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Reaching the Horizon, Maine

People often ask me for advice about their careers, their creative pursuits, their goals and strategies for becoming more creative. And especially how to become a better photographer. Given that I am still learning to do this myself, there is one consistent response I give to each and every person. Decide to be yourself. Commit to your vision of whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

There is so much pressure in our society today to live up to some ideal, value, or other prescribed definition of achievement or success. And there is no shortage of those ready to judge and discredit without consideration for anything other than their own limited perspective. Consider the  sale of a Peter Lik print for $6.5million this past week.

There have been articles written claiming this proves that photography never was and never will be a valid art form. And articles claiming the opposite (thank goodness).

While I may not hold Lik’s work in the same regard as other artists whose work speak to me, what does the have to do with his success as a photographer? I certainly respect his accomplishments as a photographer and entrepeneur. And it shows people are still willing to pay significant amounts of money for photography. And if Lik has found a way to tap into a market that appreciates his work, even if it’s driven by a brilliant marketing strategy, I say good for him.

The bottom line for me is that I can’t be someone else, and no one can be who I am. I’m comfortable celebrating that, and you should be as well. Because I can never be you.

Celebrate who you are, and let that lead your creative work. People will notice that faster than anything else you do with your photography. If that leads to monetary success, then great. But make sure you’ve defined what true success means to you first.

“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” –Parker J Palmer

RR Jr

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This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. Hi Robert, Very thought provoking. Good timing for me as I am at a stage of photography where I feel more comfortable with my techniques and I have now started to really ask myself the question, why am I taking this image ?, what am I doing it for ?, what am I trying to capture and share with people ?. It’s such a difficult question at times. I must admit more recently i’m finding myself waiting for my environment to play out to me, as if the universe is wanting me to capture an expression of itself. This part takes me on a spiritual journey which is so exciting and motivates me strongly. I think you wrote in one of your articles or in your eBook, something about learning to breathe with nature. Thanks for your articles and books, I’m hooked, you are a very talented man.

    1. Thanks so much Chris for the feedback and insightful words. I can relate to your feelings about following a journey and discovering for yourself what you want to share with the world. In my opinion, it’s central to any meaningful work you produce as a photographer. Identifying that simple fact is more important than actually finding what your personal vision is, because it will keep you curious and asking questions for life. And all real creativity comes from the struggle to answer those questions.

      RR

  2. I sold one of my picture to a sheikh the other day for $13 million, do you believe me? So, why do you believe Peter Lik? have you seen the money wire from the buyer to Peter’s account? It’s just part of the “brilliant marketing strategy”. Nobody will buy a photo for that amount of money, and by the way, the photo is not even beautiful as described by many. Wake up guys.

    1. Hi Giuseppe – thanks for your feedback and comments. I think you may have missed the point of my post, which was not to judge whether or not Peter Lik’s sale is factual, but rather that we should rely on our own values for success, and not worry about what others say or do. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, it should not devalue your photography or anyone elses simply because we haven’t sold any prints for that amount of money.

      As to his claim, I think it’s totally possible given the company he keeps; celebrities, famous athletes, wealthy people basically, and his “brilliant marketing.” He also has several galleries around the world, something few others photographers can claim. So what. My work is meaningful for me, and yours should be to you.

      RR

      1. I fully agree with your sentiments, Robert. Far too often, whether we are talking about photographers or any other field of endeavor, so many people use others as their “measuring stick.” Pursuing any goal in this manner will likely lead to disappointment.

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