Don’t Be Discouraged

Two things about this photo: First, I am almost certainly the most angst-ridden teenager I knew, and second, I am having a pretty decent hair day in it.
Two things about this photo: First, I am almost certainly the most angst-ridden teenager I knew, and second, I am having a pretty decent hair day in it.

People who don’t understand creative minds are often eager to dismiss and degrade their ideas, often with a buzz-phrase. If you hear someone say, “What-EVER,” or ,”Oh-kaaaay…”, often with an eye roll, you’ve just been sociologically dismissed by an insecure, non-creative person.

I remember when I was just starting to become interested in photography as a career. I was an eleventh grader in high school. Student Publications and the English Department put out a call for entries for a literary and photographic section called Signatures. It was inserted in the April 1980 edition of the Eisenhower High School newspaper, The Patriot.

I submitted a couple of my early black-and-white images, with the notion that I was trying to express something. I think what I might have been expressing was bleak angst.

In the middle of creating this post, I decided to walk around downtown and see what kind of art I could find. Whether this works or not, whether anyone likes it or not, it still represents an effort to express myself, and that alone gives it meaning.
In the middle of creating this post, I decided to walk around downtown and see what kind of art I could find. Whether this works or not, whether anyone likes it or not, it still represents an effort to express myself, and that alone gives it meaning.

In any case, the photos were rejected out of hand, with one of those dismissive buzz-phrases. The girl who rejected them made sure to imply that my images were not only unsuitable for publication, I was a weirdo for submitting them. The image she used on the cover of Signatures was a very pretty sunrise.

If you feel like you have something to create, something unique and beautiful to you, I am here to testify that you are going to face people like her. You are going to experience rolling eyes and that little “uh” sound people make when they are amazed at what a loser you are.

I am also here to testify that you shouldn’t let these people discourage you. If you have something to say, say it, and keep saying it. As the months and years go by and you experience more and more media, and meet and befriend more and more creative people, those who dismiss you will fade into irrelevance, and your art – I use the word art very deliberately – will flourish.

Keep writing, keep painting, keep taking pictures. Even if it seems like no one understands you or your art sometimes, keep making art. As the years go by and it is eventually appreciated, you’ll be glad you did.

When I shot this in the fall of 1979, I was trying to express a sense of mechanical and technological isolation, using the angled leading lines of the power cables and the symbolism of the cross to capture something bleak and impersonal, all of which echoed my feelings about the world at that time. It probably didn't succeed, but it certainly didn't deserve to be written off in two seconds by some snotty high school newspaper editor.
When I shot this in the fall of 1979, I was trying to express a sense of mechanical and technological isolation, using the angled leading lines of the power cables and the symbolism of the cross to capture something bleak and impersonal, all of which echoed my feelings about the world at that time. It probably didn't succeed, but it certainly didn't deserve to be written off in two seconds by some snotty high school newspaper editor.
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2 Comments

  1. On the other hand, it can be just as discouraging and useless if everyone says, “Oh, that’s pretty” about your pictures, or “Nice poem” — no real feedback. 😉

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