no one will ever care about your art as much as you do
A couple times a month I host a critique thread on my Facebook page, where I give a quick, constructive thought on the first ten images posted to the thread. I've been doing this off and on for a couple of years now, in addition to the many, many critiques I've given to workshop and mentoring students, and the ones I do in my own head constantly. There is so much I wish I could change about how we think about critique, but if I had to pick a single thing I think would impact most people, it's this: What if we realized that critique isn't really about fixing an image you already created, but rather about helping to shape your journey forward? What if we realized it's about the future, not the past?
Any time I give someone invited critique, I almost always get this response from someone: "thank you, but this image was cropped in camera that way" or "thank you, but the exposure was too bright, the focus too shallow, the shutter speed too slow, to fix THIS image".
What if we realized that critique - self driven or invited from an external source - is about growth. That it's about teachable moments, about filing away a little more knowledge in your head, so that next time - you can do better?
Photography is a journey. It's a constantly moving target, and you will likely never feel like you've "arrived" or gotten as good as you want to be, because your goals should always be a few steps ahead of you. That's why they are goals! But if you can embrace the journey part of it all - if you can apply the things you know to be true about an image to your future images... imagine how much quicker you could grow? And more importantly, imagine how much easier it would be for you to define the direction of that growth?
No one will ever care about your art as much as you do. I say this to myself ALL the time, and I say it to my mentoring and workshop students. Because once you've broken through and found the power in those words, you realize that you are limitless, and that the thing holding you back isn't YOU... it's the voices of the critics and the sycophants who are holding you back. It's beating yourself up. It's comparison. It's guilt or self-doubt or a thousand other things that drag us down. But it's not YOU.
Those words are about finding the motivation, the courage, and the mentorship you crave, from inside yourself. They are about protect what you do just as fiercely as you'd protect someone you love. I've been teaching other photographers for nearly 5 years, and I've worked with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of wonderful, talented, amazing souls. And yet I still have a hard time understand how we can say things to ourselves that we would never, ever say to a friend.
I want to challenge you, right now, to start treating your work the way a friend would. Love it. Be gentle with it. And if you're really lucky, you might even find that that friendly internal voice also has a deeper, quieter voice hidden underneath - that of a mentor. And when you're able to find that internal mentor, and start listening to her more than you listen to your internal critic, you'll find that everything changes.
So much of this is exactly what we talk about in the first week of my Illuminate Classes workshop, the Elements of Self-Critique. I will help you redefine the voices in your head, and the external voices that affect your journey. And I will help you learn how to listen to that internal mentor, and learn how to find the things inside you that you don't even know exist. Because no one will ever care about your art as much as you do. But I can come close.