Throughout history there have been individuals who found a certain magic in simply “taking it easy”. Ben Franklin, Lao Tzu, Hunter S. Thompson, Janis Joplin, Bill Murray, Albert Einstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, and The Dude himself...just to name a few. These people impacted lives and arguably changed the world in ways that wayward photography writers are no doubt still writing about today. And they did it by being perceivably carefree about some of the things that most of us would take extraordinarily seriously.
What does any of this have to do with photography? As it turns out, quite a bit.
Often enough, the biggest hurdle you must overcome is yourself. In anything. On the track to achieving any measure of success through your picture work there are few obstacles more blindly overlooked than our own self pity, our own worries, our own fear. In the parlance of our times...we simply take ourselves too seriously. Over emphasis on what others will think about our work or how we might be viewed by other photographers can cause us to get nervous or get uptight and even cause us to make photographs merely to please what is the going normal for pictures.
To borrow from the Dudeist philosophical model which in turn borrows heavily from Taoism, our cups are too full. Meaning that we can sometimes bog ourselves down with so many useless cares about what we are doing that we simply leave no room for the things that matter. Essentially, we close ourselves off to the self enlightenment and gratification that comes from merely doing the work.
We should approach the process of making photographs with a child-like enthusiasm. Child-like...not childish. You don’t hear much about childish photographers. Instead, be completely open and receptive to new ways to shoot a particular scene. Don’t make photographs based merely on what’s popular on Instagram or Facebook. If you’re liking a certain look of another photographer's work, fine! Learn how it was done and start making images of your own. But never copy, emulate, or otherwise compromise what you feel just because it doesn’t fit into a specific hashtag.
Relax. Mr. Bill By God Murray himself said that “you’re better at everything when you’re relaxed.” This is what you should always remember(and I constantly remind myself) about anything you do especially when it comes to your photography. Just relax and lose yourself in the work that you love. Don’t think about what your friends, followers, curators, or even editors will think. And believe me, I know what you’re probably thinking: “But Adam, I can’t make a living by just doing what I want...asshole.” Well, the fact is...you don’t want it bad enough. Yeah, you don’t. If you truly want it, and I mean beyond anything else, you will find a way. That way might not be what you always imagined it would be, but it’s out there. Trust me. Just do what you do, and as George Carlin would say, “Always do what comes next.”
Now, one thing to ALWAYS keep in mind if you do decide to stop taking yourself so seriously and let things happen…”be the ball” as a certain golf pro might say, is don’t be stupid and stop taking the work seriously. There’s no use in sitting on the bench if you’re not ready to play. You have to be ready. Being ready means knowing your shit. It means learning absolutely everything you can about making a photograph. Be humble, take it easy, don’t get discouraged, but...always approach your photograph with a mentality that you will make it the best that YOU can make it to fit what YOU want. Refer to the part about the difference between child-like and child-ish.
The path to success in photo making also requires one key realization and it’s an unfortunate one. You have to know that you will likely fail along the way but realize that it is not time wasted...it’s time invested. Understand that fact and then prepare yourself to get back on that horse and keep going. Sometimes you will have to say “Fuck it, man. Can’t be worried about that shit. Life goes on, man.” And then just do what comes next.
The Dude Abides