Letter to a friend in a Creative Plateau
This week I am going to publish a letter I have sent to a friend in need. This friend, let’s call him/her Alex (androgynous name, so my friend will retain his or her privacy) is going through one of the typical “Creative Plateau”, the moment in which the artistic side of you feels lost, without direction or simply dissatisfied.
This letter has been written from the heart and it doesn’t necessarily need to make any sense, but it is an insight in my life, in the creative and business side of a photographer: me. Moreover, I have used some fairly strong words, I don’t apologise for using them, I am just warning you that this is not such a Politically Correct letter. But it is as true as it can get.
I have decided that even if this is such a personal journey inside myself, you could understand that being in difficult moments is OK, that juggling three things at the same time is OK, that hitting against a creative plateau is OK. The more you grow, the stronger your art, the difficult it is to jump to another level. But everyone can do it!
I apologise for the number of swear words in this message. I have written it from the heart, not from my mind. Also forgive my unforgivable English: this is how my thoughts look like, and I’d rather you deal with their rawness more than a nice, worthless picture.
I would like to tell you a personal story, and I am sure you know why. It is a story that resonate with me a lot, maybe because is part of my story, of the complex, controversial, impatient, ambitious me. It is a story of up and downs, but mostly downs.
My story starts when I was still living in Italy (and we are talking AGES ago, seems like another life…). I was “Mr No”. Better, I was “Mr Can’t”. I would have loved to do so many things, but I had the misconception that I would not have succeeded. I focussed a lot on what was wrong with me, what was not perfect (and what is perfection after all?) and so on, but I am sure you got it. I did not know how to be a positive person.
Fast forward to months ago, I had to take on board a consultancy work I need to grant economical stability to my family, but one side of me was burning of rage because I was not able to pay the bills and the business loan with my art and craft. Fuck, I had invested SO MUCH and I had “failed”, I had spent an entire year of my life on that and that alone, and it hadn’t been enough. Those thoughts made me dip into one of my longest artistic plateau of my life. Fuck it has been long and hard. At my side I had a woman that rose to the stars and started acting as the leader she is, producing incredible images and pushing the business forward. The more her images grew, mine seemed to shrink. My time was limited and so my possibility to shoot. For a couple of weeks I avoided to book test shoots when I would have been available, because I did not want to face the fact that I could not cope with my imagery, its quality or lack of. But a plateau is the entrance door to a new side of your creativity, it is what comes before a jump.
Alex, I need to reveal you a secret: I haven’t yet made that jump. It has been long MONTHS since I looked at my images saying “YES, THAT’S IT”, and it has not been due to a lack of attempts. I am living well, though, as I simply stopped criticising myself too harshly. The plateau is still there, the style I see in my head and the results I want are still missing from the back of my camera. This is because I know I am not yet shooting “exactly” what I feel I should. Alas I do not have the precise knowledge of what I want to shoot and I have no idea on how to produce the images I want. Sometimes I feel a bloody sissy (with all my respect to gay people) but seriously, I should get a grip for fuck sake.
My truth is that this journey, in these long flat months, has been more inside me than outside. I have started removing all the noise. Mother and Daughter portraits? Fuck it, it is not me. Beautiful Portrait Couture shit? I pass, thanks, beautiful, but not for me. So why am I?
WHO AM I?
The reality is that I am much more racy than I expected and I want my pictures to feel of the sweat of the people in it, this is why Boudoir is the closest thing I can think.
Would it be a good business decision? Fuck Business now, this is something more important. This is my art! If I let my art die, the “business” will be nothing more than another 9-5 job that I am going to get bored with and hate in a couple of years, and photography will transform from passion to need. No, thanks.
I am still in the plateau, Alex, but you know what? Every week I take my camera in my hands. It is once a week in the evening, when part of me would love to go the fuck to sleep, or watch a movie or… or… or get over it and finally find myself. This personal journey does not affect our customers, they get everything they are looking for; however, I feel I want to give something more.
I am not telling you it is going to be simple. I am telling it is going to be worth it.
Who is Alex? Behind all the resistance, behind all the excuses we throw when someone (and this includes ourselves) starts questioning our status quo. Who are you? Who is the artist behind that camera and what do you want to do. You need to get up your ass and start looking for that, because the only recipe to get over a plateau is discovering part of ourselves we haven’t yet met, or accepting part of ourselves for what they are.
It is not like I feel like a black man in the middle of a white congregation. No, it is not like that. I feel like the green alien in the middle of the white men’s congregation. And you know what? It feels good to be me.
The guy who had the guts to leave a nice, safe job in Italy is no longer. His terrible negativity has been replaced by a man who, without having discovered himself completely, knows much more about the world than he did before, but more importantly he knows more about himself and accepts who he is. I am less scared to ask for help, I am less scared to be who I am, I am less scared to send people to hell and I am less scared by what I would like to see in my art.
” I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees, because he is expecting to wake up.”
Alex, you have incredible potential, your soul is in the right place, but…
The Oracle looks to the top of her door, where something is written in Latin.
Oracle : You know what that means? It’s Latin. Means ‘Know Thyself’… I’m going to let you in on a little secret… Being the One is just like being in love. No one can tell you you’re in love, you just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones. Well, I’d better have a look at you.
She holds onto the side of his face with her hands
Oracle : Open your mouth, say ‘Ahhh!’
Neo : Ahhh.
Oracle : Okay. Now I’m supposed to say… ‘Hmm, that’s interesting’, but then you say…
Neo : But.. what?
Oracle : But you already know what I’m going to tell you.
Neo : I’m not The One…..
he looks sort of disappointed
Oracle : Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you’re waiting for something…
…but the first step is to find yourself. Find what makes you feel alive in photography, what drives you, what makes you wake up early in the morning and go to bed late at night without feeling weak or tired.
…or either you can get a plane and come to London. You have a place to crush on here and two people (and a half) to talk to.
Sorry if I vomited all this out, sorry if I intruded, but I think I understand where you are, and I know how painful it is!