together to share studio space, attract bigger clients with your broad range of talent, and push one another.
- Just look at photojournalist powerhouse Magnum Photos, co-founded by someone who goes by the name Henri Cartier-Bresson (yes, you may have heard of him), which has stood the test of time since the 1940s, when it was established by Henri and six friends.
- Even production house Wonderful Machine started as a collective with commercial photographer Bill Cramer and some photographer buddies.
No One Other than Artists Really Understand Us
- Ever been at a party or family function and cringe when someone walks up to you and says: "Oh, so you're a photographer, huh? What's that like?!" A job, it's like a job.
- Venting about the stresses of being a creative to non-creatives basically makes everyone envision you as a walking meme.
- "Gosh, I wish I could just sit at home all day or travel and 'be working'." I wish I could sit in a cubicle all day scrolling through Facebook and get lump sums of money deposited in my bank account every two weeks.
Nothing Is More Motivational than a Hard-Working, Humble Creative
- We all know someone like this: tons of success, amazingly down to earth, and you can't hate them no matter how hard you try. I know; it's exhausting.
- Creatives like this push you and make you want to work harder and master your craft, not sell all your gear and quit.
- Some have even made collaboration a career, like Chase Jarvis with CreativeLive and CJ Live, as well as Nick Onken and his amazing Shop Talk Radio Podcast.
It's unquantifiable how much more you can do for both yourself and your career if you simply connect with others, truly cheer for their successes and remember that together, we're a lot stronger than simply choosing to go it alone. I laugh when I think about a post I made a few years ago on the Facebook wall of a good friend, a retoucher a lot of you know on this site, who today just returned from traversing all over Europe for workshops and gigs.