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Beyond the Niche
An attempt to Define a Diverse Creative Practice
During last night's artist talk and closing reception for "The Stories We Tell" group exhibition, the panel asked each of us to describe our creative practices. Honestly, it was a challenging question for me. Over the years, I've explored various forms of photo-based imagery, including documentary, portraiture, landscapes, street photography, photo montages, and digital collaging. Fortunately, I found guidance in a previous post, which helped formulate a more nuanced response.
Sometimes, doubt creeps in and I wonder whether all this jumping around is detrimental in the long run. I ask myself, why don’t I just stay in the photography lane? This week I heard Cheryl Strayedon a podcast called Mind Love where she talks about tackling a new book project.
Every book you make will have a different kind of plan because you have a different kind of life. – Cheryl Strayed
That made so much sense. I pursued street photography because it was the genre that fit my life while working at several hotels in the city for over a decade. Now that I am home most of the time and working remotely, collage art is the medium that allows me to continue exploring my creativity. It’s still image-based and I know that I will apply these techniques in my own photographic work someday. Eventually, everything is connected.
So, the short answer I gave last night was that my creative practice evolves depending on the season I’m in. I gave the examples I mentioned above and also the Cheryl Strayed quote but paraphrased it (more like messed it up).
I’ve mentioned in my last entry that I get nervous when I speak in public. I felt like I fumbled my answer. I didn’t quite sound as articulate as I would have liked. Perhaps, writing it down today is a way of redeeming myself and assuaging my self-consciousness.
Sometimes, I wish I had a singular pursuit in the likes of Annie Leibovitz or Nadav Kander with portraiture, Rodney Smith with his elegant and witty fashion photographs, or Michael Kenna with his distinct style of black and white landscape imagery. It’s a no-brainer when one views the breadth of their work. Their auteur is distinct and recognizable.
I've adapted my creative approach due to changing circumstances and limited resources. To thrive, I've realized the importance of a mindset shift and a readiness to evolve. What I’m getting at is this: prioritizing the process over the final output is a more sustainable long-term practice for me. Regardless of the life phase I was in, I always sought the process and medium that resonated with me, I took it seriously and practiced diligently. As seasons evolve, I adjust my methods accordingly when needed.
This then begs the question: How does one define a body of work when the final output is varied and disparate?
The main drumbeat is to have a niche and create your own brand. I get it. They’re effective marketing tools. I can’t argue with that. The formula is successful that’s why we read and hear about it, ad nauseam.
That’s left me a quandry and I don’t have the answer to that question. Picasso does come to mind. He went through several phases: from the Blue period, the Rose period, Cubism to Surrealism. I’d like to think of my body of work in the same way— in phases or in different seasons of life.
However, it’s a long-view approach which isn’t practical in this day and age of social media vying for our attention. Maybe, having a repository such as a humble newsletter may serve as a witness to this ever-evolving body of work.
I don’t really know and that’s OK. At this point in my life, I am grateful to be flourishing and finding joy in creating the work I love. And, thank you for being with me on this creative journey!
Your turn dear ones. Let me know your thoughts about this post and do share your own creative process. Let’s meet in the comment section below.
See you all next Sunday!
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