How To Fail
It's December and the holidays are around the corner so I thought I'd share a little capture of the winter wonderland we had back in 2010 which holds an important message for me and maybe you. This month's #TBT is about failure. Below I'm going to walk you through a project I did during college that wasn't working out at all and how I overcome that awful feeling we all get which can make or break a person. As you can assume this post is a bit more for the artistic person as I'm going to directly relate to the project but it holds a good message generally that I often forget frequently.
Bear With Me
I'm going to let you in on a secret which might not be a secret to you but it certainly is to me, unfortunately no one ever told me until a short while ago. Failure is a big word, it means a lot, so much pressure is put on you when the word failure is used. Tons of brain power is used to be the best, be understood, liked etc...i.e. not a failure. The thing about failure is even if you don't do a good job that time, or you miss out on something for example there's every few instants in your life where that negatively effects you for a long period of time. If it does effect you for a long period, it's more about you not letting go of your mistakes.
My advice is take failure out of your vocabulary. Don't think it, don't talk about it. Just keep working and thinking, there isn't a time limit on your success as a human. If it doesn't happen now, if you need it, you will get there again. You'll move things around till you get where you need to be. By the way I think this can be applied, from your smallest tasks to biggest life decisions. Try it sometime if you're an over-thinker.
It's probably not a surprise but I didn't learn that when I finished this project in question, in fact it took me several years to understand that and I forget it all. For example utter fear of failure is what was looming over my head when I decided to take the easy way out and not start a career as a photographer five or so years ago. I'm battling that idea of failure everyday and you should too! No one has all the answers so why do you?
The Project Real Quick
Above you'll find two digital test shots of the first incarnation of the project and below are the images on medium format film, nothing I couldn't do digitally really. As far I can remember the work was loosely titled "With Gaia", Gaia is the personification of the Earth in Greek Mythology. This project never came close to a finished product but I started with the idea of an item of clothing posed as a model in the great wilderness also known as whatever park that was close by. The brief never actually left that concept.
I wanted the clothes to take on a sculptural quality to compliment the concept of an item of clothing representing a personality and memory of the person who owned it and the connection with the natural backdrop. Something about how we're all animals. I never figured out how to do that visually in any interesting way. Something got in the way which sidetracked me terribly.
Then Gaia Was Like...SNOW!
So I was lost trying to step up the project, I was doubting the concept and didn't know how to salvage it. Then it snowed, a lot, it snowed everywhere and it stuck. Using film was out of the question because it was unnecessary travel while I could use digital, I didn't have much time until the project was due at this rate and so I went out and shot a few times and below is a selection of what I submitted for the final project. Although I sort of like some of the images they mean literally nothing because I was met with too many roadblocks, I got too much in my head about how I wasn't good enough to do what I wanted, I couldn't communicate what I needed. I "failed" and I felt like a sucked as a photographer/artist.
If you're like me, hold your work (anything you do) to a high standard and never think you've done quite good enough. You can only try hard and if you can't succeed at what you were trying to achieve, chances are that's only you seeing that crappy result. Other people around you, your clients, your friends and family. They probably saw the amount of effort you were putting in and see the final product as perfectly acceptable even amazing. For producing photographic work for clients this is a good quality to have. It means you're always striving to be better. Something a person will gladly pay for. Just don't burn out and if you can make the silly mistakes early on your own dime then I would do it.
Throughout my time in college that's what that was for. Once I left I got more productive, technically better and yet I still constantly strive to be better, I also beat myself up when I don't get the shot that I missed but things happen and if you've got a good eye there will be plenty of more opportunities where that came from.
So what I've learned is to overcome that severe self-doubt. Take a breath and go step by step. Just keep moving and the final result will knock people out of the park, it just won't knock you out all the time. I guess this post has been for the triers in life, as a kid I was always labeled as a trier and that got me to the skill level I'm at now in my photography and I continue to grow everyday.