With all this photography out there I was now able to see and oftentimes compare my shots to others, who in many cases were many times better than I was. And this act of comparing is really what I intended this post to be about. So sorry about the little history lesson that ensued. It’s the strange way Inspiration works sometimes. You follow where it leads.
Nonetheless my comparing led me on what I can truly say was somewhat of a roller-coaster ride, sometimes being encouraged to improve and other times feeling like I simply was not good enough. There are truly amazing photographers out there! Seriously. And I have often mused over the effects of seeing too much of other people’s work. I have questioned whether it benefits me or not. I would be lying if I said that I am not inspired by some of the work others have produced. I am a huge fan of a number of great photographers. And I know that I have taken away bits and pieces of their style and tried to infuse it into my work. Annie Leibovitz, world renowned of course, but I absolutely love her work. Sue Bryce, a little lesser known to some maybe, but her style has heavily influenced my portraiture work. Thomas Leuthard, Lee Jeffries, Fan Ho, Henri Cartier-Bresson, all great street photographers that have influenced and stoked my interest in street photography. There are many others, Sean Archer, Patrick Demarchlier, Platon, etc. this list can go on and on.
But how much is too much?
I had a brief conversation recently with another photographer friend of mine a couple days ago and I was sharing with him that little internal saboteur that sometimes leave me questioning my ability and right to shoot some of the people that I have been honored to shoot.
In a nutshell, it pretty much went like this:
Me: Man sometimes I look at some of the shots these people have taken of them and they’re so good. And I wonder if I can compete with that…
Friend: Man I hear you, but I stopped looking at people’s work a long time ago, because it messes with my focus and the kind of work I want to create.
Yes we both say “man” a lot. It seems to be a West Indian thing.
But he generally echoed the sentiment that I have felt. Is this overload of imagery affecting me emotionally and creatively? I love Instagram. My name is Rawle C. Jackman and I am an “Instagramaholic”. The platform is simply amazing and I am there scrolling and engaging and sometimes posting everyday. It has become a very valuable business tool for those that use it effectively. But how much is too much? Today our minds are exposed to so much data coming at us at literally mind- numbing speeds that it is truly impossible to claim that any of us is above influence. But my quarrel is not with the esoteric results of all the studies that have suggested the same, but more-so with the effect it has on me and other photographers seeing so much “good” work.
What does it take to adequately insulate oneself from the effects of what we see daily and compare ourselves too? Can we truly simply just not look at what others are doing? And if so what of Inspiration? What do we look at then? Do we only look within? I’m sure there are limits to what we would find, as we know to grow we have to look outwards as well. Maybe what we should do is filter what we choose to look at. Somehow consciously pay attention to how we feel when we consume certain imagery and decide then based on that feeling whether it is something from someone we want to see more of. That might be a start. But there are myriad of images from a myriad of photographers and Instagram for starters is awash with us. So filtering may be only good some of the times. And I guess in my case that leaves the ability and a need to build a strong belief in oneself. An understanding that excellence abounds in his world, it is after all what we are all capable of. And that “all” also includes me. And the knowledge that my piece of excellence has a place among the others that I may or may not have borrowed from or been influenced by. That what I have shared and continue to share serves the same purpose for someone else, no matter how small that may be. And that seeing great photography means keeping a context, that great exists not too hinder or promote insecurity but rather to embolden and inspire us to be better.